Big Country's Empty Bottle
KNOXVILLE — Big Country's Empty Bottle has been anticipating this summer for years. Upon the graduation of its college-enrolled members, the band will at last be free to apply a full effort to recording and touring.
In preparation, BCEB is releasing a live EP that will be followed up by a studio LP to be recorded in July. Additionally, the group is assembling an official website to showcase works in progress as it consolidates a new take on its bluegrass sound.
The live EP due out this week will serve as the first Big Country release in more than two years, if you count the group's crudely self-recorded demo as a debut. The long-awaited offering will compile the band's performances from the WDVX Blue Plate Special. BCEB hopes this release will tide over fans until its current catalog can be properly tended to in a studio setting.
"Well, we were originally going into the studio," says guitarist/vocalist Sammy McAteer, "but everyone in the band is very busy with school and work right now. It seemed almost impossible to schedule it.
"Our last recording is about 2 years old, and we have a different style and sound now than we did then, not to mention our song catalog has tripled. Fans were complaining about how antiquated the other EP is, so we needed to put something out quick, and I didn't want to (halfway do) our debut LP. The decision was simple, a live recording. The new EP is just recordings from Blue Plate Special performances. I liked the idea of putting out those recordings because we can give WDVX some props as well."
This summer's recording will go toward an LP to be made available on vinyl, CD and as a digital download. The band is even toying with the idea of a double album, which would allow for the inclusion of more as-yet unreleased material. Currently in development, Big Country's official website will keep fans up to date on the writing and recording progress during a pivotal time in its musical evolution.
Widely known as a traditional bluegrass band, BCEB, which had previously performed sans-percussion, recently adopted drums (played by Steve Corrigan) into the mix. The incorporation of rhythm has apparently incited further remapping of the act's style, which the members agree has deviated considerably toward rock. Occasional electrified instruments also have emerged in the once Amish-minded, acoustic sets.
"The rhythm and the melody still have strong elements of bluegrass in most of our songwriting," insists vocalist/guitarist Adam Petty. "Although we have added drums, the instrumentation has changed but a lot of it is basically the same as it has always been. The tone and sound of an acoustic instrument is something we all appreciate and will never move away from fully. There is no faking on an acoustic instrument, it's as real as it gets. We do however use some effects, but they are done very tastefully and do not take away from the acoustic sound. Our music isn't going in one certain direction. We just want the music to take us where it takes us."
"As of now, all of the new material reflects this new direction," McAteer adds. "We may one day write some more traditional bluegrass stuff, but for now we are really enjoying digging deep into our musical chromosomes and using all of our very different musical backgrounds to create something fresh. It has been very enjoyable watching what has come out of it. The older fans are loving it as much or even more than we are."
n Complete tools: The Valarium hosts Tool cover band Opiate tonight. Opening will be original acts Tabula Rasa and ARC. Doors open at 9 p.m., tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at show time. There is a $3 surcharge for 18- to 20-year-olds. Parking, that's going to cost you too.
n Not too crummy: Casper and the Cookies perform at Preservation Pub with King Super and the Excellents on Saturday night. The show is slated for 10 p.m.