The Jompson Brothers

2011 is a strange time.

Robert Plant, perhaps the greatest vocalist in Rock & Roll history has a chance to win a Grammy in the Americana category when the awards are handed out next month.  This, just two years after winning in a Folk category for his collaboration with bluegrass legend Alison Krauss.

On the flip side, we have Chris Stapleton, who is nominated for multiple Grammy awards this year in a variety of country and bluegrass categories, and has already won an award from the International Bluegrass Music Association for his work with his former band The Steeldrivers.  Of course, Stapleton’s new project is a hard rock outfit called The Jompson Brothers.  Their sound is a fairly heavy brand of guitar rock that is much closer to Ozzy Osbourne than Bobby Osborne.

To say this new endeavor is a step in a different direction for Stapleton is a bit of an understatement.  It’s more like a step, a leap, a jump, and a plane ride.

The thing is… it doesn’t really matter.  Whether backed by acoustic banjos or a distorted guitar played through a stack of amps, Stapleton’s voice becomes the focus of whatever music he’s making. Go back and listen to some of those Steeldrivers tracks where he really lets loose with his voice and growls his way through a note like he does at the end of “Midnight Train to Memphis,” and it isn’t that hard to imagine him in the arena rock setting.

This is about the point where I should mention, for those of you who don’t know, that I’ve known and been good friends with Chris Stapleton since his family moved to my hometown when we were both in the second grade.  I’ve probably heard him sing as much as anyone over the last 25 years, and no matter the setting or the style, the power of his voice has never been in doubt.

As Tony Lawson, my program director at WDVX, said to me last week when talking about Stapleton, “Talent is talent, and it’s going to shine through.”  Again, it isn’t the style that’s important… the substance is there.

The same is true for Jompson Brothers bass player JT Cure.  Cure is another acquaintance of mine from my college days at Morehead State University, and until now I’d only ever seen him play the stand up bass in old-time string bands.  It was a bit of a shock to hear him forming the backbone of a band as muscular and powerful as The Jompson Brothers, but he handles the transition as naturally as Stapleton and fits right into the Rock & Roll format.

I’m less familiar with the band’s other two members, lead guitarist Greg McKee and drummer Bard McNamee, but no less impressed.  Next to Stapleton’s voice, McKee’s licks are the standout feature of the Jompson sound and are ready-made for the arena.  McNamee joins with Cure to keep everything locked in and on time.  It’s a solid four piece group.

The Jompson Brothers made their Knoxville debut last weekend to a curious crowd at the WDVX Blue Plate Special anxious to hear the new project from Stapleton.  Later that night, they played to a large and enthusiastic crowd at the Preservation Pub.  Stapleton told me after the show that a lot of the faces he saw near the stage at the Pres Pub were the same faces he saw at WDVX earlier in the day.  It was just one more validation of the diversity of WDVX listeners and the talent on the stage at both performances.

For those who missed the two Knoxville gigs, don’t worry.  The Jompson Brothers have some more shows lined up around the south in the next few months, including a return trip to Knoxville in March.  They have also just released their self-titled debut record, and it is guaranteed to satisfy and hard rock cravings you may be having.  Here’s a taste…

The Jompson Brothers: Motor Running (Buy Album)

…and a bonus video of the Jompson Brothers taking their shot at The Steeldrivers’ “Midnight Train to Memphis.”

3 Responses to “The Jompson Brothers”

  1. Hell yes. I've known Bard all my life, and am happy as hell to see him living the dream.

    Now if the Jompsons would just come up north to Montana and do a few shows…

  2. That is an awesome video. Chris has one of the best voices in rock AND bluegrass.

  3. yeh chris is such an incredible vocalist and they are 1 freaking powerful band!…I dont suspect that they will be playing small intimate venues long…

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