The Local: Tab Spencer and more

Authored By pitulah

In The Local this week, Nooga.com spends some time with music from Tab Spencer, Coogi Doogi, Subkonscious and Phil McClain. Who do you think should have a spot in The Local next week?

Tab Spencer, “Mary Ellen”
There are always new and creative inroads to all types of music. If anyone ever tells you that they’ve heard every sound that a genre has to offer, they’re probably not listening hard enough. This is especially true of the folk and country avenues that have been traveled for close to a millennium. But for Chattanooga group Tab Spencer-consisting of Garrett Bourdon and Jack Kirton-these streets are full of purpose and a surprising abundance of ingenuity. By working through our expectations of the genres within which they work, the band finds a wealth of gorgeous bucolic details and folk-fueled narratives that would have escaped the notice of most musicians.

On their new single, “Mary Ellen,” they create a muscular country landscape of swaying strings, liquid slide guitar and fervent voices pushing back against a rising tide of desperation and broken hearts. With the addition of the gossamer voice of singer Emily Scott Robinson, the band’s sound further evolves from its influences into something that pays homage to its predecessors while carving out its own unique identity. Obvious touchstones are Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown, but there’s only so far those influences can take you-after that, you have to make your own way. And through “Mary Ellen,” Tab Spencer has constructed a rustic and involving aesthetic where you can hear the constant twang of stretching guitar strings and the hum of the passing countryside.

Coogi Doogi, “Fake Dope Boy” (featuring OG Loud)
Chattanooga native William Jones-Odum isn’t looking for easy answers or for someone to gloss over the difficulties of everyday life-his work as Coogi Doogi is marked by a need for understanding and personal acknowledgement, and it’s all tied together with a bravado befitting a man who recognizes what lies ahead and who faces it with the conviction necessary to enact change. His beats are striking and possess an inherent swagger, skittering around on the fringes of your perception before his words draw you back to reality. And despite a natural and fascinating audacity, he never allows the sentiment behind his music to become buried in arrogance or an overwhelming self-importance.

But on “Fake Dope Boy,” that attitude is directed squarely at artist iLoveMakonnen. Recently, iLoveMakonnen cast some shade at Chattanooga in a song, and Coogi Doogi didn’t appreciate the slight. So he got together with artist OG Loud and producers Loud Chief and Jungle Boy to fashion an appropriate response. With lyrics that bite into a certain individual’s credibility, Coogi lays a vicious line of thought across a wobbly beat and some shimmering synths. The track makes its point quickly, opening with a distant bell clanging before a skittering beat rides in, providing the perfect vehicle for Coogi to spit his acidic words and give a definitive answer to iLoveMakonnen’s recent rhymes.

Subkonscious, “Mask”
Chattanooga progressive rock band Subkonscious has spent the past few years refining their sound and discovering what it means to be truly progressive at a time when stagnation seems to rule the rock mainstream. With a recent collaboration with singer-songwriter Ryan Oyer, the band looked to broaden their rock trajectory to include other avenues of rhythmic exploration. But this sense of movement and evolution has always been a part of their approach to music-it’s just taken on various forms through the years. Drawing from the classic alt rock of the ’90s to far more diverse influences, the band has long been a proponent of change as a necessity for innovation.

And with recent single “Mask,” the band has once again incorporated numerous threads of sound into their driving rock spectacle. Acoustic guitars find a home alongside churning electric riffs that are built around a melodic skeleton that bears more than a passing resemblance to the drawl of classic Southern rock. I’m not saying that they’re channeling The Allman Brothers, but there is a surprising sense of rural association that gives the song an added texture and depth of experience. The band has been slowly but surely altering their musical perspective since they began releasing music, and “Mask” is just one more piece of evidence that they’re one of the most unpredictable bands in town.

Phil McClain, “SameThing” (featuring Quintana and Ra$hun)
The music of Chattanooga R&B/hip-hop artist Phil McClain is rooted in the groove-addled rhythms of the early ’90s but contains enough personality and distinct ideology to keep it from simply feeling like an imitation of earlier musicians. His mercurial voice slides across subtle beats and liquid rhythms with a practiced precision, giving each song an unpretentious appearance. He may be working within some fairly familiar landscapes, but his dedication and ingenuity allow him to sidestep any possible obstacles with ease. By taking the best parts of his influences and reworking them into a suitably deferential aesthetic, McClain approaches his own sound with the reverence and respect that it so rightfully deserves.

On “SameThing,” he pairs with Quintana and Ra$hun to deliver a glistening R&B implosion, full of burbling beats and striking synth lines that encircle their voices and project the resulting noise skyward. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this song was released in decades past-that’s a testament to McClain’s ability to properly infiltrate his inspirations-but there’s also an inherent futurism to the production. With gossamer rhythms and filtered voices fading in and out of the periphery, we’re presented with a sound that’s unpredictable but relevant, a skewed R&B perspective that culls its base elements from a handful of genres. And McClain pulls it all together with the skill of a seasoned musician-“SameThing” delivers on the promise of his earlier work and finds him reaching even higher.

Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.