There are a few things that people who grew up in places like North Carolina understand that others may not. The first is it’s not really summer until the sound of cicadas drown out any other noise around. Second, fall smells differently here – and most of us spend the year looking forward to that shit. Third, and most important: southern rock and rock written and performed by southern people can be two very different things.
Southern rock has become something so convoluted that even the most die-hard fans now seem to think that the current curator, a former DJ from Detroit, is the next Waylon Jennings. It’s now forever linked to rebel flags, Budweiser, and parking lot fights about pickups.
Then, there’s the music that channels the soul of the south, but in no way resembles said crap mentioned above. Roman Candle fits that bill – and while lead singer Skip Matheny may sing like a dull buzzsaw, the words coming out of his mouth are smarter and more meticulously arranged than any you will find penned by someone above the Mason-Dixon.
Our Jam of the Day “Why Modern Radio is A-Ok” honestly isn’t my favorite song on their latest album Oh Tall Tree in the Ear. But it really is the best introduction to their music if it’s your first Roman Candle listen. And like all of their music, there is something that makes it infectious upon first listen.
It may be the subject matter – that music, even if played by a jukebox-flattened dollar, can transport us back to a certain time, person, or place. For Matheny, or whoever he’s channeling, it’s the songs of Neil Young, Van Morrison, and Sam Cooke. And they’re so off-limits even the “high school emo bands versin’ and chorusin’” on modern radio are better than the feelings invoked by those classic songs.
And that’s saying a lot.