Sally & George
Like a Punk-Rock Peter Pan and bass-wielding Tinker Bell, Nashville Folk-Rock duo Sally & George have always resisted society’s push to “grow up,” and together they have cultivated a life of movement, freedom, adventure, and artistic independence. As married musicians, they found in each other what previous bands failed to provide – a musical home with no boundaries. Their new album “Take You On A Ride” showcases their ability to grow and change together. On their sophomore release, the effervescent pair journeys through treacherous landscapes of pain and love. The sonically intrepid collection tackles vicious political terrain with howling 60’s electric guitar tones, a changing climate with Caribbean-inspired upright bass, racial violence in a hypnotic prayer, addiction with a swampy backbeat, heartbreak and loss through soulful ballads, and ultimately returns to their ocean of love. While their focus may have shifted, taking on darker more outward facing subject matter, their sound remains centered on synergistic vocal harmonies and instrumental interplay.
Upright bassist Shelby Means (originally from Wyoming and a former member of Grammy nominated Bluegrass band Della Mae) and Joel Timmons (of Charleston, South Carolina Roots-Rock band Sol Driven Train) first crossed paths at a festival on the Tennessee and Virginia border called Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion. A chance encounter at the merchandise table led to a long distance romance, the discovery of a musical chemistry, and the formation of Sally & George (named after Shelby’s dapper grandparents). In 2017 they got married in a Wyoming State Park, toured the USA and Australia, and released their debut album. “Tip My Heart” was filled with autobiographical reflections on their courtship and romance and was praised by NPR Music for its’ “spartan sparkle,” drawing comparisons to Johnny Cash and June Carter, Buddy Holly, and The Everly Brothers.
“Since then we’ve been touring a lot (until this year) and writing along the way,” says Timmons. “‘Take You On A Ride’ is less about us, more about looking at the world and the struggles, the cycles of violence, pain, forgiveness, and redemption that are happening around us.” The new album also includes more collaboration from outside the duo. “At the very beginning of the album process, co-writes with Robby Hecht, Jacob Means, and Melody Walker pushed us to expand our lyrical ideas and create melodic content beyond our original limits. As we gathered songs and momentum for the new album, the collaborations extended not only to writing, but into the recording, production, and video content,” explains Means.
The duo began recording “Take You On A Ride” during the summer of 2019 in Laramie, Wyoming at Thunderground Studios, the very same studio where they had previously begun the sessions for “Tip My Heart.” Thunderground is an “old school” recording facility with nary a computer monitor on the premises. “We like to give the recordings a live feel, so we typically play the songs together – either bass and guitar, or bass and drums, and cut the vocals live together also, just to give it that interaction in the moment, so that the magic really happens,” explains Timmons. Over the year they continued to work on the album at several studios around Nashville, employing Kristin Weber to write and record lush string parts and Josh Kaler to mix the finished tracks. The songs on “Take You For A Ride” range from dynamic rockers like the opening track “Fish for Free” to stripped down folk numbers like “Keepin’ Time,” which highlights the pair’s elegant musicianship and harken back to Means’ background in Bluegrass.
The eleven original tracks that make up “Take You On A Ride” were being finalized and a busy year of international touring was in the process of being mapped out when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States. In true Sally & George style, Shelby and Joel were beginning their annual tour on St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. One by one, they watched their upcoming tour dates fall like dominoes. After spending an extra month in tropical quarantine (surfing and live streaming from the island), they returned to Nashville and moved out of their apartment, packing their possessions into their tour van which doubles as a second home. “The decision to live out of our van (indefinitely) has been a big sacrifice, but at the same time it will allow us to release this record. It’s a really disorienting time in terms of where we put our energy, but we’ve got this art we’ve been working on for years and we really want to be able to put it out into the world,” says Timmons.
For now, the duo is in Laramie, Wyoming waiting out the pandemic. “After all of this work, we are right back where we started – waiting for the world to get back on track,’ they muse. “It really does feel like some kind of wild ride!”
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