The second installment of this year’s Cornelia Fort Pickin’ Parties touches down this weekend with the Allen Thompson Band and Rorey Carroll. Although both acts have roots in the more traditional definition of country pickin’, both push musical boundaries differently. The East Nashvillian spoke with Allen Thompson about his band’s new album, Brace Yourself and Saturday night’s show.
Your new album, Brace Yourself, is a change of sound from what you’ve done in the past. Was that a natural evolution or a deliberate choice on your part to go in a new direction?
It was some of both. We've been playing together for about six years and reached the point where we were really intuitive about what felt right and what felt wrong. We had started making music that was probably someone else's idea of Americana, and we were not having very much fun. So we decided to go back to playing the music that we loved the most. All of us in the band were way more influenced by the weirdo Southern Rock bands like R.E.M. and Big Star and classic jam bands like the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead. It just made more sense to play that style of music.
I see a lot of Grateful Dead influence on Brace Yourself ‘s album cover. Did you commission that look for the record?
Joshua Marc Levy did the cover. He’s an artist from Asheville, North Carolina that has done a lot of music-related work. He came to see us play one night at Highland Brewery in Asheville. He sketched the entire cover while we were playing and said that’s what we sounded like to him. He showed it to us afterwards, and we were all like, “That's it!”
Since some past Pickin’ Parties have leaned toward bluegrass, are you worried about receiving an “Electric Dylan at Newport” reaction?
Both Rorey Carroll and I started out in the bluegrass world, but we're both pretty far away from it now. I'll be interested to see how much bluegrass creeps in given that it's usually that type of event, but we're both playing with our full electric bands. I think anyone coming to the show who knows us, knows what to expect. Hopefully there will be enough of them that the people who don't know what to expect are swayed by our fans’ reactions.
Are there any special surprises planned for the weekend?
Rorey and I have known each other for a couple of years and opened for each other in town and on the road. She's a good bud, and I love her music so much. I was really excited when they told me she was on the bill. We've bounced some ideas back and forth about doing something together for the show, but with us it’s always a seat of your pants thing. It’s definitely going to be a lot of fun.
The Cornelia Fort Pickin’ Party is Saturday, July 22, 2017 at the Cornelia Fort Airpark, 2641 Air Park Drive. Tickets are available through Eventbrite. More on the Allen Thompson Band at allenthompsonband.com.