Saddlesong – Little by Little
Perhaps it’s the voices of brothers Carter and Courtney Little that gain Saddlesong its somewhat unwanted recognition as a country act, especially when their harmony has that distinctive quality of classic sibling pairings. “If you do one song that sounds even remotely country, this town wants to pigeonhole you,” says bassist Earle Simmons. The group’s twang is infused with folk-based melodies, rock-tinged guitars, and a keen sense of American storytelling. “We never know if one of us is going to bring in a folk tune or a punk song,” Carter jokes.
The Little brothers grew up in Chicago. Courtney migrated to Nashville in the summer of 1998; Carter followed about three years later. There they met Nashville natives Simmons, Tim Blankenship (drums), and Eric McConnell (steel guitar). Blankenship and McConnell had been in a band together previously; the other three met through various friends.
The quintet began performing as Saddlesong in the spring of 2001 and have opened for such acts as Steve Earle, Allison Moorer and Tony Joe White. They were selected best local alt-country band (along with Pinmonkey) in the 2002 “Best Of Nashville” section of the alternative-weekly Nashville Scene.
Saddlesong’s self-titled, self-released debut album reflects the band members’ diverse musical tastes, which range from bluegrass and rock to opera and jazz, and a love for American songwriting. Tracks stretch from the jangly, Stones-like rock of the opening “Mable” to the classic country-rock melodicism of “California” to the gospel-soaked “Glory”. Each song sports well-crafted lyrics and a heady, melancholic drawl that lends a sense of deliberation, no matter the tempo.
Ultimately, they’re still struggling to find their niche. “The album does sound a bit schizophrenic, and I think that’s because we’re young,” Carter says. “Perhaps the next one will be a little more streamlined, but for now we’re happy with what came out of it. It was where we were at the time.”
Saddlesong’s strength lies in the separate songwriting styles of the Little brothers. Courtney maintains a self-involved stance, while his brother delves into other points of view, creating two distinct but somehow complementary voices for the band. “It’s a group effort and each of the band members contribute to the process,” Carter adds. “It starts out as a song written by Courtney or myself, but in the end it’s realized as Saddlesong through a collaborative effort.”
The band is working on new material for a sophomore record, but plans to concentrate on touring in the South and Midwest in the immediate future. As for a record deal — they laugh, and Carter answers after a long pause: “We like the responsibility and freedom that comes by being independent. We get to do our own thing and we love that. But we definitely wouldn’t turn it down.”