Just over a year ago, the City Paper published side-by-side reviews of new solo albums from Joel Hamilton and Owen Beverly — two of Charleston's most creative and diligent independent songwriters. The Charleston-raised Hamilton's stark and stripped-down collection Officina stood in stark contrast to the finely-polished, full-band style of his longtime group The Working Title. The Mississippi-bred Beverly's Shooting the Bull offered a more easily-categorized set of alt-country anthems and ballads. Both albums demonstrated heart, soul, and songwriting talent. The layout on the page foreshadowed something pretty cool.
Hamilton and Beverly have actually teamed up on stage before, but never as an authentic band with a specific name until recently. This week, they unveil solid documentation of recent musical brainstorming as they release a debut album under the name The InLaws. Local musicians Jack Burg, Benji Lee, John Satterfield, Sadler Vaden, and Timbre added additional tracks to the new album.
"Joel's house is called the Hamilton Hotel," Beverly says of the home studio facility. "It's a halfway house of sorts for wayfaring musicians. Usually, when there is a group of them around at one time, we con them into recording a track for the InLaws record. Most of the recordings were done full-band, live in the garage with a few mics placed randomly around the room. We would rehearse a song, move the mics around, and press record. The out-takes on the record are a good representation of how seriously we took it."
The songwriting duo welcomes a few musical guests and openers to the official album release party on Saturday evening at the newly-established Eye Level Art: 103.
"It's going to be very fun," says Hamilton of the gig. "The other two groups playing are fantastic. Ponderosa is from Atlanta, and Michael Trent is from right here. We are going to have art on display and for sale inspired by our new record from various artists around Charleston. We're gonna make music that'll have you stomping your feet uncontrollably ... until you don't have feet."
Beverly started out in his teens playing with a blues band in Mississippi before earning a music degree at CofC. His initial projects produced the solo Drunk Lover EP, which stunned the local scene in 2003 with its gutsy lyrical content and confident sultriness. Back and forth between the Lowcountry and Mississippi, he worked with a variety of local and national acts over the years as a hired sideman on tour, an assistant songwriter in the studio, and an extra at casual gigs with friends.
Hamilton's notoriety developed while fronting The Working Title — a solid band that almost achieved stardom. In 2004-'05, the group signed to Universal/Motown and released a major label debut titled About Face. Last winter, Hamilton told City Paper that his latest solo studio projects are a major step toward "having as much control as possible." It looks and sounds like he achieved it.
Hamilton describes the InLaws' sound as "kind of like indie Americana for misunderstood hippy hillbillies," adding, "We put the 'R' in rock music and replace it with the 'S' so it's sock music. If you aren't wearing socks, you might hurt your feet when we play."
While there might not be too many folks from the Appalachians at the Eye Level gig, there should be a few open-minded kids on hand who keep their eyes and ears out for new independent music. The "indie Americana" tag loosely fits the melodic, mildly morose style of some of the InLaws' early demos, but there's more to the music than simply a few chords, a country drum beat, and some noticeable twang in the vocals.
"We're very proud of the record and can't wait for everyone in the whole world to hear it," says Hamilton.