To those who say that rock ’n’ roll is dead, look no further than Nashville’s Blackfoot Gypsies, a fiery and exuberant group that blends old and new, drawing comparisons to The Rolling Stones and Blackberry Smoke, among others.
The group calls Nashville home, but Kentucky is a close second.
The Gypsies have performed regularly in Lexington over the past few years, playing at The Green Lantern, Willie’s Locally Known and The Burl, including The Burl’s first official show on July 21, 2016.
The group also has made stops at Zanzabar in Louisville, The Moonshiner’s Ball in Irvine and other locales across the Commonwealth. Lead guitarist Matthew Paige said Kentucky is the band’s home away from home, even as the group begins to branch out and reach new audiences.
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Coming back into Lexington is like falling into the arms of a long lost friend. The town has a unique, welcoming spirit, and The Burl hit the nail on the head when they attempted to capture that spirit in a performance space.
“Coming back into Lexington is like falling into the arms of a long-lost friend,” Paige said. “The town has a unique, welcoming spirit, and The Burl hit the nail on the head when it attempted to capture that spirit in a performance space. I know what sort of energy gets conjured up in that room, and I’m thrilled to be re-baptized in it.”
Blackfoot Gypsies released its third EP, “To the Top,” in April on Plowboy Records. The record is the first with the group’s four-man lineup of Paige on guitar and lead vocals, Dylan Whitlow on bass, Zack Murphy on drums and Oliver “Ollie Dogg” Horton on harmonica. The group was a four-piece for 2015’s “Handle It,” but Paige says the group’s sound wasn’t as solidified then.
“We’ve been playing these songs for a while, so they were nice and greased up,” Paige said.
Helping to anchor the album is “Promise to Keep,” a tune that quickly jumps into Paige’s howling vocals about how he and the group struggled to make it as musicians wrapped around a reference to Kentucky in the number’s first verse.
Events described in the song include having to run for a bag of ice to keep the beer in his broken refrigerator cold, and how the electricity in his house was being shut off.
Paige says he got the idea for “Promise to Keep” after listening to Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska,” the lead track on an album of the same name. It tells the stories of characters down on their luck and going through trials and tribulations in their lives.
“The melody got stuck in my head, so I ran with it and added my own lyrics to the mix,” Paige said.
Another standout track on “To the Top” is “Potatoes and Whiskey,” which features a duet with Paige and rising outlaw country artist Margo Price. Paige says he and Price often got together in Nashville to share music. One day, Paige brought “Potatoes and Whiskey” to Price, leading to a collaboration that yields the most distinctive country sound on a record that touches on blues, punk and rock.
“I wrote that song and immediately thought her voice would be perfect for it,” Paige said.
Matt Wickstrom: @wickstromwrites