Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Storefront Congregation

Storefront Congregation is a Louisville band who blend authentic American sounds into a lovely, comforting mix that's as nice on the couch as it is in a club. Their new album, Kaleidoscope, is out this week, and they will play at Jim Porter's on Friday night to celebrate its release. LEO got singer/guitarist/banjoist Murrell Thixton to tell us how it is.

LEO: So, you're in a band, eh? What's it sound like?

Murrell Thixton: Well, with a 5 string banjo, a mandolin, an upright bass and acoustic guitar... at first glance, certainly a bluegrass band, right? Not necessarily in our case, at least not in the traditional sense. With a love of pretty much all genres of music and all four of us being singers, we bring a mixture of swing, blues and country music into our selection of material, along with a lot of interesting vocal arrangements. We still get after an old traditional bluegrass tune, too, from time to time, when we get the itch.

LEO: You write some originals and do some covers. How do you choose which songs fit?

MT: I feel comfortable saying that the first hurdle tunes have to cross for us is, "Do they fit our vocalists?" We generally are attracted to tunes we consider to be well-written lyrically, and we pay a lot of attention to the "feel" of a song. Will it mix well with the band's instrumentation, and can we work an interesting arrangement? As writers we're very selective of our own material; we all have many tunes that we've tried but just wouldn't work, either due to feel or there wasn't a consensus as to the overall quality for whatever reason. Our new record, Kaleidoscope, has seven originals and the remaining five are covers.

LEO: How challenging is it for you to channel older sounds and make them sound modern and relevant?

MT: I think we do a pretty good job. Playing the instruments we choose to play and doing everything acoustically presents challenges, for sure. I feel we do a good job at making songs from other genres / writers our very own by working hard on developing arrangements that are unique and vocally and instrumentally challenging. We spend equal time on tunes that our band members have written, trying to give them a special touch.

LEO: Where do you find ideas for your songs?

MT: Songs we've written personally come from our own life experiences, and just years of working on our songwriting craft. Again, the tunes we pull from other genres come from four folks that just love all sorts of music. Our covers range from old swing tunes, to Keb' Mo', to an occasional old bluegrass standard, to country and blues.

LEO: How do your surroundings inspire your music?

MT: We all come from a lifetime of exposure to music. Kent Houchin and myself have played music together starting in our early teens. Lauren started at a very early age, as did Nathan. All of us have played professionally in numerous bands, recorded and toured at various times. Just a lifetime of doing what we love with others that do the same.

LEO: How do you fit into the Louisville music scene?

MT: For the most part, we've all been woven in the musical fabric of the Louisville music scene for all of our lives. We all pick occasionally with other folks when the opportunity arises. We all love music and you might find us involved in a recording project, playing some country/rock n roll or just out jamming with friends.

LEO: What do the band members do to earn a steady living?

MT: Kent works the very early driving shift at our big employer UPS, Lauren works for a major Louisville corporation, Nathan is doing the professional musician gig at the moment and I'm with the local music store First Quality Music.

LEO: What is the most rewarding - and most frustrating - thing about what you're trying to accomplish with music?

MT: The most satisfying, no doubt, is putting on a good show and making good music. All musicians spend hours perfecting their craft and a tiny amount of time performing. It always feels great when the work pays off and the performance goes well. I think I speak for most musicians who "have it in their blood" — we'd all love to be able to play on a full-time basis. Making an actual living, covering the bills, taking care of your family and putting some money back is almost impossible for most pickers, they have to do something else to make ends meet. When you spend those hours doing the "regular job", it can severely cut into the creative time. Still, we manage with a lot of hard work and some serious time-juggling to make a CD and get out and play some performances. Our new CD, Kaleidoscope, premieres on August 5th; we just opened the boxes yesterday from Discmakers and that was a mighty fine feeling... kind of an "ahhh" moment after about a 10 month effort. It was nice.

Storefront Congregation with Tyrone Cotton
Jim Porter's
2345 Lexington Rd.
7 p.m., &10 adv. $12 DOS

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