By Collin Kelley
Like our monthly content, the musicians profiled in our first annual “Music Issue” are diverse and eclectic. Our goal was to pick a crop of up-and-comers as well as local favorites who have been on the scene for ages, but we believe deserve more attention for their body of work.
While hip-hop, rap and R&B has put Atlanta on the international music scene thanks to artists like OutKast and Soulja Boy, we’re just as well known for producing Indigo Girls and Sugarland.
When we first started talking about music, I immediately turned to veteran Kodac Harrison, who has been making music in Atlanta for 30 years and, literally, knows everyone.
We asked Kodac to compile his current Top 10 favorite musicians and we think you’ll love his personal, inside look at these talented artists.
We also selected some musicians to showcase, who are both longtime favorites or new to the Intown scene. From Brokenkites’ cinematic electronica and Black Swan Lane’s dream pop to the soulful sounds of Ken J. Martin and the “alterna-grass” of Sonia Tetlow, we tried to cover a lot of the bases that make our music scene so diverse and exciting.
Beyond the artists, we also wanted to focus on where the music is made and those who work behind the scenes to produce the sound of Intown. To that end, you’ll find stories on SMKA Productions (behind some of the city’s biggest hip-hop acts) and a Q&A with David Coucheron, the new concertmaster for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Tune in and turn it up!
Kodac’s All-Star Picks!
Local music legend picks 10 musicians you can’t miss…
I was asked to write about my 10 favorite local musicians, which is easier said than done. During my almost 30 years in the Atlanta area, I’ve created 15 different recordings of original music and spoken word.
I’ve got lots of favorites and it depends on what year are you talking about. Yesterday would be different than today and so would tomorrow.
I have been a fan of Bruce Hampton, Caroline Aiken, Dan Coy and Elise Witt for years, but as of this minute my 10 favorites are as follows:
Brandon Bush is not a singer-songwriter like his well-known brother, but he is without a doubt the better of the two on his individual instrument, the keyboard. I first met him in Chapel Hill before he moved to Atlanta and became a housemate for a short period of time. Brandon has played with many bands and recorded with the likes of Shawn Mullins, John Mayer, Train and Sugarland just to name a few. Brandon once told me he didn’t really care about soloing and didn’t particularly like jam bands. He plays just what a song needs, nothing more, nothing less, which is a songwriter’s dream. He is truly a tasteful keyboardist. These days you can hear him playing with Sugarland. www.brandonbush.com
Nick Longo first played with me back in 1992. As was the case then and in the years since, he has played with many of bands. In fact, I once heard another horn player exclaim, “Nick can’t play all the gigs.” Once after playing a circus gig, he joined us for the 21st birthday party of a Turkish girl. Toward the end of the night the birthday girl and two of her equally beautiful friends asked if we could play belly dance music. We were clueless until Nick started playing a Middle-Eastern melody and all of a sudden the bellies started dancing. He is my hero. Nick often sings harmony to my vocals with his sax. He has a great ear and a tremendous memory for songs. He now fronts his own band and has released an excellent CD of original up-town jazz. You can find him playing with his band at north side clubs and restaurants or at www.nicklongomusic.com.
When I first started playing with Sean O’Rourke back in the early 90s, he was know mostly as a hard hitting rock drummer. In the years since, Sean has become one of the more versatile drummers in town, playing everything from jazz to country. Sean has played drums with many groups including Francine Reed, The Aquarium Rescue Unit, Mother’s Finest and toured with Sugarland for over a year. I call Sean the groove-master because he makes everything groove. He has become a fine engineer/producer working out of his home studio. When Sean is behind me, I dance. www.seanorourke.com
Back in the 80s, I first heard Bill Sheffield sing with a local R & B band called Cool Breeze and then playing guitar and singing with the XLs. Years later I heard Bill sing the blues while accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Now, it is not unusual for a former rock ‘n roller to try to extend his career by narrowing his vision and singing songs written by black men decades earlier. The difference was that Bill was stripping his music back to the essential elements; that is his guitar and his always-soulful voice. An artist has to continue to grow, change, and redefine himself in order to define himself. Bill has done just that and his latest recordings find him taking on the songwriter’s role, outside of the limited formula of the blues. You can hear Bill at Blind Willie’s, the Northside Tavern, or maybe even on a European tour. www.billsheffield.com
I have to admire guitarist/songwriter Charles Williams for keeping two bands that primarily play his songs, together and for finding two excellent female vocalists to front them. I’m talking about Amy Pike in The Bonaventure Quartet and Bernadette Seacrest in Bernadette Seacrest & Her Provocateurs. Since my days playing with Dave Webb on stand-up bass, I have been drawn to stand-up bass players, including Mark Bynum, who plays with the Quartet. Charles was an original member of Bruce Hampton’s Aquarium Rescue Unit and is an always-interesting guitarist. You might find Charles playing at the Highland Inn, or with Bernadette on their first tour of Europe. www.bernadetteseacrest.com
For more about Kodac Harrison, visit www.kodacharrison.com.