They are loud and proud, unabashedly opinionated and rowdy.
With three scorching guitarists, this Nashville-based band plays music that could only be born out of the southern United States. On paper, it would be too easy to view Stone Senate as a retread of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and while the Southern Rock explosion of the 1970s is a definite influence on both their image and sound, they are not a retro act.
Lead singer and guitarist Clint Woolsey’s voice is a closer to Lucero’s Ben Nichols than he is to any of the Van Zandt brothers. Likewise, the band’s three-guitar attack of Woolsey, Marcus Brown and James Beau Edwards bears some of the post-grunge influence found in bands like the Drive-By Truckers. Rounding out the group is the rock-solid rhythm section of brothers David (drums) and Paul Zettler (bass), whom Edwards affectionately refers to as “the Mississippi Mud Brothers.”
In an age where musicians are composing music on computers and marketing their sound via viral internet videos, Stone Senate is content to doing things the old-fashioned way, touring almost non-stop, bringing their organic Southern rock sound to clubs of all sizes across the United States – and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Through the years, they’ve shared the stage with acts as diverse as The Scorpions’ Uli John Roth, the hip-hop group Three 6 Mafia, and outlaw country singer Whitey Morgan.
“The long drives to the shows can be a pain in the ass sometimes,” Edwards says, “but we just love playing music for people. That’s the real love.” The Uber rides back to the motel can sometimes be just as entertaining as the shows, he says.
This is a band whose members derive as much joy from playing music as they do being in the same room.
“The great thing about the band is everybody has something to bring to the table, both in personality and musically,” David Zettler says. “We all have fun when we’re together. Sure, we argue at times, but we make up real quick. We’ve learned that there’s no reason to hold on to stupid shit. It’s like we grew up together in the same household.”
Stone Senate’s signature sound comes from years of playing together and the members’ diverse musical influences, everything from Soundgarden and Waylon Jennings.
The band’s origins go back to the early 2000s, when Nashville natives Woolsey and Brown began playing and writing together. Brown took a brief hiatus to start a family, and in his absence, Woolsey collaborated with several other musicians, including Paul Zettler, who hails from Meridian, Mississippi. After adding Paul’s brother, drummer David Zettler to the line-up, they released their first EP, titled “1” in 2014. With the addition of their newest member, James Beau Edwards (also from Meridian), on third guitar, the current version of the group was solidified and ready to head back into the studio.
Their undying loyalty to real music being performed on actual instruments caught the attention of producer Kenny Olson, who played in Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker Band from 1994-2005, who became, Brown says, the engine who got the train rolling along the tracks.
“He really took it to that place,” Woolsey says. “We went through so many different amps in the recording process to get different sounds out of our guitars. There’s nothing better than having a guitar player produce a record for guitar-based band, especially when you have three guitar players in the band. He had a great understanding of what we were going for.”
“The best part about working with these guys,” Olson interjects, “is that they are all about bringing the soul back into music. And they just have such a unique style. They take elements from so many genres of music and they play it so organically that not one song sounds like the other. But it all sounds like Stone Senate. A lot of producers try to bring in their own sound, but with these guys, I was able to just go in and hit record and let them tear it up.”
The new album, “Star City,” was released digitally on Black Friday with physical copies to follow on compact disc and vinyl. Olson employed some old school recording techniques that he borrowed from legends like Eddie Kramer to help capture the infectious sound of the band.
In addition to the production work from Olson, “Star City” was mixed by Toby Wright, who worked on several of Alice in Chains’ classic albums and features guest spots from Peter “Keys” Pisarczyk of Parliament-Funkadelic and Bekka Bramlett.
According to the band, the record sounds like “a bunch of Southern guys recorded in the studio with a dude who has that Detroit sensibility.”
“There’s a Star City in Arkansas where Marcus’ family is from,” Edwards says of the album’s title. “But there are Star Cities in several other states and countries around the world. But as a writer, it’s also struck me as a bit of a metaphor for a mythical sort of place where people would go to make their dreams come true, and that naturally leads one to imagine the dark underbelly of such a place as well. Who knows what such a place would hold for all the different people who sought their fortunes there? It conjures a lot of different images for me.”
Zettler jokes that other titles considered were “David Zettler and the Stone Senate” … but that got thrown out real quick. That one and “Bobbin’ For Possums.”
The first single from “Star City,” “Martha,” is a blend of funky hard rock that recalls both Led Zeppelin and Mother’s Finest and has been making an impact on rock ‘n’ roll, adult alternative and Americana stations. Videos for “Martha” and “Hell I Waited,” a song originally recorded on “1,” are scheduled for release by the end of the year.
The band broke long enough to celebrate the release of “Star
City” on Nov. 29 at High Watt in Nashville, then headed back into the
studio with Olson to begin work on new material.