music_2 (2007-47)

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John Adam Thomas and the Lonely 45 introduce themselves to Knoxville

by Matthew Everett

John Adam Thomasâ’ band Redemption, in Maryland, had been together for about seven years. Heâ’d been writing songs the whole time theyâ’d been together, but he was mainly just the guitar player. When things gradually fell apartâ"â“We had kind of run our course,â” he saysâ"he decided to move back to Knoxville, where he hadnâ’t lived since 1983, when he was just a kid.

â“The point was to get in the music scene here,â” he says. â“This summer I was going to record for the simple purpose of getting a band together, and it all started from there.â”

What started was John Adam Thomas and the Lonely 45, who have yet to play a live set together but do have a five-song EP ready for release this weekend, an 11-song live set, and enough post-Uncle Tupelo fire-and-brimstone roots-rock energy to carry them through at least an hour-plus on stage, easily.

When he got back to Knoxville last year, Thomas had five songs he wanted to record. He got in touch with Dave DeWitt, who runs Shed 55 Studios out of his garage and also plays drums. â“I asked Dave to play on it, and he said he knew a guy whoâ’d play bass, and Denny really wanted to play on it, too.â”

So Thomas, DeWitt, bassist Adrian Sanabria and guitarist Denny Myers went into DeWittâ’s garage and, in just a few weeks, came out with the tracks for whatâ’s turned into the EP City Seventeen. They also figured they might be a working band, even though some of them hadnâ’t played regularly for several years. (DeWitt and Myers played in Magpie Suite with Matt Woods.)

â“Thatâ’s kind of what happened,â” says DeWitt. â“I didnâ’t know I was going to do the drums. I thought he was just going to lay it all down acoustically and see what happens, but as soon as I heard those songs I said, â‘Letâ’s do it. I already know what Iâ’m going to play.â’ If this hadnâ’t been something that was spur-of-the-moment, the 11 songs we have now would have been a full record.â”

The songs on City Seventeen donâ’t sound like just a handful of acoustic-written ditties with a band behind them: â“Shotgun Heartâ” pours out the kind of white-eyed Pentecostal fervor youâ’d find on records by Uncle Tupelo or Jason and the Scorchers; â“Dry Countyâ” has a layer of red-dirt grit and a soaring chorus suited for Thomasâ’ clear tenor; and â“Learn to Love,â” with its stop-and-go rhythm, depends entirely on the band working together.

Thomas has written several new songs since the sessions for City Seventeen, just enough to fill out a full live set list. â“The new songs are the same, maybe a little more rocking because we worked on them as a band and everybody brought their own dynamic into it,â” Thomas says. â“Itâ’s a good mix. A couple rock really hard. There are a fewâ"Iâ’m really, really proud of the CD, but there are a few that, while weâ’re playing them, I really wish had been recorded.â”

The groupâ’s taking its time making plans to follow up on its CD-release show at the Pint House this weekend. DeWitt makes it clear that since the set list was finalized theyâ’ve been rehearsing for this specific performance, not just holding practice. Theyâ’re taking a measured approachâ"to each show, to the way they schedule shows, even to writing new songs when they still have a bunch they havenâ’t gotten down on tape yet.

â“Weâ’re not practicing anymore,â” DeWitt says. â“Weâ’re rehearsing a set list. When this show is done, to book another show wonâ’t be a big deal. If itâ’s an opening slot for 30 minutes, we can cut a few songs. But we have a set list, so thereâ’s no reason to write new songs yet. Probably after the new year weâ’ll start working on new material. Weâ’ve still got six songs that arenâ’t recorded that should be recorded. But weâ’re not going to be that group that plays every single show that comes down the pike.â”

Who: John Adam Thomas and the Lonely 45 with Sam Lewis

Where: The Pint House (815 Merchant Drive)

When: Friday, Dec. 23, at 10 p.m.

How Much: Free

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