Darlin' see I love you. I have dreamed you in my dreams. Darlin' don't make friends with fools like these. Darlin' throw your hair down, and feed me with yourself. Darlin' don't make eyes at someone else.
Don't Make your eyes at them, make your eyes at me.
A messy, chaotic group home in Southside, with art loaded on the walls and instruments stacked in the kitchen and bathroom.
An avant-garde farm in Blount County that grows its own vegetables and flowers, and has a makeshift recording studio in the barn.
An intense, smoke-filled bar filled with intense, arguing musicians who are poor but creative, and sleep on couches in other people's living rooms. These are some of the images that come to mind when I hear the words "music collective."
Not two clear-eyed, serious Birmingham residents with stable jobs in the legal field and a desire to create interesting songs as a sideline.
Ashby Pate, 30, and Shawn Avery, 33, laughed when I told them where imagination had led me. We were conducting an early afternoon interview at a downtown restaurant, and Pate, a clerk for a federal judge, and Avery, a paralegal in a law firm, are the two prime movers of a music collective called Wiseblood Vol. 1.
"It's not some musical ashram, more of a revolving door of musicians," Pate said.
He and Avery recruited several friends on the local music scene, including members of the Bridges and the Spots, to contribute vocals and instrumentals for a new disc, "Wiseblood Vol. 1." It's an eight-song EP, four years in the making, released by Weownthesky, a media company established by Avery and Pate.
On the day we spoke, Wiseblood Vol. 1 was on the verge of a celebratory show at Bottletree on July 10. Pate, a singer and guitarist, and Avery, a bassist, planned to perform there with guitarist Clint Wells, keyboard player Thomas Richie and drummer Alan Rogers. It would be a rare appearance for Wiseblood Vol. 1 -- in fact, one of only three shows in Birmingham this year.
Bear in mind that Wiseblood Vol. 1 isn't a traditional band, with a touring schedule and a manager and fervent hopes for national or international fame.
Pate and Avery, who previously played in a group called the Ashes, have ceded the major-label aspirations to others and opted for a do-it-yourself aesthetic. It allows them to make music (and maybe other types of art) as they choose, on their own timetables.
That's crucial for Pate, who's moving to England in August to pursue a master's degree in international law. He and Avery said they intend to continue their collaboration via computer, and at least one more disc ("Wiseblood Vol. 2") is on their agenda.
Wiseblood Vol. 1 also permits them to call on colleagues who are otherwise established in the music business, asking the performers to play specific roles on certain songs without "shackling them to a band," Pate said. Contributions from singers Brittany Painter and Natalie and Stacey Byrd of the Bridges, for example, radically changed the sound of "Dreams" and "There's a First Time for Everything," they said.
"I kind of think of it like casting a movie," Avery said. He's the resident arranger, producer and overall techie for Wiseblood Vol. 1. Pate, on the other hand, specializes in writing folk songs on piano and acoustic guitar. "Basically, the vibe is of a storyteller," Pate said.
It's no surprise, then, that the name Wiseblood comes from a Flannery O'Connor novel that is one of Pate's and Avery's favorites. O'Connor's influence has helped Pate to craft lyrics that are rich in Gothic imagery, laden with apocalyptic themes and laced with a love-hate relationship to religion.
"I write a lot of love songs," he said, "but they can have deep theological undertones. It can be a love song between a man or a woman, or a love song between man and whatever the divine is."
- Mary Colurso / The Birmingham News
released July 10, 2008
Ashby Pate - Vocals, Acoustic Guitars, Electric Guitars, Pianos
Shawn Avery - BG Vocals, Bass, Drums, Production
Houston Wood - Electric Guitars, Acoustic Guitars
Clint Wells - Electric Guitars
David Crenshaw - Drums