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Saving Abel leads new Southern rock wave

  • Singer Jared Weeks and bassist Eric Taylor of Saving Abel are out front during their Penn's Peak performance Thursday night. JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS
    Singer Jared Weeks and bassist Eric Taylor of Saving Abel are out front during their Penn's Peak performance Thursday night. JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS
Published August 20. 2010 05:00PM

The mantle of southern rock is large enough to encompass a variety of sounds.

Take Thursday evening's bill of hard rocking bands at Penn's Peak, three of which hail from south of the Mason-Dixon line, as an example.

Saving Abel, a quintet from Cornith, Mississippi, headlined the bill, which also included American Bang from Nashville, Tennessee and Taddy Porter from Stillwater, Oklahoma. While each have Southern roots, they showcased their own approaches to being part of the latest wave of Southern rock bands without having to hoist Confederate flags.

This was the second trip to The Peak for Saving Abel, which performed with Puddle of Mudd two years ago. The band is currently touring behind its second album, "Miss America", which lets its Southern influences show more readily than its debut did.

While Saving Abel has a hard rock edge to its songs, it manages to work in enough hooks to carry over for pop success, as its single "Addicted" did, propelling the debut record to gold status.

Lead singer Jared Weeks confessed to be recovering from a bout of the flu, but one couldn't tell from the way he pushed himself during the performance, belting out the songs and working to make a connection with the crowd.

While rockers like "New Tattoo". "Contagious" and "Stupid Girl (Only in Hollywood)", the first single from the sophomore album, catch ones attention, thanks to the sonic attack of guitarists Scott Bartlett and Jason Null, some of Saving Abel's best moments came when it lightened up and hauled out the acoustic six-strings.

"In God's Eyes" and a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain", which was carried by the audience sing along on the chorus, demonstrated the softer side, although the rhythm section of bassist Eric Taylor and drummer Blake Dixon kept thumping along even on the acoustic numbers.

Two of Saving Abel's better songs, "Drowning (Face Down)" and "18 Days" each had acoustic guitar intros before rocking out on the back end. The latter, as well as the title track from the new album, "Miss America", were dedicated by Weeks to American troops overseas, for whom the band has had the honor of performing.

Saving Abel isn't afraid to delve into the risque side with its lyrics, as "Addicted" and the new "Sex is Good" showed, the latter which was plastered on some of the band's T-shirts at the merchandise table.

Like Saving Abel, this was the second visit to The Peak for American Bang, which opened for The Pretenders in February, 2009. This Nashville quartet is a straight ahead, nail it to the wall rock outfit, despite its origins in the country surroundings of Music City, Tennessee.

Lead singer and guitarist Jared Johnston was animated on stage, growling into the microphone and at one point perching himself on top of Neil Mason's bass drum, but his delivery had plenty of conviction.

American Bang lives up to its name thanks to its guitar drive attack, and while not quite a Southern jam band, it wasn't afraid to let the songs ride out a bit. It also has a penchant for explosive choruses, as on the anthemic single "Wild and Young" and "All We Know", which had some echoes of Tom Petty.

Taddy Porter, which took its name from the first commercially brewed beer, an English brand, has just released its fine, self-titled debut album. The foursome's sound is reminiscent of early Black Crowes.

Lead singer Andy Brewer has the kind of soulful and bluesy voice that is well-suited for this material, and the rest of the band, including guitarist Joe Selby, and the Jones boys, Doug and Kevin, whoop it up behind him.

Taddy is unrepentantly loud, and its Southern accents are apparent with references like the whipping post (a la Allman Brothers) that pops up in "Mean Bitch", although the band grafted on a wild rendition of The Beatles "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" for good measure.

The single "Shake Me" is a roof-rattler, and others such as "Whatever Haunts You", "Gonna Getcha Back" and "I Gotta Love" are right up there with it. Taddy is definitely an up and coming band to watch.

The only Northern representation on the bill was from Sugar Red Drive, which hails from Poughkeepsie, New York, but has the feel and attitude to fit in with their Southern counterparts. The band replaced We Are The Fallen, which had been part of the tour in its earlier stages, and opened the show to get the evening off to a rocking start.

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