The Dirty Guv’nahs Turn Pro With “Hearts”

Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go: The Dirty Guv’nahs are much more than your typical college-town band.

the dirty guv'nahs,, tunes from the dam

The Dirty Guv’nahs

The Knoxville, Tenn., sextet proves that on Hearts on Fire (Summertown). Frontman James Trimble and bandmate Michael Jenkins wrote all 11 songs on the record, which was released on March 11. Each song tells a story through evocative lyrics, aided by talented musicians and tight production. Naturally, it’s folksy, rootsy and oftentimes deep. But it also has its fun. Though The Guv’nahs transcend the college feel, the Athens, Ga., influence is inescapable. I also heard Counting Crows, some U2 and The Stones. Mostly though, it’s The Dirty Guv’nahs, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Here’s a recap of the tracks:

“Where We Stand” is a mid-tempo boy-gets-girl-back tune that foreshadows a recurring theme throughout the album of dealing with fear. “Every generation has a past/I don’t want to be a soldier for the last” is a pretty nifty lyric.

Though I was already somewhat familiar with The Guv’nahs, I truly discovered them when I first heard “Morning Light” and saw the video. I subsequently gushed about it here. Go watch, listen and read in case you missed it.

“Lovin’” is a good ol’ tempo tune about young love and devotion. The band conveys a Rolling Stones feel with a Motown vibe. “I’ll make a living out of lovin’ you.” It makes you want to hug somebody you love (or would like to).

I especially liked “Ever Start to Wonder.” This fun upbeat jam tune features a nifty slide guitar and piano part. Bonus points since the lyric mentions Market Square in Knoxville, which is a pretty cool place to hang out for a while. According to the band’s web site, it was written in 2010 and reincarnated for this album.

“Dear Jamie” is a true tearjerker. “And it feels like my whole world’s falling apart/And I don’t mind dying, baby don’t break my heart.” If you haven’t figured it out by now, Trimble and Jenkins are gifted writers. Think U2 on this one, all the way down to the MLK Jr., speech dubbed in at the end. The slide guitar weeps.

“Slow Down Easy” delivers the best line on the album: “In the times you need me most/I leave you standing with my ghost.” Loose, groovy and soulful describe it best.

“Tarwater (The Fighter)” is an inspiring anthem about perseverance. It’s based on the life of USA Olympic Gold Medalist Davis Tarwater, who failed to make the Olympic team twice, retired, then came out of retirement to win a Gold Medal in 2012. Take this one along with you go on that run in the morning. Find some steps and go all Rocky Balboa.

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“Under Control” has a cool driving groove. It was my least favorite on the record, but it’s not a throwaway by any means.

“Three Little Angels” features  Amy Helm, daughter of troubadour Levon Helm. “Angels” is a cautionary tale about trying to go through struggles alone. It’s the most acoustic song on the record.

the dirty guv'nahs, tunes from the dam,

The Dirty Guv’nahs (Photo: Marc Millman)

“Someone to Love” is the song to play when it’s way later at night than it needs to be, and you’re sitting alone in a motel room with a bunch of empties far away from home. Again, the slide guitar is impeccably moving, and the B-3 compliments it nicely. If it didn’t have so much competition, this would certainly be the encore for the band’s live show.

“Canyons.” This ballad about yearning for love ends with the characters feeling as much desperation as when it began. Consider the chorus: “I just want to be loved/That’s all I’m holding on to.” Now, consider the last lines: “At the bottom of it all/That’s where you’ll find hope.” About the song, Trimble wrote, “I spend way too much time comparing myself to other people. Insecurity and jealousy that I didn’t even know existed seeps from the corners of my heart and drives me deep into a canyon where the only thing that I know how to do is surf the internet, watch TV, build up walls, and silently or verbally compete with other people who are going through the exact same struggles that I am. That’s not exactly how I want to live the rest of my life.”

Struggles notwithstanding, Trimble and the rest of The Dirty Guv’nahs raised the musical bar with Hearts on Fire. Get it. Visit the band’s web site.

The Dirty Guv’nahs are:
James Trimble, vocal
Cozmo Holloway, lead guitar
Kevin Hyfantis, keyboards, BGV
Justin Hoskins, bass
Aaron Hoskins, drums
Michael Jenkins, rhythm guitar.

Backstage: Sex, Drugs and… Bar-B-Que? music musings zach claytonMany of us have watched the old VH1 series “Behind the Music” as it pulled back the curtain on many of our favorite music artists. There were stories of fighting, contract disputes, affairs, orgies, etc.

It, along with Rolling Stone stories, always painted a picture of debauchery backstage at concerts. How many of us have witnessed hot girls flashing their backstage laminates (gotcha, didn’t I)? We just knew that as soon as they went behind that curtain, there were nekkid people, beer flowing out of fountains, liquor being passed around, and the smell of Mary Jane in the air. You figured that even the shy freshman at a small Midwestern college could even get lucky back there.

backstage music musings

“Excuse me, have you seen the hot slaw?”

Well, I have been fortunate to be able to go backstage at a few venues, thanks to my friendship with a professional musician. The first time I went backstage was after a particular show where it was basically an empty picnic area at Starwood (Nashville’s former amphitheater). I figured the party had already moved to the bus since they were leaving. Somewhat disappointing, but I could rationalize why I wasn’t met by the nekkid people I mentioned earlier.

The next opportunity came again at Starwood when my friend suggested that I pick him up at the hotel and go to the venue earlier. He said we could go to “catering” and fill up. I just knew that was a rock & roll code word for “wild ass party”. We roll in and park in the VIP lot and in we go to the “backstage”. Wait! Where were the buxom beauties with free flowing booze? All of a sudden, I was back in summer camp in the mess hall. It was a buffet of….. food. There was bar-b-que, hamburgers, chicken, ice cream, etc. Honestly, I couldn’t find a single drop of beer or liquor. The fact that most band members were somewhere between steps 7 and 12 might have had something to do with the omission. Now, don’t get me wrong, the food was great, but it was a bit of a letdown. I will tell you that Starwood had a basketball goal backstage where I shot hoops with my son once.

Recently, I did have a tremendous experience backstage. I got to go backstage at the Ryman Auditorium. It was pretty small and cramped. We were in the Johnny Cash room where his pictures covered the walls. As I walked down a hallway behind the stage, it hit me who all had walked these halls – Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Roy Acuff, Loretta Lynn, and thousands of others. Kind of made me stop and ponder (or muse). Wonder what they thought about as they walked there before their first performance. Were they nervous or were they chomping at the bit to take the world by storm? It was pretty intimidating to think about.

While my backstage experiences may be tame due to the 12 step thing or the fact that most of the band members are over 45, it is still backstage. Occasionally, I will drop the nugget that I went backstage and give someone a wink. Let them wonder and turn green with envy. Only I know how many times I filled my plate up with bar-b-que. Finest Craft Beers from America’s Best Micro Breweries- 728x90 banner