When I recently spoke with Tishamingo’s Richard Proctor, he related that he and his band mates felt like they were on top of the world.
Granted Proctor and Tishamingo in the high altitudes of the Rocky Mountains in the midst of the band’s first Colorado tour, but I digress. But no matter how you look at it, Tishamingo has had a great couple of years and it looks to keep getting better.
Formed in Tallahassee, but now calling the college music mecca of Athens, Georgia home; Tishamingo is: Richard Proctor (drums), Cameron Williams (lead vocals, guitar), Jess Franklin (lead guitar, vocals), and Stephen Spivey (bass, vocals). After touring steadily in the Southeast for the past couple of years and releasing the bands self-titled debut, Tishamingo set themselves up to be come a jam band on the verge.
"We’ve been having a lot of fun and things have been going well," Proctor said. "We’ve been together for a little over two years and we’ve been grinding it out on the road and now we’re starting to see some of it pay off."
Part of the pay off came in the fall of 2003 when Inner State Records picked up the band and re-released "Tishamingo" in early March of this year. With the publicity push of a record label and an increased distribution, Tishamingo’s deal with Inner State Records could do a lot for the band.
"It’s been in the works for a little while and we’re really excited," Proctor said. "I think they are definitely going to help us with this album. We released the album in October 2002we put it out on our own, independently. We just sold it at the live shows and off of our website and things like that and also in stores regionally where we were doing touring. Inner State will also help a lot with distribution. The record will be in bigger record stores all over the country and not just where we’re playing. They also plan to put a big publicity push behind the record as well. We feel like it’s a real solid album and we were proud of it but we just didn’t feel like we were getting it in the hands of enough people just based on our regional touring. We felt like if we could get some help from somebody like Inner State to get it all around then maybe we’d get more recognition and people would get to hear it and appreciate it."
Produced and recorded in the studios of famed Athens producer John Keane (Widespread Panic, R.E.M., Indigo Girls), "Tishamingo" clearly shows that the finer qualities of Southern Rock are back on the upswing. Cameron Williams vocals on tracks like "Whiskey State of Mind" and "Lazy Susan" and "Tradition" and "Way Back Home" carry the whisky-drenched growl and gritty soul of an elder blues manmaking the listener want to grab the closest can of ice cold domestic beer and sing right along. With Williams often complementing on guitar in true Southern dual guitar fashion; Jess Franklin’s lead slide guitar work shines on "Tishamingo." From searing solos to silvery twang to mournful, melodic wailing (check out "Palmer March"); Franklin is tastefully putting the guitar’ back in guitar-driven rock.
Thanks to the rhythm section of Richard Proctor and Stephen Spivey, Tishamingo shows the band’s own take on Southern Rock is true to the jam mindset of adding in much more. Grooves on the album range touch on swampy-funk ("Lickity Split"), backwoods two-step ("People See"), face-in-the-drink blues ("Pete’s Lament") hillbilly rock ("Turry and the Tellico Militia") and even a little bit of Latin spice ("El Perro Frio").
Keyboardist Jason Fuller (formerly of Ween) contributed to "Tishamingo" as well and has been touring with the band ever since its first release.
To be a relatively new band in a genre with a great deal of history, Tishamingo’s take on Southern Rock is about as authentic as it gets.
"I’m not ashamed to call in Southern rock," Proctor said. "We’re all from the South and whether we try to or notwhether it’s blatant or notthe sounds of Southern music definitely influenced us growing up. I think when we end up writing or playing, I don’t think we’re trying to be a Southern rock band, I think it’s just that way by default. That’s just what comes out when we play and write, so it’s pretty authentic."
Along with the buzz created by the re-release of Tishamingo, the band’s popularity has also shot up a couple of notches do Tishamingo’s inclusion on the maiden voyage of the Jam Cruise in January.
"The Jam Cruise was wonderful for us," Proctor said. "Most of all we just had a great time and met a lot of bands and fans just by being on the boat. But it’s been good for us as well because now we’ll hit a town and people will show up and say, yeah, we saw you on the Jam Cruise and loved it so now we’re out to hear you.’ Even people who weren’t on the Jam Cruise will say we saw that you were on the list for the Jam Cruise and figured you’d probably be pretty good.’ So it’s been really helpful for us as far as people knowing our name and knowing about us. It was definitely wonderful."
Tishamingo’s two separate time slots on the high seas ran the gamut of slight disappointment of true elation. With a morning set on the second day of the cruise, a good many Jam Cruise sailors were asleep for Tishamingo’s first set.
"Our first time slot was at 11 in the morning one day and it was kind of brutal because so many people had partied all night before and they slept through the set or whatever. So we didn’t have a huge crowd by any means, but the second time we played was the very last night in the evening in what turned out to be an awesome time slot."
That slot brought about guest appearances by Karl Denson, Jerry Joseph, Bill Nershi and members of Galactic, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Umphrey’s McGee.
"By then we’d been on the boat for four days and had gotten to know most of the musicians and bands just by hanging out," Proctor said. "I think because it was at the end of the cruise everybody was just itching to get up and play with one another and have some fun. So our set was that’ set where all the guys were just coming and going and sitting init was so much fun, it was just awesome. A lot of diverse musicians got up and played with us, it was great."
The buzz around Tishamingo should continue to grow in the coming months. The group headed into the studio in April on its second studio album. The new album will be produced by Athens producer David Barbe (Bloodkin, Drive by Truckers) and is slated for a release in August of this year.
Tishamingo also appeared at the Three Rivers Music Festival (Columbia, SC) and will be on the bills at the Mountain View Jam (Elon, NC), the River Bend Festival (Chattanooga, TN) and Wakarusa (Lawrence, KS).
With 2004 nearly halfway behind them, Tishamingo has a great deal to be excited about and a great deal to look forward to.
"A lot’s been going on this year," Proctor said. "We kicked it off with Jam Cruise and when we were sitting on the boat we all said, "this is a good way to start the year." I think it’s indicative of a lot of good things to happen with the re-release of our album and then the release of our second album. It’s going to be a good year, it already has been."
Mark Pantsari is a freelance writer living in Folly Beach, SC