Friday, October 2, 2009

Sloburn: Redneck Metal At It's Finest

Today’s music industry seems to be full of "flavor of the week " bands. It’s as if they are here one day and gone the next. It needs a shot of adrenalin to gets its heart beating fiercely again. Along comes a tight five piece unit from Danville, VA that does just that and with a vengeance.

Sloburn is the band’s name and they are the heralding in a new era of redneck metal. They just released their first full length self titled CD on Dark Harvest Records. The band consists of lead vocalist Shane Milam, Sly also on vocals, Sam Smith on lead guitar, Creepy on bass and drummer Brandon King. I spoke to them before a show recently to get some insight on the band.

"This new CD really captures our sound and what we’re all about. We had recorded a demo about two years ago, but we had only been together about five to seven months," said Shane.

"I think our sound has a definite eighties influence on the guitar and bass, but at the same time it has today’s styling on the vox and drums," mentioned Sly. The bands influences range from Pantera to Slayer to Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. Sly and her stage presence are heavily influenced by the Stones.

The band prides itself on sounding different from track to track on their debut CD. "Bands today all seem to sound the same, they all have the same vocal style. On our CD, not one song sounds like the next," said Creepy.

"I think it’s pathetic how most of these groups sound all the same. They’re all just followers. I also think that they are out there for all the wrong reasons. They’re not true musicians putting out good music. They’re doing it because they think it’s cool," said Sam.

So, does having married husband and wife vocalists in the group present any obstacles? "I think it has many advantages. We get to spend time together and do something that we both love. I don’t get jealous of the girls, he can sign whatever they ask him to because I know he’s mine," said Sly.

"I think it’s great seeing the reaction on people’s faces when they hear her on stage. She has one hell of a growl. Most people can’t believe it’s her," said Shane.

I always like to ask the band being interviewed a question to find out about their favorite CD. If you were trapped on a desert and could have only one store bought CD with you, what would you want to have?

Shane – "That’s easy, Pantera’s ‘Vulgar Display of Power."
Sly – "Definitely the Stones ‘Jumping Jack Flash."
Sam – "Dokken’s ‘Back For The Attack’, I love that CD."
Creepy – "I’d have to go with some Creem, ‘Strange Brew."

Our interview ended with the band preparing to take the stage and show the crowd how the rock. The band is definitely more substance over style onstage. They have a backdrop with their logo on it and they keep it pretty simple onstage. It’s all about the music and the intensity that they bring along with it.

One of the things that I really like about the band is their use of Sly. She is a very charismatic entity on the stage, but they tend not to overdo it with her. There are a great number of bands that use a female front person as a gimmick. Sly is not shoved down your throats to the point that she seems like a gimmick. Yes, she is without a doubt, a very beautiful woman and her style onstage is a cross between Gwen Stefani and Joan Jett/Lita Ford. She also possesses one of the most intimidating growls that I think I have ever heard from a female artist and actually some men too.

The band stays focused onstage and there is great interaction between them and the crowd. Their music does make that difficult transition to the live stage with a fury. Shane’s vocal stylings bring a complimentary mix between melodic tones and piercing screams.

Their debut CD is a great look into bigger things to come for this group. The opening track, "Dark Fortress", has that Pantera influence from the opening notes. Shane and Sly have a very interesting dual vocal prowess on tracks such as "Bloodstains and Papermache" and a personal favorite of mine "Stuck."

A live crowd favorite "Country Boy" is a hard driving song in which Sam shows off his shredding skills on one of his many intense solos. Creepy and Brandon show why they are a very tight rhythm section on "Don’t Belong". This band is a very cohesive unit with each member bringing to the table a piece of this puzzle that, once all are firmly put in place, showcases why they are one to keep your eye on.

If you are a fan of hard driving rock in the vein of Pantera or Slipknot, then you need to check Sloburn out. Their Myspace page is Stop by and check them out now and say that you were there from the early stages. Line up and allow yourself to get burnt!

Vicki Blankenship: Dancing With The Blueflame

I like to think that life is sometimes like the toy surprise in a big box of Cracker Jacks. It’s always a surprise as to what you are going to get, some are good and some happen to be bad. You just never know what to expect.

My latest box of musical Cracker Jacks contained a surprise in the bottom by the name of Vicki Blankenship. I met Vicki for the first time at The Binding Time Café in Martinsville, VA during a performance by Indiegrrl artist Broda. I wasn’t familiar with Vicki, but I was told that she was a musician who performed at the Café from time to time. I got to her perform a short time later at an Indiegrrl festival in Spencer, VA that she put together. For those who do not know, Vicki took over the reigns of Indiegrrl from creator Holly O’Reilly in October of 2005.

Vicki invited me to The Binding Time Café on August 14 for the release party of her newest CD entitled “Blue Flame Trance”. She did perform a few of the songs solo that night and gave us a small taste of what was included on the CD. She had a strong turnout to support her that night.

I took home Vicki’s CD and it did lay around for a few days before I got the chance to pop it open and give it a good listen. Vicki is a very talented musician, without a doubt. You immediately get that when you see her perform live. The part that I didn’t realize was how good of a lyricist that she is.

The title track to her CD is an ode to that good old tradition through these parts of Virginia known as bootleg. One test of the equality of bootleg occurs when it is lit. Now, the really good stuff burns a blue flame. Henceforth, the title of the song. It’s a great toe tapper of a song that really gets cranked into overdrive as Vicki screams out “Yeehaw” midway through.

If you are a native of this area and if the song “Southwest Virginia” doesn’t do something for you, then you need to pack your bags and move. There are so many references to landmarks such as Mabry Mill, the Blue Ridge Mountains and even Martinsville is mentioned.

The biggest surprise for me is how emotionally charged a number of these songs are. My two standout cuts would be “Moonbeam” and “Coming My Way”, both equally as moving as the other. Vicki manages to put more emotion and feeling into these two songs than most artists put into an entire CD. “Moonbeam” is a reflective song about looking back on a love and the regrets that you may have. Now, not every track is all about happy love. “Love Went Six Feet Under” is a great song about love just doesn’t work out.

Another outstanding and emotional track would be “I’ve Waited For You” which has touring buddy Sonya Heller on background vocals. It tells an emotional journey of love coming and going, but never giving up on that love without putting up a fight to keep it.

Vicki has a bunch of extremely talented musicians backing her on her CD. She also played acoustic and electric guitar on all songs, wrote all the tracks and produced the CD. This woman can do it all!!

I think it’s very hard to pigeonhole Vicki’s music to just one label. She mixes country, folk, bluegrass and other elements into a blend that is like musical sugar to your ears. You can purchase her CDs at . You can also learn more about her at

Are you in the mood for some toe tapping music that actually tells a good story? Unlike a great deal of today’s standards, these songs actually tell the listener a story. I guarantee you that if you take the time to check out Vicki, then you too will find out that the prize in the bottom of these Cracker Jacks is one of life’s greatest surprises.