To those who say they don't make good music like they used to: Don't fret, Bishop Gunn is here.
The band, formed in Natchez, Mississippi and currently residing in Leiper's Fork just outside of Franklin, is so incredibly refreshing, any fan of music will appreciate what Bishop Gunn is doing.
The group released their debut full-length album named "Natchez" earlier this month, giving a nod to their hometown of Natchez, and most people who listen to the album for the first time have the same reaction: "Wow."
The first song on the album, "Southern Discomfort," kicks off with harmonica howling over guitar and drums before lead singer Travis McCready's vocals take over with the bass and drums holding it down.
Guitar player Drew Smithers essentially acts as a second lead vocal on the song, and continuously throughout the album using his guitar. It's not through a talk box, it's through conveying a feeling through the guitar that adds as the perfect companion to McCready's vocals on the album.
The other two members of the band, Ben Lewis on bass and Burne Sharp on drums, help create the base of what the band is, which is hard to nail down exactly, as it fits in numerous genres: Rock, Blues, Soul, Americana, Southern Rock, and Country.
Another way to describe the music would be the "Muscle Shoals Sound," which isn't a necessarily a genre, but it definitely is a sound, and Bishop Gunn nails it. They even recorded part of their album at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 2017 with producer Mark Neill fof The Black Keys, with the rest of the album being recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, as well as The Purple House in Leiper's Fork.
The album’s lead single, “Shine,” is the first release of material tracked inside the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio since it reopened in January 2016.
"Natchez" entered the Billboard Blues Chart at #4, showing that the new group really put something special together for their debut album, but beyond the album, the group itself has a great story.
McCready and Sharpe formed Bishop Gunn in Natchez, Mississippi in what was supposed to be a one-off situation, but the band kept playing.
After a short time, McCready and Sharpe knew they wanted to do more with the band, but the other members didn't, so McCready and Sharpe moved up to a farmhouse in Leiper's Fork, just outside of Nashville, with the idea that it could be their headquarters.
To this day, there is no internet, no TV, and you'll be lucky to get cell phone reception at the house.
"If you want to entertain yourself, pick up an instrument, write a song," Sharpe half-jokingly said.
The two weren't really sure what they were doing or where they were planning to go, but one day they saw a guitar player outside of an antique shop, and they were infatuated with the playing. They didn't talk to him, but it left an impression.
Later, the two went up to Carter Vintage Guitars in Nashville to pick up a guitar, and they spotted the same guitar player, Drew Smithers. A chance-meeting that could only happy in Music City.
"It was kind of like, you know, you see a hot girl or something at a party. At first you walk away because you don't really have like the balls to go say something to her," Sharpe said, adding that at first they didn't have the courage to walk up to Smithers without any knowledge of who he was, other than his guitar playing. "We like, walked out of the store and put the guitar in the car, and I remember Travis being like, 'Let's go back in there, let's go talk to him.'"
"It was kind of like him asking me out on a first date," Smithers said of the conversation, but luckily, that 'first date' went well.
Smithers, McCready, and Sharpe got together, started playing songs, and never looked back.
When it was time to complete the band with a bassist, McCready and Sharpe thought of their friend Ben Lewis.
Lewis had known McCready for years down in Natchez, and they would play together from time to time, and Lewis ended up working on recordings with Sharpe in Natchez, so when the band needed a bass player, they picked a man that they knew would fit right in.
Since then, the band has played festivals such as Pilgrimage Festival in Franklin, SXSW, and Kid Rock's “Chillin’ the Most Cruise.”
I caught their album release show at the Franklin Theatre earlier this month, and they were even better live than they are on the album, which I think shows that a band is truly filled with talented musicians.
The band took the time to improvise and expand on the songs that had already struck a chord with the audience, and Smithers' guitar was showcased in a way that's hard to do on an album.
"Natchez" is the culmination of the work and relationship the band has formed together, and it's created an album where you can roll the windows down and turn the music up, celebrating the sound of the Delta.
Bishop Gunn is scheduled to play The Peach Fest, The Big House Museum, and support dates for Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Outlaws and many others.
They'll be playing a free show at L27 in Nashville on June 7th if you want to check them out. And believe me, you should.