This is the time of year we’re reminded to count our blessings and be thankful. I mean, we even have a holiday for it. Among many other personal blessings, this year I found myself incredibly thankful for the enduring spirit and talent of our Athens music scene. This year has brought week after week of incredible, fresh and creative records. As much as I’ve been inclined to disparage certain ones, there were very few instances where something produced locally could be dismissed out of hand. I’ve been truly amazed at the thoughtfulness and diligence of the overwhelming majority of our songwriters and musicians. So, thank you, friends. Very much.
Now, let’s get on with it…
HOOTENANNY!: Folk trio ¿Banana? released a super long record a few weeks back named Highway Robbery that runs on for 13 songs. Musically, it breaks no new ground, but in a quite charming way, it harkens back to the original folk revival of the late 1950s and early ‘60s. It’s all definitely more “Lemon Tree” than, say, “Tom Dooley,” too. The sweet heartache of “Pocket Change” is wonderfully lyrical and tells well a common tale. Same thing goes for “Accumulation of January,” the swagger of “Liminal Space” and “Cosmic Joke.” I was almost turned completely away from this due to exhausting titles like “Fuck Tom Brady”—which could actually crack a smile on even the most jaded rocker’s lips due to the mishmash lyrics—and “Lucy in the Sky With Douchebags.” But after getting over myself and giving it an honest listen, there’s quite a bit of really nice material here. Even though I still think it’s way too long, I can easily go back and enjoy the highlights. And so can you at bananatheband.bandcamp.com.
PLAY SOMETHIN' I LIKE: Athens treasure The Normaltown Flyers will play their annual pre-Thanksgiving holiday kickoff show Wednesday, Nov. 27 at The Foundry. Now in their 40th year as a band, the Flyers have seen in person much of the change old-time Athens folks bemoan. But their shows are always a celebration, even during non-holiday seasons. Tickets are cheap, too, at a mere 10 bucks. Doors open at 6 p.m., so you can get some dinner and drinks in you. There are VIP packages and other purchase options available, and you can explore all this at thefoundryathens.com. For the uninitiated and curious, do yourself a favor and read up on the Flyers at normaltownflyers.com.
SUCH A WINTER’S DAY: On Sunday, Dec. 1, The Solstice Sisters will release their second holiday album, Maybe by Christmas. In celebration of this event, they’ll be playing live at Studio 1093 (1093 Boulevard), and the show is to be recorded for future release. Tickets to that show are sold out, but the group will play again Dec. 21 at Hendershot's. See facebook.com/solsticesisters to learn more about the group, and see hendershotscoffee.com for tickets.
GATHER ’ROUND: Family band Check the Signs has been particularly busy lately after a long time of not playing out much. They did a whole residency at the Georgia Theatre Rooftop not terribly long ago, too. Back in the spring, they released the sweetly charming album This Time Around. Now, I know what you’re thinking, you old rocker: Family band? Sweetly charming? How good can this be? Well, punk, if you dig fully realized songwriting and ace musicianship all wrapped in a tradition that could be described as The Cowsills meets Nick Lowe, that’s how good it can be. The family in question is longtime locals the Towes, and Check the Signs is Scott (bass and vocals), Mindy (guitar, saxophone, flute, clarinet, vocals), Mason (drums and vocals), Lauren (keyboard and vocals) and Erin (vocals and horn). The band began many years ago when the kids were much younger, and it’s exceedingly cool to see how they’ve grown and how well this unit gets along. As human beings, they’re tops, and as songwriters and musicians, they’re deeply dug in to melody, harmony and hooks. They’ll next play live Wednesday, Dec. 11 at Hendershot’s, when they’ll open for the Good Grief Trio. Check the album at checkthesigns.bandcamp.com, and be a fan at facebook.com/CheckTheSigns.