In a small bar off the radar in Murfreesboro, Tennessee nothing ever seemed to happen. However, those who attended Middle Tennessee State University may have crossed the road to The Boro at some time or another. The legendary Jack Pearson played there every other Wednesday night with his blues outfit The Nationals. And on Sunday nights Jimi Hendrixs guitar instructor Roland Gresham would always play his amazing jazz and blues guitar. Every other night was filled with locals, R.I.M. students and the occasional touring act. From this underground world of mind-boggling music Old Union found one another.
Off the beaten path of country music, top 40 radio stations and the typical jamband scene, Old Union has created a unique voice that marries blues, gospel, outlaw country and soulful southern rock and roll. Lead vocalist and keyboardist, Chuck Foster has a rough-edged hard-lip style that draws comparisons to Dr. John and Leon Russell. While the dual guitar attack of Johnny Zvolensky and Steve Swertfeger hark back to the vintage sound of early Allman Brothers era with Duane and Dickey at the helm. Not to overlook the rhythm section, drummer David Bryndal and bassists Ben Bridges hold it all down with precision and style, driving Old Unions sound from the gunslinging rock of Texas, thru the soul of Muscle Shoals and Memphis down to Macon and the back porch blues of the Big House.
When asked about the influences on Old Unions music, Foster made mention of another historically overlooked band, Janie Grey. Being around Janie Grey and having the opportunity to play and share experiences with Denny Presley (lead guitarist and songwriter) definitely influenced our sound from the songwriter perspective. In terms of influences, he also cited the Allman Brothers, Cream, Marshall Tucker Band as well as upbringings whch included the steady presence of gospel. Our music is a balanced mixture of traditional music like the blues, gospel, country and southern rock and roll. Lyrically at times it has underlying spiritual tones, and musically a respect for the heritage of country and southern rock and roll.
Cultivating something new is no easy task, especially in the Music City. Nashville is a town that historically has been brutal to up-and-coming bands, and as an industry has tried to stifle most good movements in country music (see outlaw country, see Californias country music movements). However, Old Union has no problem calling Nashville home. In fact they have made some heavy hitting fans around town. Since the bands inception in 2001 they have been joined on stage by the likes of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Steve Cropper, Jack Pearson (Allman Brothers Band), Bonnie Bramlet, Jimmy Hall, Bruce Brown (Charlie Daniels Band) and many other legendary musicians. The exposure to playing with that caliber of musician, helps us as a band understand our potential, and how to take it to that level consistently,’ Foster explains. ‘When we were on the road with Bonnie we wanted to step it up every night so the people coming to see her would leave saying Who was that band? (Old Union toured as Bonnie Bramletts backing band on a tour of blues clubs and festivals up and down the east coast, across the Midwest and on into Canada).
Recently their efforts have begun to pay off as yet another legendary Nashvillian is part of the fold. After hearing the band, John Carter Cash really felt that he heard something great in Old Unions sound. Around his intensely busy schedule of producing Walk the Line, he started to work with them on their next album.
At times, the experience of entering the Cash cabin studio could be overwhelming. The experience of being in Johnny Cashs cabin seeing all of the pictures of the Cash family and all of the musical history on the walls consumes you. John also really takes a hands on approach with us, getting in the studio listening and working to find our sound, just doing what a producer does, which was somewhat new to us.
The band is very excited to finish the album and get it out to the masses. They are continuing the process of recording at the cabin around a busy touring schedule, and hope to have the album out in late spring/early summer.
Along with a bevy of southern dates they will venture across the Midwest this spring with confirmed shows in Chicago, Cincinnati, St Louis and Kansas City. Also playing an exciting hometown showing as part of Vanderbilts impressive Rights of Spring Festival (alongside Govt Mule, My Morning Jacket, Blue Merle, Hot Buttered Rum String Band, and Ben Folds Five). Along with the new album due out, an exciting DVD project featuring the combined efforts of Old Union and former New Groove of the Month, mile 8s exciting Halloween show is due out this spring. Two exciting ways to check out a great band, but for even faster results head on over to www.oldunion.com.