On the Edge: The Statesboro Revue
If the Allman Brothers released their signature song “Midnight Rider” today, it’d almost certainly fall under the country music umbrella. Southern rock, rural rock or however one may be tempted to describe it is, at its core, country-based. Which is why upstart band The Statesboro Revue fits equally well alongside the Allmans, Willie Nelson or even Miranda Lambert.
Led by singer/lyricist Stewart Mann and his younger brother, guitarist Garrett Mann, the Texas four-piece has mashed up blues, rock and country twang into something entirely fresh and soulful, both in their live shows (they play close to 250 gigs a year) and on their latest album, Ramble on Privilege Creek. Named after Stewart and Garrett’s great-grandfather’s band, The Blue Bonnet Ramblers, and the area of Texas where their grandmother lives, Privilege Creek in the hill country, the project is the first album the brothers recorded together. To mark the occasion, Stewart was determined to find a unique yet relatable sound, one that built on the traditional country of his first album.
“I wanted a groove-based sound, something that people who like to two-step can dance to and people who like rock ’n’ roll can dance to,” says Stewart, citing Willie’s “Shotgun Willie” as inspiration. “‘Shotgun Willie’ is such a groovy song that people from all walks of life who are into all kinds of music can appreciate it.”
Drawn, like many young artists, to the storytelling aspect of country music, Stewart connected with the songs—and voices—of legends like Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, but also with John Conlee and, one of his all-time favorites, Ray Price. “I just love him,” he raves.
Oddly, though, and quite humorously as Stewart admits, the magnet that most attracted him to country as a child was Reba McEntire.
“When you’re a 7-year-old boy you can’t really sound like Johnny Cash. So I was a Reba fan growing up,” he says. “My favorite Reba song is ‘Can’t Even Get the Blues.’ As you get older, I realized why I liked that song so much—because it was groovy and bluesier and more soulful.”
But while you likely won’t pick out any Reba vocal acrobatics on Ramble, you might notice a hint—or a hiccup—of Buddy Holly. And for good reason: Stewart donned the black-framed glasses to play the rock ’n’ roll pioneer in The Buddy Holly Story onstage in San Antonio last year.
The experience rivaled anything he’s done in a club or bar with a band, he says—and attracted a much different demographic.
“There were 60-, 70-, 80-year-old women crying, saying, ‘Oh my God, you took me back to my childhood,’” Stewart says, laughing. “It was like Beatlemania.”
In the words of Buddy: oh, boy!