Mountain Melodies: Inspired Soul

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With a newly formed band, a first album due out soon and a head-turning voice full of raw emotion, Jess Goggans is finding her way as a musician.

story by ANITA STIEFEL | photos by STEVEN STIEFEL

In Northeast Alabama, the name Goggans is associated with music, and up-and-comer Jess Goggans is no exception. The 31-year-old Fort Payne native is exploding on the music scene, with performances slated across the region and a new album on the way this summer. In the late  1960s her father, Tony Goggans, along with uncle Mike Goggans and aunts Jan Goggans and Susan Goggans formed the Malibu’s, a popular band that toured regionally through the 1970s.[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]

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[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()]“The first time I ever saw her potential was way back when I was playing a birthday party at Pea Ridge, and Jessie was watching me sing – she couldn’t have been more than 2 or 3 years old,” Tony Goggans says. “When I got to this one part that really wails out, I noticed she was singing, too. She was right there keeping up with me. She felt that emotion way down inside me, even though she was just a baby. I knew the there was something special in her.”

Jess remembers being about 5 years old when she first got up on stage and sang “Kansas City” with her father, and she recalls singing with her little cousins as the Tony Creek Girls. But as she began growing up, her interests turned elsewhere. “I wasn’t in the high school band, but looking back I should have been and I wish I had been,” Jess says. “I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 15. I also play harmonica, but I’m mostly a vocalist.”

Tony Goggans, who now performs regularly on the Southern Belle Riverboat Cruise in Chattanooga and other area venues, has been waiting for decades for the music to erupt from his daughter.

“Wherever I play a gig, if she joins me and sings a song with me, people stop what they’re doing and look – they notice her,” he explains. “She’s got a dynamic presence on stage, and she can command attention from the audience.

“Early on I just wrote it off and thought it was just me being a proud dad, but after seeing this over and over and hearing so many comments from people, I’ve decided that maybe it’s not just me. There’s something there –she’s got it.”

When her friends in bands would play, Jess found she was frequently asked to get on stage and sing a song or two.

“Most of the time they wanted me to get up and sing [Janis Joplin’s] ‘Me and Bobby McGee,’” she recalls. “I’ve been told I sound like her.” Jess has a unique vocal sound distinguished by passionate coarseness. Upbeat tunes feature her characterful rasp, while her soulful growls in slower songs  lluminate the emotion behind the lyrics.

“My musical influences are the Allman Brothers, Tedeschi-Trucks Band, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker and, of course, my dad,” Goggans says.

Three years ago – after much encouragement from friends and evenstrangers– she developed a set list of cover tunes and started performing as the Jess Goggans Band, asking other local musicians to sit in.

After working together for years, Jess Goggans and the Magnetics, consisting of Jess on rhythm guitar, harmonica and vocals, Arrie Bozeman on psychedelic mandolin, Jay Chadwick on lead guitar, Chase Armstrong on bass and Bradford “Scooter” Hilyer on drums, came together and recorded an album in spring 2014.

The band plays in regular rotation at venues including Main Street Deli, Vintage 1889 and Ol‘ Tymers in Fort Payne, Ala., and at Chestnut Station, Blackstone Pub and Back Forty Beer Company in Gadsden, Ala.

Look for them to be part of the entertainment around northeast Alabama’s many festivals this summer. They will be featured July 26 in the summer series at Fox Mountain Camp and Artist Retreat near Blue Ridge, Ga.

“I’ll be playing a lot, and I’ll keep all the dates and locations posted on Facebook,” Jess says.

Jess Goggans and the Magnetics recorded their album, called “Reality,” at Stillbrook Studios in Rainsville, Ala. The album release is set for July 4, with a launch party at the First Friday celebration on Broad Street in downtown Gadsden.

Other musicians featured in songs on the album include Tony Goggans on keyboard and Isaac Pike on slide guitar. Jess says recording the album was like giving birth to a new being.

“It’s all original songs,” she says. “Dad wrote three of the songs, and I wrote the lyrics for the rest. The music was a group effort, with everybody bringing their part to life. It’s really been a pleasure – this is my first time in the recording studio. It’s so cool to create something that is our own.

“I think for me personally, the hardest thing was handing the band something I wrote, just my voice and the flat top, and then being open minded about what it would develop into once others got involved. But I loved being a part of it and experiencing it. Each track was stacked on the others, and it got bigger and bigger.”

Putting together the music for the songs was “an organic thing,” Chadwick says.

“We all collaborated, and it was really amazing,” he continues. “Some of the songs were ready to go, and some were still just ideas. Jess had ideas that we all developed together and expanded on until it was something bigger.

“Jess is a natural soul as a singer, and we try to work everything around that. She’s a storyteller. She’s really good at drawing from life experiences – not just her own, but from other people around her and what they’re going through.”

Recording the album was easy because the band members get along so well, Armstrong says. “We just started jamming along, and each of us came up with our part as we went,” he says. “It’s real soulful stuff.”

Collaborating with his daughter as a songwriter is “just like it’s supposed to be,” Tony Goggans says.

“I’ve been waiting for it to happen, and it’s just so natural,” he says. “Her voice is suited to sing my songs, and as a songwriter she’s coming into her own now, becoming philosophical about life and her experiences.

“I never pushed her; I just tried to coax her. You can’t make somebody do something. It has to come from within them. It’s taken awhile for it to get out of her, but now it’s her time.”

To learn about upcoming performances, see facebook.com/JessGoggansBand and jessgoggansband.com.

Among Stars

Johnny Cash’s recently released album contains song set on Lookout Mountain

garyNASHVILLE SONGWRITER GARY Gentry tells the crowd gathered at Sweet Seasons Farm near Valley Head, Ala., he wants to do an old song he wrote for Johnny Cash more than 30 years ago. His reasoning for digging the piece out of the mental closet on this pleasant November afternoon is that the song’s backdrop is Lookout Mountain, which majestically rests just over Gentry’s left shoulder as he describes how he came to write the song in the first place.

Cash was finishing up a recording session the next day, and Gary, with the help of Hillman Hall (brother of country legend Tom T. Hall), wrote the song especially for Cash. It was a dark, yet humorous, tale of murder-suicide that only someone like Cash could pull off. Cash’s eclectic repertoire includes such novelty hits as “A Boy Named Sue” and an even quirkier cut written by Gentry called “Chicken in Black.”

Gentry, who penned hits for George Jones (The Corvette Song), John Anderson (1959), David Allan Coe (The Ride) among others, lamented the song “I Drove Her Out of Mind” was recorded by Cash and “then it disappeared like a snowman in the spring.”

Little did Gentry know that his song was already in the process of being released on a 12-song album – “Out Among the Stars” – which would debut at the top of Billboard’s country charts in early spring of 2014 and No. 3 on Billboard’s Top 200.

Cash’s son John Carter Cash found the 12 previously unreleased master copies of his father’s songs and worked for more than a year making sure the posthumous album became a reality. The recordings, which took place in 1981 and 1984, when Cash was with Columbia, include a duet with Waylon Jennings and two duets with wife June Carter Cash. It was officially released by Columbia/Legacy on March 25 after impressive pre-order numbers.

Gentry, a friend of Lookout Alabama Publisher Randy Grider and supporter of the magazine, felt a bit of good karma associated with his visit to the Lookout Mountain area.

“Fort Payne, Alabama, you are good luck for me,” Gentry says. “I came down to Sweet Seasons Farm, made a lot of good friends, then sang mine and Hillman’s song and shortly after then I found out John Carter Cash had discovered the unreleased recordings. I’m very excited about the new Johnny Cash album containing my song. I’m thankful to John Carter, the Man in Black and Randy Grider, my old friend, for introducing me to the wonderful people in Fort Payne. I truly feel it’s God’s country.”

What others are saying about “I Drove Her Out of My Mind”:

“If you want to laugh out loud and know more about my dad’s sense of humor, listen to “I Drove Her Out of My Mind.” What a fun song. You know, I really can’t think of another song in which the person that’s telling the story laughs about committing suicide and killing the girl that he loves. It’s really unique; it’s like nothing my dad has ever recorded.

– John Carter Cash on theguardian.com

 

“Cash sounds most alive on “I Drove Her Out of My Mind,” the confession of a pilled-up madman who says goodbye to his ex by steering them both off a cliff. “It’s gonna be just gorgeous!” he cackles, before a choir softly and perversely repeats the phrase ‘to the pearly gates.’”

– rollingstone.com

“The most aggressive (and aggressively amusing) vocal on “Out Among the Stars” comes on Gary Gentry and Hillman Hall’s dark, tongue-in-cheek ‘I Drove Her Out of My Mind.’”

– theseconddisc.com

 

“‘I Drove Her Out of My Mind” is a honky-tonk, murder-suicide fantasy that’s more playful than that sounds.”

– slantmagazine.com

 

“Only the gallows humor of ‘‘I Drove Her Out of My Mind,’’ in which Cash unspools a madman’s fantasy about buying a Cadillac just so he can drive himself and his ex off a cliff, captures his murderous charm – a totality he wouldn’t fully inhabit until his Rick Rubin-assisted redemption in the ’90s.

– ew.com

 

“‘I Drove Her Out Of My Mind’ [is] right in the mode of classic Johnny Cash, who’s willing to delve deep into the darker side of life.

– savingcountrymusic.com

“‘I Drove Her Out Of My Mind” is superb – the honky-tonk rhythm and bitter lyrics are a fitting combination. The jumpy, jittery, rolling feel and angelic backing vocals are superb, and you can find the stand-out lines of the album here: “They’ll say Johnny Cash was quite a smash down here in Chattanooga/Last night when he drove her out of his mind/Yeah, that Cadillac dealer’s in for a big surprise, too – $99 down, $99 dollars a month/Yeah, it’s gonna be just GAWJUS.” You can imagine him smiling a doggone grin when he sang those lines, and boy, what a thrill it is to hear them.

– musicomh.com

“I Drove Her Out of My Mind” as well as the entire album can be downloaded at amazon.com and on iTunes.

 

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