Artwork by Joshua Marc Levy

Artwork by Joshua Marc Levy

 

The Allen Thompson Band's bio contains just three sentences: “The Allen Thompson Band is Allen Thompson, Grayson Downs, Ray Dunham, Clint Maine and Chad Stuible. They have been making music in East Nashville and around the Country for Seven years. If they were going to stop, they would have done it by now.” When you trace the path Allen Thompson Band travelled between the release of 2012’s Salvation In The Ground  and this year’s aptly-titled Brace Yourself, it is apparent those 3 sentences hold a lot of truth. 

“I really thought we were poised to go to the next level with that record, then everything changed - and the changes kept on comin’”, says Allen. To be sure, the next 4 years would prove to be the most tumultuous of times.  Luckily, they were able to find solace and strength in one another, their community, and -- most importantly-- their music.

“After we released Salvation, I got divorced. It was amicable, but divorce is never easy”, Allen admits. “I was lost for a little while: I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to stay in Nashville and continue pursuing music. But the band, especially Grayson (Downs, bass), really kept me going. I wasn’t moving at a breakneck pace by any means, but I was really happy with the stuff Grayson and I were creating.”

They didn't know it at the time, but Allen Thompson Band was experiencing a musical metamorphosis.  Salvation In The Ground already saw the band electrifying their tunes and moving away from straight ahead Americana, showing their more psychedelic and ever-expanding influences. With the addition of Downs as a major writing force, and Chad Stuible on keyboards and backing vocals, the band’s live shows were getting freakier and fuzzier, blending Psychedelic Folk with the Big Star/R.E.M. brands of Southern Rock. Things were looking up, for a little while, at least. 

Just when it seemed like Allen Thompson Band was regaining their foothold, everything literally came crashing down. Both Thompson and Clint Maine (lead guitar, vocals) suffered severe injuries in two separate accidents within 2 months of each other. Thompson was first, bursting his T-12 vertebrae in a diving accident at Nashville’s Percy Priest Lake. Then Maine, an arborist at the time, fell 30 feet from a tree branch to the ground, cracking 3 vertebrae, most of his ribs, and rupturing his spleen. The boys were lucky to be alive, much less walking, talking, or making music. The present and future were uncertain, to say the least.

Allen and Clint were lucky in one sense: They had one another. They also had the support of their brothers in the band: Chad, Ray (Dunham, drums), and Grayson, and the support of the entire East Nashville Community.

“I still can’t believe the amount of love and support everyone showed us. Hearing the news from my hospital bed every day of someone else doing something or saying something to help. It’s the only thing that kept me from just completely giving up.”, Thompson admits.

Another silver lining to the situation was the amount of time that was freed up for Clint and Allen to work on material and the band to ready themselves to record. The amount of time they had to work on Brace Yourself, was seemingly infinite when compared to the 2 ½ days spent working on Salvation. The band spent about a month working with producers Dean Jackson and Rob Crowell before entering the studio. Once the songs were ready, they headed to Jeremy Ferguson’s BattleTapes Studio in East Nashville to record.  

“Since I was unsure how long Clint and I would be able to work each day before we got too tired, I asked a few friends to come over and help out with guitars. As had happened while Clint and I were in the hospital, as soon as a few folks started helping out, everyone showed up. Eventually we had the whole damn neighborhood on this thing. We’re really lucky to have so many sweet and talented friends in this community.”, Allen explained.

“Having guests on an album can be a tricky thing; You really have to make sure you know why they’re there. These folks are our friends. I didn’t want anybody in the studio who didn’t want to be there. I wanted it to be organic, like they were part of the band. All of the folks who helped out are like family to us, and I think it comes across in the record.”, he continued.

This philosophy stands out in the album’s opening track, and first single, “Long Time Thinkin”.  Elizabeth Cook’s vocals blend with Allen’s in a way that suggest they’ve been singing together all along. Similarly Aaron Lee Tasjan and Zach Setchfield’s guitar parts mesh with Clint’s and suggest that they’ve always been a part of this band’s fabric. Which, given the closeness and camaraderie found in East Nashville’s music community, isn’t really that far from the truth.

“Making this record was a really inspirational experience for me.  There were a lot of forces around causing me to lose faith. We managed to find a great deal of comfort in each other and in the making of this music. After spending all of that time alone in the hospital, and at home, it was wonderful to experience us and our loved ones coming together to grow some positivity out of these tragic situations. I’m thankful that it happened the way it did.”, Thompson said.

Brace Yourself will be available on 5/26 on Thompson’s own Tripmonk Records. CDs and LPs are available for preorder now at http://allenthompsonband.com/store