Review: Sasha Colette & the Magnolias 'Ridin' Away'

By Dave Mistich

On the surface, Sasha Colette may appear to be an innocent country girl with a pretty voice. And while that evaluation is certainly accurate, her newest release—with the magnificent Magnolias backing her up—signals that it’s high time we start taking this young lady and her band very seriously.
Having recently transplanted herself into the Huntington, West Virginia scene that’s embraced her, Colette and company would have been hard pressed to find a title more appropriate than Ridin’ Away.
It’s an EP release that stretches—in more ways than one—far beyond it’s 17 minutes. But more importantly, it explores deeply rooted themes of country in songs about goodbyes and cowboys and fables of the faux-west that Colette identifies as Appalachia.
While the first two tracks (“Leroy” and “Hi Ho Silver”) zip by without ever quite grabbing hold past clever fictional storytelling, “Red Bandana” opens up, yet somehow goes introspective. Towards the end, Jeremy Short’s tasteful solos and Colette’s gut wrenching repeated ending lyrics steal the moment: “I pull my heart out every night and go for broke.” It ends strongly, yet almost too suddenly, giving way to the soulful title track.
“Riding Away” strikes as the rawest song on the record, even though it sounds the most produced. It's a tune heavy on vague storytelling, moments of precise tension and release, and solidified with a memorable chorus; there’s a ton of Americana stations that would eat the track up if given the chance to play it.
But it’s with “Goodbye Buffalo” and Short’s melodic slides that stretch nearly as wide as the miles covered and emoted through Colette’s geographic nostalgia. Sure, it’s a personal acknowledgment of her recent move to Huntington, but it’s a universal subject that isn’t lost on Colette herself; there’s a real resonance in this reflection. It’s not sadness over displacement, but rather a coming-to-terms proclamation.
If there’s any disappointment in the record, it’s that it’s simply too short and doesn’t dare to give Miss Colette the chance to display her vocal talents to the extent we’ve seen in a live setting. (Don't confuse this statement--they're damn good, but certainly not nearly as captivating as watching and hearing her perform.) Maybe it’s humility or a dedication to serving the song, but let's just hope Ridin’ Away serves as a springboard for Colette vocally, rather than a template for live performances of the songs enclosed.


Valentine's Day: Q&A w/Gazelle Amber Valentine of Jucifer

Together for almost 20 years in Jucifer, Edgar Livengood and Gazelle Amber Valentine return to The V Club Thursday night.

There’s always stuff that has to be left out when putting articles together. There’s only so much space in print, but we don’t suffer the same limitations here. So in these cases we like to excerpt the quality nuggs from interviews and run ‘em as an exclusive here, as a supplement to the article there.

In advance of their show at the V Club tomorrow, we thought it would be awesome to take some questions from our Herald-Dispatch interview with Jucifer’s Gazelle Amber Valentine, and post them here.

Herald-Dispatch: How is the RV and gear holding up? You two somewhere between Shreveport and Birmingham? Enjoying the few days off?

Gazelle Amber Valentine: So far so good! Yeah, we’re headed towards Birmingham. The days off were a booking agent screw up, but it’s working out pretty good because we’re right in the middle of making a million arrangements for the European tour we’re about to do, and we had a few interviews to get done. About 500 miles of driving too.

Herald-Dispatch: You two famously live the life of a nomadic rock band, calling nowhere in particular home. How much work, how stressful is it, driving all over, unloading all your equipment and having to maintain a schedule?

Valentine: ...Trying to catch up because on days we play, we literally don’t have time for anything besides making the show happen.

On “off” days we have to do a million dumb regular chores -- laundry, bills, fixing stuff, cleaning up, getting groceries -- and very-rewarding-but-time-consuming things: interviews, making records, planning tours with booking agents, friendships, family. And sleep. Deep, desperately needed sleep.

Stress... yeah, lots of that! Dealing with traffic, on the highway all the time with drivers who almost get you killed, then when you arrive maybe dealing with rude people. People from the venue, or from other bands, who are freaked out by all the gear, or just have bad attitude to begin with.

Strangers who threaten to kill you because you’re taking up street parking -- truth!

Booking agent screw-ups that cost you money or piss off people that are important to you. People you have to work with not being professional when you are -- so frustrating. Being too hot, being too cold, getting soaked and trying to protect the electronics when it’s pouring rain. Always worrying about things breaking, because you’re using them all the time; so it’s always just about to happen. And when things break, it’s a different obstacle course every time to get them fixed.

Whatever it is, you still have to power through.

Herald-Dispatch: Do you think being married makes this kind of lifestyle easier at all? Do you two fight about a bunch of nonsense like a lot of married couples, or does being on the road, dedicating yourselves to the band like you do, together as a couple almost 20 years, kind of keep that stuff blocked out?

Valentine: ...We fight sometimes, but it’s not nonsense like ‘why didn’t you get me a tennis bracelet’ or ‘I need my time with the guys’ or some bulls--- like that. When we fight it’s either we’re trying to agree on how to make our situation better and have to hash through our ideas. Or we get snappy because we’re under so much stress without enough food or sleep. But we have this core of loving each other that gets us through those things. Neither one of us has any use for that drama kind of relationship: we’re not playing. We’re honest. In the end the constructive arguments help us reach better decisions, and the stupid ones we just forget. We got each other’s backs!

Herald-Dispatch: The one big thing of course since 1994 and recording on old four-tracks is the advent of the internet. Talking about getting something like Nadir out to your fans, how cool is it to have that kind of positive feedback every day like you do on your Facebook page?

Valentine: It’s pretty awesome! Very cool to have that instant response. Not just for songs and albums, but also to know people’s experiences from your last show. It’s good to be able to write with fans too, like on Facebook and twitter, to help them find out where to get stuff or when we’re playing their town. We like getting to know people. And it’s really interesting to actually see who we touch, if that makes sense?!

Of course the downside of instant-reaction web is those trolls and haters everybody gets in comments sections. It’s part of the internet effect that people without the balls to confront anybody in real life can get away with slander and hate speech because they’re hiding behind a screen name.

Herald-Dispatch: I’ve talked to a few musicians who have been operating since the pre-internet era, and they talk about the pros and cons. The pro being you can reach waaay more people with a youtube clip or something. The con being that kids in particular are more picky, more savvy if you will, about music.

How important has the internet been in building this fan base you’ve got? Or do you think you’d still (like you did) be able to operate on non-stop touring and word of mouth? I know that’s a long-winded question, but talk about operating in the internet age and even winning over newer, younger, Jucifer fans…

Valentine: They’re probably more picky, but not necessarily more savvy. At least when they get their info from the web.

The internet has created a skewed hierarchy for information. The most popular answer equals the correct answer, even if it isn’t. The newest info is the truest info in search-engine land.

Most people believe what they read. So they end up taking someone’s mistake or outright lie and spreading it, until it has so many “hits” it becomes the “best answer.” Misinformation self-perpetuates.

In the good old days of print media and paper books, people actually had to know the topic (and go through an editor) before they could publish. Online, any moron with an opinion can state it as fact. The truth is subjective. When every single person with internet access contributes to the information pool, the sources are flawed.

So I think instead of being more savvy, everybody’s more gullible! Fake news reports like Jon Bon Jovi being dead, for example, are perfect proof. Lies, repeated by people who think they’re repeating truths, which are then treated as news and shared ad infinitum.

The picky factor: somebody I follow on Twitter was talking about this recently and described how they used to buy an album, and if they didn’t immediately love it, they’d work at loving it. Because they liked the band and they’d spent money on it and here they had this LP or cassette or CD and they had to either find something about it to enjoy or throw it away.

That attitude is pretty much gone because of the internet. Everything can be gotten for free, and without any physical object to make you feel guilty for not trying harder. Everybody checking out a new band, types ‘em in on Google, listens to ten seconds of the top resulting video or song clip, and decides. Bam. Woe unto bands if that ten seconds isn’t what the person was hoping for. They haven’t invested anything and they’ll drop that band forever unless somebody they trust tells them to look again.

So when you reach people this way, is it really a good thing to reach more of them?

I think, unless you have a kind of referral, somebody who explains what songs or videos their friend should check out, knowing that person’s taste, the internet can be a pretty bad tool, even turn listeners away from something they might like.

We’d probably still be ok without the internet, because we did it for so long before. For bands I don’t think it really even came into play that much until MySpace got big. Which was like, 2005ish?

The best thing about the internet is our ability to just directly write to people. Fans, other bands, writers, whatever. It’s so much easier to let people know where you are, what you’re doing, how they can help if they want. We wouldn’t have necessarily felt like we could start our own label without the internet.

Winning over new people is part of the pros and cons deal. Because of that more shallow approach to discovering bands that the internet developed. You know, back in the day underground music was such a precious thing. Now that anybody with a computer can put their album online, even without knowing how to play any instruments, that reverence is gone. People are really quick to dispose of bands or make weird assumptions.

We run into a lot of younger people assuming we were influenced by bands that were actually influenced by us or at least came way after. Newest is truest. If they dive in and find whoever sludgy drone-y band with big amps, or some duo -- whether it started in 2008, or 1998 -- that’s their reference for anything they discover in the future. There’s no history lessons when people get into music. There’s just random clips and bits of information, lots of it without any explanation for what it’s part of. What came before. What came after. Again, people experiencing information hierarchy as truth. Anyone’s achievements can be erased in that context.

I think the internet has heavily tipped ALL learning in that direction, and word of mouth from people who actually know is the only antidote. So hopefully some of them (probably older) stick around, follow technology, engage and proliferate truth. If not, the movie ‘Idiocracy’ is really our future. And soon.

At the same time it’s so much easier for our fans to show us to their friends. That’s where I think the internet really helps; people can immediately show each other stuff, and a lot of them have a pretty good network with other people that have similar taste. So your audience can build really exponentially, really exactly the same way it did without internet, but a lot faster. The word of mouth takes seconds and broadcasts worldwide.

Like, we just went to Russia for the first time last year, and we already had this great fanbase who had our albums for us to sign after the shows and knew song titles to yell out. They could only have found out about us through the internet. That’s an example of the positive aspect to the new digiworld.

Herald-Dispatch: And you’re still working on the new full-length, right? But playing some new songs off it? How have the fans reacted and what’s been the general response to the new stuff?

Valentine: Yeah, we need to go back in for a couple weeks to finish it, it’s about half recorded right now. We’re planning on finishing it in the summer. We’re gonna record a little bit in Italy and then go back to the studio in Canada where we did the first half to finish it up. We’ve been mixing in some of the songs at shows and they seem to be inciting a lot of fist pumping and circle pits, so that’s a good sign! Of course there’s also gonna be some stuff on the record we won’t play live, but people who know us are used to that by now, haha.

Herald-Dispatch: What’s the best/worst thing or anecdote you can relay about how Jucifer’s mass of sound affects people or objects?

Valentine: Hm. Best thing that happens to people -- so they tell us -- is orgasm. Too much information? Worst thing would be pee, shart or vomit. And people drop their drinks on the first note sometimes.

Stuff falls out of ceilings a lot. We like to say we include a ceiling cleaning as part of our service. If there’s dust, soot, loose tiles. One time a building we played in had an outer wall of 19th century brick that was already in pretty bad shape, and some of that wall fell.

Every once in awhile bottles or glasses fall, but we always tell the bartenders to push em back if it’s the kind of room that’ll really compress the sound, so it doesn’t happen too much.

Herald-Dispatch: When we talked last I asked about your book “The Grease,” is that still in the works or on the backburner?

Valentine: I haven’t been writing very much because our schedule’s just been insane. But I wrote a chapter about David Gold from Woods of Ypres when he died. His death touched off a lot of feelings and thoughts that were in me related to creative need and the sometimes self-destructive devotion that artists have to their art, which is the main theme of the book.

At first I thought I’d write a kind of eulogy to post online but I realized I didn’t feel I had the right to be commenting publicly at that moment since I didn’t know him, and I didn’t want it to be me getting publicity off of his tragedy. So I’m just keeping it for the book. I’ll probably be writing that book for a few more years, but that’s ok I think. It’s a big topic.

Herald-Dispatch: Aside from the new full-length, what if anything awesome are you two looking forward to in 2012? Big fests like Roadburn or anything like that?

Valentine: Oh yeah definitely stoked for our first Roadburn, and our return to the SWR Metalfest in Portugal. Both of those festivals and lineups absolutely rule.

We’re hitting the UK before Roadburn which is awesome because we had to skip it the last couple times we crossed the Atlantic. We have a really good support band for those shows, Bastard Of The Skies, and we’re also gonna play with Orange Goblin and Black Sun while we’re there so psyched for that. Then a full tour of Europe, which we love, a bunch of new cities this time.

And we’re going to the Ukraine for the first time and going back to Russia and doing a longer tour with some new cities there too. Very excited for all that! And stoked to go back to Canada and all the rest of the US that we haven’t hit yet this year.

‘Nadir’ is coming out in a limited edition cassette licensed for the UK by English label Future Noise, and also gonna be out on LP soon. We’ll premiere the video for “Crossless” too. Lots of excitement!

Herald-Dispatch: Doing what you two have been doing for so long, aside from the music itself, is impressive, and speaks to your devotion to each other and Jucifer itself. But is there going to be a point where you two will settle down? Or not?

Valentine: Motion is life. Action is life. Until the light takes us....

--- Jucifer plays The V Club Thursday night with Hyatari and Deckard...

Related: On the road with Gazelle Amber Valentine of Jucifer (3.16.2011)


The Heptanes reunite for St. Patrick's Day V Club show

photo: Shannon Guthrie

After a decade apart, Chris Tackett, Kevin Allison and Alex Kendall are back as the Huntington-based psychobilly trio The Heptanes.

Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

Together again with the original lineup for the first time in over a decade, The Heptanes March 3rd rehearsal at The V Club was all of the above: effortless, energetic, and, electric.

“Once we started playing, we were firing on all cylinders,” singer-guitarist Kevin Allison said over the phone. “Even though it’s been ten years since we all played together, it went well, despite the electrocution.”


“I’ve got a vintage amp and it’s actually got the original plug on it,” Allison explained. “I had a ground thing rigged on it, and when I started to play the vibrations knocked it loose, and I went to sing, and I got electrocuted right through the mouth,” he said with a painful chuckle.

“I’ve had that happen several times. You can taste your fillings, it sucks.”

Drummer Alex Kendall said that despite the time apart, he, Allison and original bassist Chris Tackett hadn’t missed a beat.

“When the three of us get together, it’s effortless,” Kendall said over the phone. “It’s not that we’re great, or that we’re amazing, it just clicks.”

There’s definitely some effort put in, though. Tackett has to drive in from Lexington, and Kendall has a bum ankle leading up to the show, not a pleasant experience for a drummer. Still, the show must go on, he said.

“As soon as I heard about [the show], I think my response was, ‘I’d like to see who’s going to stop me from playing this show,’” Kendall said laughing. “Regardless of whatever health problems, I’ll take a shot of whatever steroid or miracle drug, or if they have to lower me into a giant metal casing to keep me upright, I’ll do whatever it takes to make this show happen.”

The Huntington-based psychobilly trio reunites for a St. Patrick’s Day show Saturday night at The V Club with Deadbeats and Barkers and AC30.

Formed in 1999 out of Allison and Kendall’s work together in Fuzzbucket, and their mutual appreciation for The Stray Cats, The Heptanes, after recruiting Tackett, released their debut, “Phantom Cadillac” a year later.

The attraction of rockabilly, the energy, and fun, was apparent to Allison and Kendall even in Fuzzbucket.

“It’s actually kind of funny, because the way we came upon the idea was kind of like how The Stray Cats did,” Allison explained. “They had their band the Bloodless Pharaohs before The Stray Cats, and they’d do a few rockabilly tunes before closing out their set. And we’d kind of do the same thing in Fuzzbucket.

“In fact, one of one of the Heptanes’ tunes, “U.P.D.,” was written when we were in Fuzzbucket. We’d play it at the end of the shows, and people would just get up and dance, and I mean, it was funny because we’d play the whole night, and then we’d play that song and everybody would go crazy,” the singer-guitarist recalled with awe.

Gigs were booked, fun was had, but, like so many other bands, they couldn’t keep the band intact.

“To be honest with you, with all the other times we’ve done the band without the original lineup, it never really felt right,” Allison admitted. “To have it back to the original lineup, it’s pretty cathartic, I have to say.”

While the show on St. Patrick’s Day is a reunion for the band, both Allison and Kendall stressed their desire to have old friends and fans of the Huntington scene from the 90’s reunite, too.

“With the band and the whole scene we had going at the time, we’re trying to get people who went to Calamity CafĂ© or Gumby’s back in the day to get together,” Allison said.

“You’ll see on my Facebook page I’m trying to pump this thing up and bill this as a Huntington reunion,” Kendall added. “I’ve heard from a lot of people who are coming to town, booking rooms to get back together and see everyone again. I’m hoping for a big reunion of the old school people.”

Allison recalled first being exposed back in the 90’s to the preeminent, pioneering psychobilly artist, who also just happened to be a West Virginia resident.

“I saw a flyer one day on campus for a Hasil Adkins show, and I thought ‘Oh this sounds interesting.’ So I went and checked it out and it blew my mind. To me, in my heart, part of this music, psychobilly, was created by HIM, HERE. He had a huge impact on the whole reason I got into rockabilly.”

It’s that excitement, both for the music The Heptanes play and for the experiences shared with friends and fans over the years in Huntington that Allison and Kendall say they hope to recapture Saturday night.

“It always feels good to get back out there and do it,” Allison said. “I think the reason we were popular back then, was, it was a very straight forward version of high energy rock and roll.

“For us, the basis of a Heptanes show was to entertain people,” Allison said, summing things up. “There’s no big message. People just want to enjoy themselves when they go out, and that’s what it’s all about. We all still enjoy it, and that’s why we do it.”

If you go:
AC30, The Heptanes, Deadbeats and Barkers
Where: The V Club, 741 6th Ave., Huntington (304) 781-0680
When: Saturday, March 17, 10 p.m.
Cost: $5
Info: www.vclublive.com


Q&A w/Matt Thomas of Uglyography

Matt Thomas (top left) brings Uglyography to The Empty Glass tonight…

When WVRockscene was in its infancy, an important discussion was had between the H.M.I.C. here, and another nice dude who ran an alternate, West Virginia-based site dedicated to covering local (and beyond) music. Haha it’s crazy to think that you can’t find my name hardly at all on this site, the first thing you see on this site when you revisit it now, is the true identity of your host, narrator blogging, guy.

But as far as West Virginia-based sites dedicated to covering local music went, it was an important philosophical chat. Should WVRockscene focus more on covering local bands, or expose readers to bands we like who might not ever even play here?

Well, for what it’s worth, the first approach kind of won out. But since “the dark ages” of mid-2007 or so, not really blogging or doing stuff for newspapers, up to now, we’ve kind of just naturally fell into the habit of being in touch with bands who might pass through periodically. Exposing these bands, and more importantly developing kindly acquaintanceships, to our fellow Mountain State residents is something we take seriously, and really like.

So, speaking of time periods, the “quirkadelic,” Hampton, Virginia-based act Uglyography came across our radar. Time travelers they may (or may not, hilariously) be, we caught up with front man and bassist Matt Thomas in advance of their stop at the Glass Wednesday. Seriously check out the tunes and their site, you will laff…

WVRockscene: You guys set to hit the road for a week or so? Got everything packed? Is this your first big out-of-state run of shows?

Matt Thomas: Yes, I believe we are all set and ready. Booking and preparing for this tour has been one of the most challenging tasks I’ve taken on for a long time, being a relatively unknown band at most of our stops. Now that all the booking and logistics are worked out, we just gotta pack our bags (and not forget Tums, Band-aids, vitamins and all that other necessary rock star stuff) and we will be rolling!

This will be the first time that Uglyography’s current lineup has played outside of Hampton Roads. In 2009 I toured Uglyography as a solo act and went out of state but nowhere near as far and wide as we are going this time. We hope to do as many out of town shows as in-town from here on out.

WVRockscene: What is up with you guys not being from this century? New Uglyography fans will literally rofl when they even dare to begin to read DJ Blake’s hilarious bio. Does that make it tougher for you guys to fit in, not being from this time period?

Thomas: DJ’s time traveling beard has gotten him into a lot of trouble. Jack was the only one who actually wanted to time travel, and the rest of us got here by chance happenings in the universe that have a one in a billion chance of occurring. Since we were all spit out into this overpopulated and overbuilt time together, we figure if we bond together we could give audiences a taste of when we came from and hopefully find our way back there.

We’re not sure what to make of the current state of the music industry but we do hope that audiences will lend a sympathetic ear to a bunch of outcasts who are trying to figure out what it is that people want to hear in this time. This overwhelming dependency on electricity that society has adopted is making it easier for us to play to larger audiences than back in the 1870’s so I do feel we can use that discovery to our advantage. All we really wanna do is find the magic frequency to send us back to our various home times, and so the more audiences we play for, the better chance that magical frequency will be hit. And, we hope the frequency will ring strong with our audiences as well.

WVRockscene: Seriously though “Undercover New Machine” seems to have been warmly received since its release in early 2011. How cool has the warm reception and the favorable coverage been to you guys?

Thomas: We could not ask for a better local reception. Most of the Hampton Roads publications that mention music at all have featured something about “Undercover New Machine.” Our CD release was extremely well attended, reviews have been stellar, and the CD was nominated for Best CD in the Veer Local Music awards. The support from the local industry is very flattering and encouraging. Our fan base is growing slowly but steadily and all this promotion and support is adding hot fuel to the fire.

WVRockscene: You operated as a solo performer until recently, between the whole time traveler angle and theme, how if at all has your vision of what Uglyography is and will sound like changed as you’ve moved it into a band?

Thomas: The songwriting process was very much the same for both albums (2005’s “Love Boat” and “Undercover New Machine”). Both albums were recorded on my own before I met my bandmates. But these guys are much, much better guitarists and drummer than I am, so the songs now have a whole new dimension to them, while keeping the same quirky songwriting style that I have settled into.

As far as the time-traveling thing, that has evolved as time has gone on. I suppose the seed for the idea came when I commissioned the UK lowbrow artist Doktor A. to draw up the album cover artwork for “Undercover New Machine.” I had a very specific idea of what I wanted, and had been a big fan of Dok’s steampunk style and his line of toy characters called the Mechtorians. He provided me with a fresh new aesthetic including the parchment paper background, a slick logo, and a general 18th century feeling that has been present on the website and CD case since early 2011. Not until earlier this year did we take it a step further and build ourselves a steampunk banner stand and start wearing 18th century attire to add to the theme. I think we have found our niche and will be keeping it in mind as we move forward. It is impossible to say where this is going, we don’t know ourselves.

WVRockscene: The lineup, time travelers you guys may be, has just recently changed. How have DJ Blake and Jack Morgan fit into the band since joining late last year?

Thomas: We had the need to replace a former guitarist, and DJ stepped right in and sounded fabulous on his own. About three weeks later, DJ’s friend Jack said he still wanted to try out. My first reaction was that DJ was already set as the guitarist and we would be fine as a three piece since that’s what we had been before the switch. But after hearing Jack play “More than a Miracle” at an unofficial audition, I was sold! The “dueling guitarists” as I like to call them, complement one another perfectly and the sound is really big and full now. And all of my band mates are great guys. And, we all get along and have a great time together, which is probably the most important thing when it comes to making a band successful.

WVRockscene: Anything cool in 2012 you guys are looking forward to? Shows or recording new stuff?

Thomas: We have a project slated to begin in April. We will be collaborating on a couple of songs with a local hip-hop artist called Shakespeare’s Ghozt. He has performed with us one time so far, rapping his rhymes over top of a couple songs from “Undercover New Machine.” We want to perform with him as much as possible and will be producing new recordings of those songs along with him. We will probably record a few others while we are at it and hopefully release an EP later in 2012. So yeah, good things are on the horizon!

WVRockscene: You guys are playing seven states in as many days on this tour, is this your first trip to play in these places? Obviously you’ve never played the Glass, hoping to turn some people onto your band in the current time period?

Thomas: This will be our first time at six out of seven of the venues. I played at The Hideaway in Johnson City back in 2009 and really liked the people and atmosphere there. We are looking forward to meeting all you fine modern folks this time around and hopefully return again to see you before too long! That is, if we haven’t hit the magic frequency and traveled back to when we came from.

--- Uglyography plays The Empty Glass Wednesday with Bad Employees and The Belt Notches