Real to Me (from the album Strong Medicine)
Local fans and friends wonder what's up with Athens, Ga. rock band Southern Bitch. Over the last two years, the gritty foursome frequently visited the Village Tavern, the Windjammer, and the Pour House with a powerful, guitar-driven rock show. They stayed busy and played hard.
Last fall, unfortunately, a series of challenges and obstacles nearly derailed the band's momentum and spirit. They were in a lousy, deteriorating situation with an indifferent record label. They had to replace a longtime drummer. And guitarist Wendy Musick suffered through a stressful, frightening battle of her own.
During an appendectomy in 2006, doctors discovered a medium-sized tumor located in her pancreas. Musick successfully underwent major surgery, but faces a long, difficult physical recovery.
"I'm doing well, but I had to take myself out of a lot of situations," she says, speaking from her home in Athens. "I've had to change my life a lot. I don't want our fans to think that we're tapering off, but, unfortunately, we're not able to play a lot until I have a clean bill of health."
Singer/guitarist Adam Musick, a native Virginian, formed Southern Bitch in Athens in 2000. Wendy, a native of Phoenix, played rhythm guitar and bassist Chuck Bradburn, of Muscle Shoals, Ala., quickly signed on.
The band released a three-song EP titled Dandelion in late 2000 before recording 2002's Thunderbolt, which explored both alt-country and guitar-rock. They followed with Snake in the Grass in 2004.
Adam's expressive singing style developed from a raspy twang into a smoother croon — an odd blend of a Jeffrey Lee Pierce (of The Gun Club), an old Charlie Rich, and a young Glenn Danzig. His cool-headed, blazing lead guitar work stood out and grabbed hold of the audience. "I guess from singing more and more, my voice changed a bit," laughs Adam.
On Southern Bitch's latest disc Strong Medicine, released last November on the Austin indie label Captiva Records, the lead guitarist belts it out on the mic with soulful grit, wailing like a pro.
"With Strong Medicine, we just wanted to make a fun rock 'n' roll record," says Adam. "Nothing happened on purpose, really ... I think the guitar hooks just happened the way they happened."
Last year, drummer Taylor Sproull (of Athens acts The Stand-Ins and Little Country Giants) replaced longtimer Chris Ellenburg, solidifying the lineup with a new, solid rhythm section.
"I think the personality of the band is really still the same," Adam says. "Taylor is a hard-hitting, consistent drummer with an awesome attitude. He's good for us."
Strong Medicine didn't receive the strong push the band hoped for, sadly. As Wendy faced medical procedures, the band's new album was barely distributed or promoted.
"We're pretty much done with Captiva," groans Wendy. "We're highly disappointed with them. The music business is supposed to be fun and exciting, but instead, it's sometimes all about business and money and sleaziness. Maybe the next album will be about this whole experience [laughs]."
But she keeps a positive attitude.
"We started doing this years ago and we do feel like we've accomplished a lot," she says. "We've been blessed in a lot of ways. It's just frustrating having to deal with this medical and business stuff."