As sounding boards go, you probably can't do much better than Southern soul maestro Dan Penn, the Nashville-Memphis-Muscle Shoals legend who's produced and written hits for the Box Tops, Solomon Burke, Aretha Franklin and Ronnie Milsap, among countless others.
"That's been really, really inspirational for us," says the leader of Gigi Dover & the Big Love. "We've managed to make a pretty good little friendship there that we're really proud of and thankful for. That type of feedback is good to get."
When you hear Nouveau, Dover's first record of original material since 2004's
Gigi, sending an early version to Penn makes perfect sense. There's still plenty of the country rock that typified Dover's work in the Rank Outsiders in the late 1980s and her solo work, but Nouveau -- whose release party is Friday, Aug. 3 at the Visulite -- plays much more to her soul leanings.
Written over the course of a year-and-a-half, the record is primarily the fruit of Dover's collaboration with multi-talented guitarist Eric Lovell. Dover says the lyrics are mostly hers and the melodies are split pretty evenly, while it's Lovell's arrangements that take it "to the next level."
"I've collaborated with a number of people before, but never to this extent," Dover says. "Eric can play pretty much anything with strings on it, so we have a lot of options."
Dover also credits having a steady, full-band lineup which includes Dave Clark on bass, Jason Atkins on keys and Chuck Lee or James Zogzas on drums. She says the band's Blue Bubble home studio also played a big role in the record's lush sound. "I never really had the luxury of demoing songs before because I never had a studio or way to record stuff," she says. "So we were able to go in and change stuff whenever we wanted. It's a much more relaxed and creative atmosphere because you're not looking at the clock while your wallet drains."
The Fire the Flood Goes Truth Seeking: In their brief two-year tenure, local hardcore outfit The Fire the Flood have run through 10 members, three vans and a series of personal setbacks. Undaunted, the four current members who live together in Rock Hill -- vocalist Luke Williams, Rich Contes (guitar), Taylor Knox (drums) and Matt Russell (bass) -- have seen their fortunes change lately. Through a MySpace connection they hooked up with Jersey-based No Sleep Records, who in turn got them in the studio with producer Jamie King (Between the Buried and Me, Killwhitneydead).
"It was our first time in a real studio and it was good to have someone who was well-versed in our kind of music to help us out," says Williams. "We grew up listening to the records he produced."
Truth Seekers was recorded in March, and is already receiving praise from the likes of Wonka Vision magazine for its "high quality, passionate hardcore." The 13 heavy tracks tap into the raw sound of some of the band's favorite predecessors like Botch, Converge and Coalesce, while also bearing the mark of early grunge influences Nirvana. Lyrically, Williams explores issues like faith, family and friends, and though their name comes from the Book of Revelations, Williams is quick to point out that they're not a Christian band.
"We all hold different beliefs in this band, but we keep encouraging kids to go out and find what works best for you," he says. "We know what works for us, but it's always a personal thing."
The band played the Warped Tour at Verizon in July, and will hold its official CD release party on Saturday, Aug. 4.
notes: The Fence Lions and Tenspeed hook up for a split 7-inch, featuring the former's more recent forays into instrumental sound-scapes and the latter's strings-and-horns free music attack ... The next Tosco House Party Open-Mic Night at the Evening Muse has been moved to Wednesday, Aug. 8, and will return in September to the first Wednesday of every month ... local photog Daniel Coston will exhibit 20 photos of North Carolina musicians as part of the Levine Museum's "Rhythm & Roots" touring exhibition beginning in September. "Music In Your Backyard" will feature a wide array of musicians from the fields of Americana, bluegrass, blues and R&B.