More Grammy winners come out of the state of Mississippi than any other state in America and Travis McCready (vocals), Burne Sharp (drums), Drew Smithers (guitar) and Ben Lewis (bass) as the rising band Bishop Gunn represent their home state well.
Performing swampy southern rock that sticks to the ears like the Delta’s gumbo mud, they’re music hits soul in the way the great music from the Magnolia state always does. Their latest single “Alabama” is a dark departure from the rest of their latest album, Natchez, which gets its title from the Mississippi town where the band originated (They currently hang their hats in Leiper’s Fork, Tenn.). Featuring bare handclaps, stomps, acoustic blues, and haunting Gospel singing by Geoffrey Robsinson (“G. Mane”), it’s a fictional story written by McCready, Lewis and Nicolette Hayford about a driver who picks up a strange woman with a calling from the Lord to go to Alabama. But a dark twist unravels when he notices she’s carrying a pistol.
It all started with Hayford’s line, “Higher than a junkie dryin’ out in the slammer; Lord I hope I don’t die in Alabama.”
“It was a particularly fun session because it was fiction,” McCready tells CMT.com, “rather than a life experience, which is what I typically write from. So, we were able to just twist and turn it to what we felt was an interesting order. It was like writing a movie script.”
Adding to the song’s eerie vibe is the fact that it was recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala. on the day Rick Hall, its founder, died.
“As we were riding down to record, we got the call Rick Hall passed away,” McCready recalls. “It was wild. We pulled over, ready to head back home, but they assured us he would want the music and studio to keep rolling.
“I was nervous about the hook, ‘I hope I don’t die in Alabama.’ I didn’t want to be insensitive to their loss. They asked us if it was our best song we had. We said yes and moved forward with it. We like to think there was a lot of extra mojo in that room that day. And it was an incredible honor to get to pay tribute to Rick.”
Directed by Tyler Barksdale, the video embodies the filmmaking style of Alan Ball in the series True Blood. Although it might be viewed as graphic for some CMT viewers, it’s well worth the time spent watching it. Filmed in idyllic Leiper’s Fork, actor Theo Von plays the lead, a young man who has been brought into the dark arts by a mysterious blonde woman he picked up at a dive bar.
Bishop Gunn will tour Europe with Slash starting March 7 in Berlin.