Tuesday, April 23, 2013
The Bear at Bama Theatre
The Bear at Bama Theatre
Alabama Music Office.com goes to historic Bama Theatre in downtown Tuscaloosa, Alabama to attend a performance by The Bear.
Mellow is the best way to describe The Bear and its core members. They can't easily define the band's genre, or its sound, or even its new album — and they don't really feel inclined to.
"We've tried to decide what genre we are, but we haven't really come up with anything," said Amber Murray, one of The Bear's lead singers. "I think folk is probably the easiest way to describe it."
Murray's husband, guitarist and singer Nathan Pitts agrees. Kind of.
"It's kind of a mellow album in general," he said. "There are some more rocky parts, more up-tempo, a little moody. There's an earthy kind of folk sound in it."
Definitions, or lack thereof, aside, The Bear is one of many bands emerging from the Shoals' indie scene, bringing together artists from other projects to create a unique alt-country, pop and, yes, folk sound.
The Bear's debut album "The Bear" will be released Friday at a party and concert at Billy Reid, 114 N. Court St., Florence.
Named for William Faulkner's short story "The Bear," the band started first as Murray and Pitts, who met while students at the University of North Alabama in Florence.
After a few years, they added to their ranks as keyboardist Ben Tanner, a recording engineer and musician who is a member of local bands Lauderdale and Belle Adair. Pitts also plays peddle steel for Doc Dailey and Magnolia Devil.
Kyle Minckler, on drums, and Ben Stedman, on bass, round out the group.
Tanner, who helped engineer Dylan LeBlanc's successful 2010 album "Paupers Field" and plays with his band, also recorded and mixed The Bear's first self-titled album. They worked for marathon sessions last summer during two weekends, Murray said, recording at Wildwood Park Recording and Noiseblock Recording Studio, both in Florence.
Murray's distinctive voice dominates the album; she performs 11 songs, all of which she wrote. Pitts wrote and sings four. A banjo can be heard on some tracks, adding a folk quality to the sound, while the keyboard adds more "spacey" qualities to others, Pitts said.
Perhaps the lack of genre definition stems from the singers' different musical backgrounds; Murray grew up listening to and was influenced by bluegrass and classical music, while Pitts started with classic country and went a more rock direction. But together, their tastes work, Murray said.
"I was worried — Nathan and I write different styles of music — that it wouldn't sound cohesive," Murray said. "But now I'm pretty happy with the overall sound."
"The Bear" will be available at area stores such as Rivertown Coffee, Pegasus Records and Billy Reid in Florence, as well as online at cdbaby.com. Band members want to play more venues, Pitts said, but finding spaces that fit their vibe can be tricky.
Not that they can specifically define their vibe. Murray will settle with folk, though.
"I think there's definitely folk roots in the music, and there's definitely ... I guess there's pop influences," she said.
"A lot of folk."
Sarah Carlson can be reached at 256-740-5722 or sarah.carlson@TimesDaily.com.