Dear Bo Jackson shows The Weeks to be not unlike the legendary athlete of the album’s title: indisputable all-stars, capable of just about anything. The Nashville-based band’s Serpents and Snakes Records debut album sees their already well-seasoned sonic stew enriched with the classic flavors of soul, R&B, funk, and heavy boogie to create a truly unique take on contemporary Southern rock. Big brass, lush strings, and twangy pedal steel have been fused into The Weeks’ trademark sludge pop sound, with Sam Williams’ greasy guitars and the highly charged engine room of bassist Damien Bone and drummer Cain Barnes now officially joined by master keyboardist Alex Admiral Collier. Throughout the album, songs like “Brother In The Night” and the exuberant title track see Cyle Barnes’ rending his throat raw as he testifies dramatic and truthful tales of modern Southern lives, full of hope despite often punishing circumstances.
“The South is a different beast than the rest of the world,” Barnes says. “We’ve all been aged and worn in a very fine way because of it. I think even if we didn’t want to write about the South, it’d still come out in our songs.”
Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, The Weeks came together in 2006 and instantly came to define the sound of Southern Rock in the 21st Century – their grunge-powered, high-octane anthems rich with a bottomless Delta soul far deeper than the boys’ teenage years would suggest. Like any great rock ‘n’ roll outfit worth its salt, The Weeks played as often as humanly possible, with countless club dates across the Southeast and tours alongside such like-minded acts as Local H, North Mississippi All-Stars, and the one and only Meat Puppets. Their extraordinary energy and outsized performances – not to mention a series of well-received independently issued releases – earned them a fervent fan following and ultimately, a deal with the like-minded Serpents and Snakes Records.
By summer 2010, it had become clear that sleepy Jackson could no longer contain the mighty Weeks. The band left their old Mississippi home for the bright lights of Nashville, and, as Williams says, “it’s been non-stop ever since.” Serpents and Snakes reissued the band’s second full-length outing, Gutter Gaunt Gangster, earning them reams of national applause, including Amazon.com naming the collection among its top 10 “Outstanding 2012 Albums You Might Have Missed.”
Where that album – like all The Weeks’ previous recordings – was recorded fast and on the cheap, the band opted to take a more leisurely tack in making its follow-up. They spent six months at pre-production, resulting the most fully articulated demos of their career. When time came to record the album proper, their search for a producer led them to Paul Moak, a Grammy Award-nominated producer/engineer/mixer and perhaps most importantly, a fellow Jacksonian.
“Our first tour van was bought from his grandfather’s car dealership,” Williams says. “When we walked into the studio, there was this big metal sculpture of Mississippi with a heart over Jackson. The vibe was unbelievable right away. As soon as we started tracking, we knew.”
The Weeks set to work at Moak’s Music City studio, The Smoakstack, determined to push themselves further than ever before. Drawing inspiration from such iconic works of Americana as The Band’s Music From Big Pink, the band’s first goal was to incorporate new musical elements into their own inimitable take on Americana.
“We set down the law, day one, we’re not interested in making it sound like our live show,” Williams says. “We’ve done that. We wanted this record to be bigger, more grandiose. The core of it is still all livetracked, we’ve just never had horns and pedal steel and backup singers and all that jazz.”
Much of Dear Bo Jackson’s all-inclusive sound can be credited to The Weeks’ very own Garth Hudson, Alex Admiral Collier, whose compositional background and proficiency on an array of instruments enabled the band to build their inventive arrangements from within. Adding color to such standouts as “King Sized Death Bed” and “Gobi Blues” are legendary pedal steel guitarist Bucky Baxter – “the most unbelievable musician I’ve ever seen in person,” says Williams – as well as their buddy Carl Gatti on trombone and faux French Horn. What’s more, friends from throughout the new Nashville rock scene – including Jonny “Corndawg” Fritz – dropped into The Smoakstack to lend backing vocals and a collective stamp to the proceedings.
“We just told everybody, ‘Hey, we’re cookin’ wings today,” Williams says. “Just come by the studio, eat some wings, and we’ll figure out your part.”
The same sense of community that fueled the sessions also marks The Weeks’ increasingly rich songwriting. Their world growing by leaps and bounds, the band brought every ounce of their exceptional experiences to songs like the powerful album-closing combo of “Chicahominy” and “Woe Is I,” deepening them with both profound joy and unfathomable sadness.
“We all had to grow up a good bit in the past year or so,” Barnes says. “The songs express the good times that we had and the really hard times. We made it though, but we wanted the record to really express how we were feeling during that time.”
Justifiably proud of what they’ve accomplished in Dear Bo Jackson, The Weeks are now – probably even as you read this – out on the road, growing their familial fanbase with each sweat-soaked gig. True lifers in the classic Southern rock tradition, The Weeks hold fast to the very same ambition and artistic fervor that first kickstarted them into action in a Jackson garage.
“I’ve been doing this with these dudes since I was 14,” Williams says. “I’ve no idea – nor do I care – how to do anything else.”
“The Weeks are pretty sure about what we want in life and we’re pretty sure about what we want to do as a band so we’re kinda hard to sway,” Barnes says. “Everything that’s happened happening in a very fluid fashion and hasn’t been forced at all. We just want to continue doing this, with these people, for as long as we can. We love each other. It’s family.”