January 23, 2014 – It’s just one of those obligatory questions you ask musicians who stake a claim to Southern rock.
The answer is a foregone conclusion.
“The Allman Brothers changed my life,” Saving Abel rhythm guitarist Scott Bartlett says.
“Spiritual connections” to the genius of guitarist Duane Allman aside, nobody will mistake Saving Abel’s radio-friendly alternative rock for the free-form blues, jazz and guitar-soaring rock ’n’ roll legacy the Allman Brothers Band pioneered through epic, 45-minute renditions of “Mountain Jam.”
“We don’t have a timpani on stage, and we’re not doing 33-minute songs live at the Fillmore,” Bartlett says. “Our stuff is radio, but we have extended lead breaks. And live, I get to jam, get to shred and improv. But our songs don’t go longer than six minutes.”
But the Allmans hold such a profound place on Saving Abel’s stage that the subject of lead vocalist Jared Weeks leaving the band to go solo takes a back seat in the conversation so Bartlett can squeeze all due respect for the Allman Brothers out of the moment.
“I’ll take the Allmans every day,” he says.
Weeks and lead guitarist Jason Null formed Saving Abel in the small town of Corinth, Miss., in 2004, bringing in Bartlett, bass player Eric Taylor and drummer Blake Dixon.
Weeks and Null would forge the band’s chief songwriting partnership that would lead to four records, including last year’s release, “Crackin’ the Safe;” singles that received heavy radio airplay, with their biggest hit, “Addicted,” from their 2008 self-titled debut shooting to No. 2 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs chart; and CD sales totaling more than 2 million.
But just before Christmas, Weeks posted on the band’s Facebook page that he was moving to Nashville to begin work on a solo recording project.
Figure Weeks’ departure being the equivalent to Gregg Allman leaving the Allman Brothers for a solo career — which Allman did, although he’s managed to balance a solo career and front the Allman Brothers since the mid 1970s.
Unlike Gregg Allman — Weeks voiced no intentions of returning to Saving Abel.
“It was obvious (Weeks) needed some time away,” Bartlett says, noting that Weeks “wanted to go more country” in his solo endeavors.
“But we cannot stop,” Bartlett insists. “If you ultimately decided that you want to go, we love you to death, we’re still best of buds, but it’s still a job, too. He’s gonna keep working. We’re gonna keep working. It’s an amicable split. There is no bad blood.”
The same day Weeks posted his notice, drummer Michael McManus also announced his departure.
Friday night, when Saving Abel takes the stage at Cheers Pub, Bartlett, Null, Taylor and drummer Steven Pulley will be backing lead singer and former Trash The Brand frontman Scotty Austin.
It’s a win-win situation for Austin and his old bandmates from Trash The Brand.
Austin gets a fresh gig as Saving Abel’s lead singer — which Bartlett compares to Mark Wahlberg’s character in the dream-come-true movie “Rock Star,” where a singer in a rock tribute band gets hired to front the actual band he idolizes, although Trash the Brand is not a tribute act — and Austin’s old Trash The Brand guys stay employed as Saving Abel’s road crew.
“We’re under the same management,” Bartlett says of both bands’ manager, Jeffrey Hanson, who “was instrumental” in hooking Austin up with Saving Abel.
“They were gonna open for us on this tour, but, obviously that’s not happening now,” Bartlett says. “So the rest (of Trash The Brand) are our road crew.”
Some things won’t change — such as those sex-laden Saving Abel songs that struck a chord with legions of fans. “Addicted” found its way to heavy airplay after the band conceded to tone down the song’s sexually explicit lyrics for mainstream radio.
“We just tweaked it a little bit. The label wanted it,” Bartlett says.
Still, he maintains, “We just write what we know.”
Sex, sex and rock ’n’ roll.
“Everybody’s doing it, so why not talk about it?” Bartlett asks. “How many billion people are in the world now? They can relate. We just try to make it memorable.”
Compared to Weeks, whose voice lent a Three Doors Down-type radio tone, Austin brings a “dirtier rock ’n’ roll voice” to the band, Bartlett says.
“He’s got an Axl Rose thing going on,” Bartlett says. “We wanted to go more rock ’n’ roll, so we got a rock ’n’ roll singer.”
By JEFF HARRELL South Bend Tribune Jan 23, 2014 (0)
Photo: Saving Abel performs Friday at Cheers Pub in Roseland. (Photo provided JEFF MINTLINE/Mintypics)