When Caroline's Spine rolls into town for a show at Flytrap Music Hall this weekend, long-time fans should be prepared for some new things: songs, music, a new look and a fresh attitude. Yes, charismatic frontman Jimmy Newquist will be front and center, leading the band through a string of hits like "Sullivan," "Nothing to Prove," "Attention Please," and "Wallflower." But aside from that, the game has changed and Newquist is in control.
It's old news that Caroline's Spine has undergone a transformation. Following the 2007 release of Captured and the corresponding tour dates, Newquist parted ways with guitarist Make Haugh, drummer Jason Gilardi and bassist Scott Jones. Even so, he soldiered on with a renewed vision and direction for Caroline's Spine, resulting in a revamped lineup and new eight-song EP, Work It Out, released in September 2008.
The new disc is not a huge departure in sound from previous Caroline's Spine material. In fact, it has much in common with the band's previous work, channeling much of the group's early vibe and refining it. Newquist's voice and songwriting are more focused and direct than we've heard in years.
That's the difference. More than a band in traditional terms, Caroline's Spine is distinctly a vehicle for Newquist's rock voice. In conversations with me past and present, Newquist has shared that he clearly sees his views his songs in two distinctly different lights. When played acoustically (as the material is primarily written), they are Jimmy Newquist songs. When transformed into modern hard rock, they become another beast, that of Caroline's Spine.
Although the initial change in lineup may not have been particularly clean (rumors have flown of an ugly breakup, but parties involved have kept from saying much), it is clear that Newquist has formed a new image for Caroline's Spine. While Work it Out revolves around themes of honesty, independence and questioning one's place in the world, the disc carries a distinctly lighter spirit, even when packing a heavier punch sonically.
Newquist has still kept his ties to Tulsa, recruiting more Tulsa-based talent to anchor the latest Spine incarnation. Recording the disc at Yellow Dog Studios (which relocated to Austin) with Dave Percefull again at the helm, he also tapped new blood, bringing in Neal Tiemann (MWK, David Cook) to co-produce the disc. Newquist also recruited Matt McHan of Rook, My Dead X and Mercy Street for studio and live guitar slinging duties.
"I saw him play and thought 'This is the guy we need,'" Newquist said. "He's talented. He's got the right amount of attitude. He's a young guy and brings so much to the band."
The current lineup was filled out by even more Tulsa talent in bassist Jeff Rambo and drummer Dustin Rhodes, both veterans of Tulsa's live and studio scenes. Together the foursome not only helped record the latest disc, but present a new Spine to the masses.
All of this might sound like an aging band going through the motions, but that's not the case. Instead, the band has found a new lease on life. Once Work It Out was released in September, the first single, "The Light Inside," was picked up by KMOD and KMYZ in Tulsa as well as about 25 national rock stations. The song quickly found its audience and became the second most downloaded single of the band's entire catalogue, surpassed only by Spine's signature tune, "Sullivan."
Clearly, Tulsa is a key market for Caroline's Spine and Newquist is grateful for the continued warm reception. Granted, it doesn't hurt that the band has often included Tulsa-based musicians. When I asked why he has continually tapped T-Town for his supporting cast, Newquist said that it was initially because of geography. "It's half way between the Easy cost, where I was born, and the West coast, where I went to college. When I decided to give it all up and sell everything to give my life to pursuing music, it was a good place to work from.
"I've met so many great people and musicians from Tulsa, though," he said. "Of the dozen guys that have been in Caroline's Spine since I established the band, six or so have been from Tulsa. The caliber of musicians here is just so incredible.
"I'm just thankful that as a kid from Arizona, Tulsa has accepted the band as one of its own. Tulsa doesn't put up with a band that goes stagnant, so we keep moving forward to stay at the forefront of the scene."
For now, Newquist is anticipating a return to his adopted hometown and building on the success of the band's latest disc. "I'm especially looking forward to this show," he said, revealing that former Molly's Yes and Fanzine guitarist Mac Ross will join the band for this weekend's show. Newquist is leaving the door open to work with yet another musician that he's known and respected for a number of years.
For Spine fans old and new, the band's Saturday night (March 28) show at Flytrap Music Hall will be one to look forward to. With a fresh lineup, new material, a new hit single and an additional guest guitarist for the night, this show promises to be something special. And if you haven't heard the new tunes, this will be the perfect time and place to see where Caroline's Spine is headed in the future. At the same time, Newquist promises he will still be giving a nod to the past and digging into the band's back catalogue. Tickets are $12 in advance or $18 at the door. The show starts at 8pm.
Speaking of adopted sons, it seems that a few of David Cook's travels have been unfortunately overlooked during the past few months. Regardless of whether you love or hate the new album (and, judging from your responses to Josh Kline's review, most of you dig it), our boy's got a solid hit on his hands and has been incredibly busy. If I'm not mistaken, the beginning of the year saw him travel to the Pacific Rim for a quick run through the Philippines and Japan before returning stateside to push the CD.
After running into guitarist/keyboardist (and former MWK mate) Andy Skib's father last week, it was called to my attention that perhaps the most prestigious gig of the year has been overlooked, however. Local hero status should be questioned no more as Cook and his band just got back from a tour for the troops in Iraq.
As big as those gigs may have been, Dave's playing it close to the vest and trying to build things at a more gradual pace here in the states, currently touring college campuses and smaller venues instead of American Idol-sized arenas. He's even got a Tulsa stop booked on April 25, but as most people know by now, it's a limited capacity, students-only show at the ACAC Hall. If you're looking for a bigger production, I'd keep an eye out for radio shows on the summer circuit and a tour of larger venues in the fall.
Following a string of bands stopping through town on their way to and from Austin, this week's concert schedule has slowed down considerably, but there is still a handful of cool shows coming through town. This is the perfect time to catch up with your favorite local band or get reacquainted with your favorite club again, but we've got a few suggestions in case you need a nudge out the door.
If you're looking for something new, head out to Exit 6C on Thursday night, March 26, and check out Strange Tide. What is it? Jazz, funk, folk or indie rock? Maybe a little of all the above, but it's worth a listen. Of course, you can never go wrong on a Thursday with Dustin and Jesse's Higher Education at McNellie's.
Friday night's bigger shows are Walking the Line (a Johnny Cash Tribute) at Flytrap and Motion City Soundtrack at The Marquee with This Providence, The Nightlife and Hush Hush Commotion. If you're looking for something grittier, check out Red Eyed Gravy at Mercury Lounge or rattle the glass with Dustin Pittsley at Arnie's on March 27.
Saturday night is a good night to mix things up, with a more eclectic mix of choices. Dance!Robots!Dance! plays Soundpony while Sugar Free All Stars bring the party to Arnie's. Marquee hits a dance and electronic groove with Assimilation, and Monolith hosts a punk and indie show with A+ Setup, Dirty Mugz, Out of Time and Wasteful Youth. You also get another chance to check out Strange Tide, this time with Ceceda at The Colony.
Of course, Saturday night's spotlight events are the aforementioned Caroline's Spine show at Flytrap Music Hall and the Nude V Erotic Art Show with music by RadioRadio.
Sunday night's spotlight shines in South Tulsa as Little Big Town headlines Mabee Center with current CMT buzz band Zac Brown Band opening. Finally, the week wraps up with Kottonmouth Kings at Cain's Ballroom on March 31 and El Paso Hot Button playing an intimate gig at Soundpony on Wednesday, April 1.
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