by Suanne Strider
This article originally appeared in The Local Voice #207.
To download a PDF of this issue, click here.
Stop by The End of All Music on Friday, July 11th to catch Athens, Georgia-based band New Madrid, who will be playing a free in-store show at 5 pm in support of their new record, Sunswimmer, which is out now on Normaltown Records. Later that same night, they will take over Proud Larry’s, joined by Hartle Road.
This is yet another installment in the SEC-oriented band’s tour schedule, carrying on what is becoming a tradition of sorts—when these guys play Larry’s. I see a lot of bands come through there, but this is one that always draws a crowd—no matter what else is going on in town. Not only do they draw a crowd, but the show is fun, and these guys are super-nice. Their good and kind personalities transfer to the crowd, and it draws you in. In this way they remind me of Widespread Panic or Phish—they get up there and play well, or not, but the crowd will love them, anyway, because their lyrics are good, they try, and they are super-nice guys. It makes you want to support them as a fan.
That being said, New Madrid has proven themselves to be worthy of the strong fan base they have developed. Their first try at studio work resulted in the critically-acclaimed Yardboat from 2012, which is a must-have for any jam band fan. This album was recorded in three days, if you can believe it, and engineered by David Barbe (REM, Deerhunter, Drive-By Truckers) at Chase Park Transduction. It was then mastered by Brooklyn-based engineer Joe Lambert (Black Crowes, Animal Collective, Dan Deacon).
My favorite part of the album is a three-song theme that starts with “Country Moon Pt. I” then flowing into the next song, “Pond.” After ten minutes of the song, “Pond” delivering exactly that—the auditory equivalent of a country pond scene—comes “Country Moon Pt. 2,” again following the Southern theme and the country theme. The whole album is great—proving itself to deserve being Flagpole Magazine’s “Best Album of the Year” in 2013, as well as receiving “Artist of the Year.”
The band released its second studio effort earlier this year, Sunswimmer. “The songs were heavily informed by the live setting, and were written while steadily running around the South playing shows in a variety of spaces,” said guitarist and vocalist Phil McGill. It is live where these guys thrive, also like the jam icons that go before them, Widespread Panic, Phish, and The Grateful Dead. Another thing they share with those bands is a loyal fan base. If you can figure out the magic formula to create these two things in just the right way, which is what New Madrid seems to pull off beautifully thus far, you have a recipe for success.
Local painter and philanthropist Chandra Williams will be at the show painting portraits of the scene as the live show goes on. Chandra is well-known in the artist community of Oxford for her beautiful, one-of-a-kind renditions of live music with subjects such as Kenny Kimbrough, Shannon McNally, and Cedric Burnside. Even if you aren’t a big jam-band fan, it is worth it just to come out and see how Chandra works her magic to create art that is definitively hers and definitively Oxford.