Centered around husband-and-wife duo Adam and Sarrenna McNulty and the more recent addition Eric Griffin, Americana act Guy Marshall is a tribute to a man and a simpler time. Designed as a means to improve the songwriting ability of its members, Guy Marshall performs with a rotating lineup of musicians and instruments and is currently preparing to record its official debut.
The music of Guy Marshall is an homage to its namesake, the grandfather of Adam McNulty. Described as a kind-hearted, self-sufficient mountain man, Guy Marshall's life inspires much of the material for McNulty's Appalachian folk music. Beyond the man himself, the music conveys the atmosphere of Marshall's region and is fueled by the work ethic of a bygone era.
"It's my mother's father, and they're from Boone, North Carolina, up in the mountains," explains Adam McNulty. "That whole side of the family was based around moonshine running in the '20s, so they're the real-deal mountain type. Basically it's all named after him because of his stature in my life, being a man's man and the embodiment of a great guy. We're all Christians on that side of the family except for him, but he's one of those cats that had more love and life, and could outshine everyone in that respect."
"It's bluegrass and Americana, but it's old school country too," says Eric Griffin of Marshall's correlation to the music. "It's named after a great man, and I never met Guy, but it's also about those old-time values and bringing back things that have been neglected and are gone from this culture. "
Much of Guy Marshall's material was written years ago by Adam McNulty, who has meticulously honed the songs during this time. While the act is an attempt at enhancing its songwriting, Guy Marshall's performances are not half-hearted exercises. The core of the group says 20-30 hours of practice go into each gig. The extra planning is needed to arrange songs for the orbiting cast of guest players that bolster Guy Marshall's live presentation. Frequently seasoned with banjo, dobro, mandolin and additional keyed and rhythmic instruments, recurring guest stars Kyle Campbell, Troy Rodgers, Jamie Akins and others give each performance a unique sound, and the band is intent to keep it that way.
"I'm not dead-set on whom to do it, or to do it at all," says Adam McNulty in response to whether he will ever secure a fixed roster. "We've been enjoying the rotation of it."
"I think it works really well, because we're playing so many shows in Knoxville," adds Sarrenna McNulty. "People who hear us ask if they're the same songs because every time they sound so different. ... At the same time, we don't want to be just a jam band that gets together and plays. Adam has made a point that he really wants everything to be well practiced. He wants each song to sound structured and together; we don't want it to be sloppy at all."
In the way of releases, Guy Marshall has only an early demo to its name but looks to rectify that with an imminent recording effort. With such an extensive catalog built up, selecting the material for its debut may be the band's biggest challenge. Once it has broken the seal with its first release, the act looks to maintain a steady pace of recordings, even entertaining the idea of producing concept albums based on themes of genre.
"We've pretty much decided we want to record a new EP every six months to a year just to keep pushing something new out and just to get better," Eric Griffin says. "We want to do a gospel album — like an old gospel album. The other day, his brother was asking us if we'd be willing to play at a nursing home, and I think he was sort of joking. But I'd love to do that. We'd like to do a nursing home tour with some gospel songs. We're always trying to be better musicians and better writers. We're not in this to be cool or meet girls; we're trying to become great writers."
What: Exam Jam
With: Yung Life, Senryu and Three Man Band
When: 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7
Where: Relix Variety Theatre
Admission: $5 ages 21 and up; $8 those under 21
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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