The Pour House
Sat. March 28
1977 Maybank Hwy.
George McConnell is nothing if not genuine. Widespread Panic fans certainly had their different opinions about his role as the guitarist in the band between Michael Houser's death in 2002 and Jimmy Herring's addition in 2006, but few could say McConnell wasn't giving it his best.
Following his exit from the Panic clan, McConnell moved home to Mississippi, splitting time between Oxford, Miss., and Vicksburg, Tenn. Since then, there's been little news from him. But once a musician, always a musician.
Now McConnell's back with new music, but he's taken an unorthodox but historic approach to releasing the tracks, making them available as downloadable pairs on his website as they're completed. He didn't see the need for a CD in today's digital music economy and wanted to recreate the feeling of buying a 45 that comes with a second song on the B-side.
Although some tracks ("Must Not Mind" and the wailing dual guitars on "Goodbye, So Long") sound like the product of a Mississippi rocker, others —like "Here We Come Now" — are reminiscent of a hyped-up David Lee Roth screaming in an AC/DC cover band. "Hollywood Babylon" could easily be a deep cut from any '80s glam-rock ensemble.
One of the more entertaining new songs from McConnell, "Feel No Pain," features noticeably slurry vocals. On that one he sings, "Darvocet and Halceon/ Pass the pipe, but the opium's gone/ Temazepam and some Vicodin/ Whisper in my ear like a long lost friend."
"I was pretty snockered when I was singing that song," says McConnell. "I'd been into several cups of that Glenlivet Scotch. I've become a Glenlivet man these days. I wasn't intentionally slurring them."
The track was recorded in one take — McConnell liked the "broken, fragile" feel of the recording.
And for the record, he says he's "not a big pill person." After a surgery on a finger, he was prescribed a host of painkillers. His friends bugged him for a taste now and then, so one day he pulled out all of the bottles in his medicine cabinet, drawing from them for the lyrics.
From his days in Southern rock/jam bands Beanland and the Kudzu Kings, McConnell's kept a posse of fun-loving, hard-partying friends close by. After tracking out about 25 new songs at home with an acoustic guitar, he recruited a few buddies from the Oxford scene to back him up in the studio. Oftentimes, he'd teach them a song, and they'd start recording five minutes later. The result is probably not what fans of McConnell's former bands might expect.
"I said, 'Man, I want to do every song that comes along — no censorship at all,'" he says. "Take the blinders off, uncollar the dogs, let it go, and see what happens."
"I don't want to turn any fans away who might be into any certain type of music, but it's not like a jam band type of thing," says McConnell. "The songs have grown eight legs, two arms, heads or rather, and climbed up the curtain and ran across the ceiling. It's become its own nasty little creature."
Whether it's punk, metal, or classic rock, for McConnell, it's still about having a good time. His band, billed as the Rockin' Teen Combo (think Frank Zappa introducing a 17-year-old Steve Vai), has now taken to calling themselves the Chalants (formerly the Nonchalants).
"It means, 'We used to care, but now we don't,'" laughs McConnell, who says he's always had a blast in Charleston. He remembers a Kudzu Kings show in Charleston when a golf cart flipped on Sullivan's Island, breaking a girl's arm. The drummer woke up in a random family's house, asking for the bathroom.
"We like to have fun at our gigs," says McConnell. "And we're looking forward to this one."