On Jan. 19, celebrated producer Dave Cobb invited a small group of friends, collaborators and industry reps for a private listening party of his new concept album, Southern Family.
Inside Nashville’s historic Studio B, Cobb introduced the story of his highly-anticipated project, which has been in the works for a year and a half. Inspired by Paul Kennerley’s 1978 concept record White Mansions, Cobb began to recruit some of the most underrated musicians in Nashville to participate in the project. It was an idea that Cobb joked “didn’t really work out,” as contributors like Chris and Morgane Stapleton and Jason Isbell have become household names during the album’s development.
Cobb also revealed that a majority of the album’s tracks were recorded in RCA Studio A, which he recently took ownership of. Just last year, the Music Row studio faced demolition from condominium developers. Amid public protest, a group of local entrepreneurs swooped saved the building just hours before it was set to be sold. This debacle put new attention on the studio, which Cobb plans to use as his headquarters beginning April 1. The studio’s large open space gives the album a “cinematic” sound that becomes its own character, helping connect each track to each other.
Those in attendance on Tuesday night were some of the first to hear a majority of the album, which has been kept mostly under wraps since its announcement. Cobb’s cousin, Brent, supplied one of the most surprising tracks of the night with “Down Home”. The purely country song discussed the events that arise during a normal day in the South, from checking crawfish baskets to visiting kin. It’s a promising preview of Brent’s upcoming debut, which Cobb says is currently in the works.
Other standout tracks included Brandy Clark‘s heart-wrenching, pedal-steel driven “I Cried”, which describes the utter pain that develops after losing a loved one. Jason Isbell‘s “God Is A Working Man”, which was recorded during his sessions for Something More Than Free, expertly explores the relationship between religion and Southern culture. Jamey Johnson‘s emotional “Mama’s Table” is an ode to a memory-filled piece of hand-me-down furniture that seemed to connect with most everyone in the room.
Cobb says he hopes the project will “strengthen the Nashville scene,” and reinforce the creative growth that has been burgeoning over the past few years. “It’s our time,” Cobb excitedly told the crowd. “You can go to any restaurant in town and make the best band you’ve ever heard.”
Southern Family is likely to become one of the most talked-about releases of the year. This incredible collection of music is likely to inspire both established and upcoming artists, but may also bring a new sense of pride and importance in regards to Nashville’s long-embattled Studio A.