Delta Mama and a Nickajack Man… the short version of a long story

Cary Ann here… We have been thinking about the history of the songs on O’Be JOyful. We have been revisiting our writing process and thinking about where these songs came from, and what they mean to us. Since the record has been finished for a while, it has been good to reflect on them with a little distance. We decided we would share a few of these stories with you in anticipation of the release of the record. Since the track Birmingham is available on Itunes and seems to be getting some radio play from coast to coast (dang!) we thought we would start with that one…. So…. when I was an 8 year old kid, my mother and I moved to Nashville, TN from Jackson, MS. I had never seen a mountain. My mother and all her people are from the Mississippi Delta… Holly Bluff, Yazoo City, and Vicksburg, Mississippi. Flat places, full of cotton, fields of soybeans, levees. As we drove through south west Tennessee, where hills start to appear, i remember shouting out MOUNTAINS!!! MOUNTAINS MAMA!! It was a year later that my mother and my soon-to-be step father, Douglas, took me on a road trip to Chattanooga, TN. As we approached the great blue body of water nestled between Chattanooga and Monteagle, Douglas told me it was Nickajack Lake. He said there were caves under the lake that he explored as a boyscout. He explained that the Tennessee Valley Authority had built two dams, one called Nickajack and one called Chicamauga , to bring electricity to all the mountain people. As a result, caves were now underwater. Douglas is a fine musician who had survived both sailing the south pacific and also playing the notorious Springwater Tavern in the late seventies. He married my mother, Cindy, and raised me and my two sisters on songwriting, live music and harmony singing. In 1997, they sent me off in 66 Dodge Dart to go to college in Charleston, SC. After i had finished school, I was starting to get out on the road a little, Michael and I met on tour with Jump LIttle Children in Athens, Georgia at the historic Georgia Theater. He was in a sexy nasty little rock and roll band from Denver, CO. I had been hanging out singing in bars in Charleston, half drunk most the time, not really up to much. I felt at times like I was rusting in place, waiting for some great adventure to come along. When the Films moved to Charleston, with their ameri-trash glam rock-a-mount cowboy swagger, I was as good as done for. Michael became one of my favorite songwriters. I was giging in Charleston, while the Films spent the next five years running around the US and Europe. The day they came back from Germany, I went up to NYC, where Michael was living at the time, with a suit case full of various intentions. I left with plans to record the album Shovels and Rope with Michael on Folly Beach later that summer. A couple of years later, Michael and I were touring as Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, trying to figure out what to do with our freshly produced solo releases. We played a played a show in Birmingham with two of our favorite bands, Deertick and J. Roddy Walston and the Business. That night, it occurred to us that we two should just be a band. Using whatever was laying around- junky old drums, a coupla guitars, and our voices and the stories we could tell. It didn’t happen all in one night, but we left Birmingham with 100 bucks and the van the Films used to tour in, thinking to ourselves, we can go for it if we wanted to. We have to take our egos out of it and make the show about the band. It occurred to us that we were more powerful together and we didn’t want to be apart. We had been up and down and sideways, but now we are on a very specific trajectory and we are doing fine. We are on much better terms, since Birmingham.

Posted on June 19th, 2012