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Southall

Read Southall can sure turn a phrase. “This record is the gasoline for the love machine,” he says of his band’s new album, the exhilarating and self-titled Southall. The proud Oklahoma workingman isn’t exaggerating. The record sparks and burns with 11 crank-it-up songs that expertly combine country, rock & roll, and the dust and grit of the band’s native Red Dirt scene.

But there are also glimpses of hard rock and metal, along with easygoing back-porch vibes, the result of a drastic change in the way the group formerly known as the Read Southall Band now makes music: Every member of Southall brings lyrics, melodies, and even full songs to the table. “It’s the colors of different people with different influences making music,” Southall says. “I’ve always been confident in the talents and abilities of the guys onstage with me, and I want our fans to see and hear that too. That’s why we changed our name to Southall.”

Produced by Eddie Spear (Zach Bryan’s American Heartbreak) and recorded at Leon Russell’s iconic Church Studio in Tulsa, Southall manifests the true band album that singer Read Southall first envisioned when he released his debut, Six String Sorrow, in 2015. That was a mostly acoustic record, but Southall, the band’s fourth album, roars with raw and loud collaborative power. Reid Barber, the group’s resident metalhead, hammers his drums. Bassist Jeremee Knipp provides a brooding low end. Keys player Braxton Curliss adds both tasteful accents and off-the- rails barroom piano. And guitarists John Tyler Perry and Ryan Wellman wring wild sounds from their instruments. All of it is tied together by Southall’s scrappy, yearning voice.

First single “Scared Money” is a slice of Rolling Stones country-rock straight off of Sticky Fingers. Opening with a stabbing guitar lick and written by Barber, it’s an acknowledgment of hard work and a dogged determination to pay the bills. “That was inspired by my father, who always told me it’s not about figuring out what you want to do, it’s about figuring out what you don’t want to do,” Barber says. “It was written as a country song, but when we got in the studio it turned into more of a Stonesy jam.”

“Reid wrote ‘Scared Money,’ but the lyrics are me to a T: I walked out of class, straight to the patch, because no one ever paid me to read,” says Southall, who dropped out of school to get a job. “I feel like that’s an Oklahoman mindset, in the sense that people down here get to work. They get up every morning and do things they don’t want to do to make money and try to get ahead in this crazy life. And it doesn’t matter if you’re going to school, working in the oil patch, or farming. It's all work.”

“Out Alive,” meanwhile, taps into Southall’s harder and more experimental sound and is about the fear of saying, or posting, the wrong thing in today’s quick-to-crucify society, and instead saying nothing at all — “That’s hardly a better option,” says Barber, who wrote it. “Out Alive” is a monster and features a squawky guitar solo reminiscent of Jack White or Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello played by Wellman using a pen as a slide. “It sounds like air-raid sirens,” raves Southall.

“By Surprise,” meanwhile, is a study in contradictions, a song that’s musically simple but probes complex mysteries. “Too many questions too little time/heat of the moment passing you by,” Southall sings. “Heart of the matter, hard to define/the universe divine.”

“We started playing some basic straightforward rock to make the soul of the song stick out,” says Barber, who brought five songs to the recording sessions, including “By Surprise.” “That’s the song I’m most stoked about. Lyrically, it’s so big, in the whole scope of what is being talked about — this life and how we get through it.”

While Southall released three other studio albums, including their 2017 breakout Borrowed Time, the band’s namesake regards the records as just the building blocks of Southall’s future. He wrote all of those songs, including the fan favorite “Why,” just to get the train moving. Today, they’re charging ahead.

“That was my contribution: our back catalog,” Southall says. “Now, we have this steam built up and we’re rolling down the tracks, and I want the guys to all grab a shovel, load some coal, and keep us rolling.”

The six-piece has been up to the challenge. Their song “Stickin’ n Movin’,” off 2021’s For the Birds, appeared on the CBS series Fire Country, and they’ve established themselves as a band- you-need-to-playlist on the streaming services: Southall have more than 133 million streams on Spotify and more than 101 million on Apple Music, with nearly 1 million monthly listeners across all platforms.

It’s not only the success story of a band, but of a region, according to Southall, who was first inspired to write and sing country songs after having a revelation while working on a farm. “I grew up at a really cool time when country music was good in the Nineties, and I spent a lot of radio time on the tractor. So whatever was happening in country music then was in my ears,” he says. “But then country started to change and became more about partying. That’s when I thought, ‘I could represent my people better than this.’”

To Southall, that meant writing about work, and he sells that message hard in the rambunctious “Get Busy (Till It’s Done),” a centerpiece of the album and one of its most ferocious tracks. “They say anything worth having is worth fighting for/and I know that is true,” he howls. “It’s gonna take a little time, a little grind, to get what’s coming to you.”

“My dad always said to me, ‘You’re not just going to sit there on your pockets and do nothing. That still rings true to me,” Southall says. “Work is what makes you who you are.”

For Southall the band, that work began a long time ago — and it’s about to pay off in a big way.

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September 15, 2024 19:00 pm (Doors: 19:00 pm )

$20.00 Buy Tickets