Bill Mallonee

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Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 8:00pm


Paste Music Magazine, in a poll conducted by both writers and artists, listed Bill Mallonee as 65 in their "100 Greatest Living Songwriters Poll." "At the end of the day, it's about the story living under your own skin. In my work, I've just tried to chase that story down and put something of a frame around it for a spell."

Mallonee, (pronounced MAL-O-KNEE) the lyrical and musical source behind the late Vigilantes of Love, started playing music in Athens in the late 80's. Mallonee learned guitar quickly and the post-punk-pop of the La's, XTC, Joy Division, the Clash and Echo and the Bunnymen. Great college scene bands that passed through Athens, Georgia during that time were Athen's own R.E.M., the dbs (with the great Chris Stamey and Peter Hosapple), Mitch Easter's 'Let's Active. These were also big influences. Each of those bands proudly wove indebtedness to the first "British Invasion" into their musical flags.

Still, Bill's deeper love for music and lyricism of artists like Dylan and Neil Young left an indelible mark on his writing and vocal delivery. "Being a son of the South, it's hard not to be surrounded by the beauty of things fractured and incongruous...that's the stuff of real songs...and that's what I learned on the road doing 180 shows a year from 1995 till about 2002... What came out was my own version of what I deeply loved in the work of those two." [Dylan and Neil Young] Mallonee's love for all things folk-rock and raw-boned acoustic won out over these early influences. The "4- guys-in-a-van-with-no-safety-net-beneath-us" dynamic of life on the road left a profound imprint on Mallonee's way of looking at his life...and is deeply woven in the sound and feel of his music. "The work of folks like Flannery O'Conner, Thomas Merton, Kerouac, and a fella named Frederick Buechner helped me make sense out the road. We made 24 records over 16 years. It all played out, very unglamorously, on the asphalt and in the clubs. I gravitated to the old soul of folk and country artists because it seemed like what we (VOL) were doing and how we were doing it lent a measure of authenticity to the art." He says,"I tend to be a heart on the sleeve fella. I figure it'll resonate with someone somewhere...we're all made outta similar stuff, I think."

Whether writing Americana or trippier stuff, Mallonee seems equally at home with both. He says, "I think there were always huge connections between the Brits and their affinities for '60's west Coast psychedelia...the Byrds being an obvious example. But for now Muriah and I are just content to play as a duo, the sound being folkier." With Vigilantes of Love behind him, Bill is focusing on the solo artist gig. He's back to being "just a guy from a college band from Athens, GA." He's 8 albums into his solo career (he's been doing about 2 a year since 2002), touring and performing with his wife, keyboardist and vocalist, Muriah Rose.


from Paste Magazine on his new CD AMBER WAVES

Between his tenure with legendary Athens, Ga., band Vigilantes of Love and his long-running solo career, Bill Mallonee has released a whopping 50 albums. That’s more than two a year and more than 500 songwriting credits. It’s a mighty count, a monument to one troubadour’s prolific muse, revealing a prodigious talent. A songwriter’s songwriter, he has a fine grasp on literate Americana, a firm belief in rock and roll as a redemptive force, and quite possibly a hole where his internal editor should be.

As enormous as his catalog may be, Mallonee’s music is strikingly modest: sturdy and straightforward, with no time for frills or fussiness. Anyone looking for an entry point into Mallonee’s oeuvre could do worse than his latest, Amber Waves, a thoughtful consideration of love, loss, grief and renewal on both a personal and national scale. The vibe is loose but not lackadaisical, as though he recorded only first takes live in the studio. The band is lively and just professional enough not to be too precise; this kind of rock thrives on rawness, spontaneity and imperfection. The guitars grind and chime as though trying to evoke every heart-on-sleeve rocker from Neil Young to Tom Petty, John Mellencamp to Craig Finn.

Mallonee’s wounded tenor reinforces the sense of personality and fixed perspective on Amber Waves, as though he’s trying to record America as he sees it—one venue at a time, with too many miles of highway in between: “I couldn’t find my name on your guest list once again,” he sings on “Break in the Clouds,” “but the door-man of life just opens up and lets me in.” As a songwriter, Mallonee makes it look easy: The telling detail or the wrenching turn of phrase is always within ready reach, giving the impression of songs written on the fly, scribbled on diner napkins, weathered notebooks, random scraps of paper.

“Faith is a throw of dice, and the sleeping heart is stirred,” goes opener “Golden.” “After ragged sentences, you’ll get the last word.” Immediately setting the stakes for the 12 songs that follow, Mallonee sounds weary but wise, as though rock and the road have given him a romantic’s insight into life’s joys and disappointments. What exactly does 50 albums get you? Just enough faith to make 50 more.

Bill Mallonee and Muriah Rose - Skin