Why do Truth and Salvage Co. sound so familiar? Maybe it’s because every song on their self-titled debut includes catchy sing-along refrains that are instantly memorable. Or it could be the music’s steady resemblance to the country-rock-pop, Hootie-esque vibe that permeated the South in the ’90s. Perhaps it’s Chris Robinson’s hand on the producer dials; they’re the first group signed to the Black Crowes lead singer’s Silver Arrow label.
For this writer, after nearly a year of hearing their music, the familiarity clicked. It goes back to 1999, drinking on a fake ID at Barley’s Taproom in Asheville, watching the rambunctious string-rock band Scrappy Hamilton work a pizza parlor crowd into a frenzy.
Check Truth and Salvage’s bio online and their progenitor, Scrappy Hamilton, is referred to as an L.A. band. The quartet of Bill “Smitty” Smith (drums), Joe Edel (bass), Scott Kinnebrew (guitar), and Walker Young (keys) packed up in 2005 and moved from N.C. to California, chasing the dream.
“For three years we were just picking up odd jobs,” says Kinnebrew, who at one point found himself donning a Lycra bodysuit covered in little Velcro balls, playing guitar while lasers captured his strumming, kicking, and twirling as a 3-D motion model for Guitar Hero 3. “There were humbling moments. We had a weekly gig at a club, and we’d get together every week just for the love of playing. Some nights it was the most magical thing, and some nights it was horrific.”
It wasn’t until the band settled into their own jobs and lives, putting aside the stress of trying to succeed as a national act, that fortune came calling. Songwriter Tim Jones joined on guitar, as well as Adam Grace as a second keyboardist. Truth and Salvage Co. was born. Kinnebrew says it was the pure, organic nature of their music that caught Robinson’s ear and ultimately put them under his watch in the studio and opening on the Crowes’ summer tour. In a surreal twist, pop star Katy Perry, who was dating a friend of the band, even lent a lyric to finish the chorus of the song “Old Piano.” Another track, “Them Jeans,” was left off the disc but will soon appear as an advertising clip with the band for Gap jeans.
“We could talk for days about how ridiculous life in Los Angeles is,” says Kinnebrew. “Scrappy burned the miles and kept on doing it, and after all this time we were able to get to this place. We feel very fortunate.”
If there’s a striking aspect of Truth and Salvage Co.’s music that stands out, it’s the chorus of voices throughout verses and refrains. Four of the six members contribute to songs, and any random line of a song might turn into a four-part harmony. It’s a technique that, in a very simple fashion, underscores how tight and comfortable the band members are with their personal role within the collaboration.
“It really started off that way, where just for the joy of song, we’d start singing and come up with four-part harmonies,” says Kinnebrew. “Even this feel-good song Timmy wrote, called ‘Them Jeans,’ everybody started singing together and being boisterous. It just felt joyous. You realize the power of group singing. It really translates well with the listener and makes them want to sing along too.”
The old Scrappy boys have gotten their Southern fix this winter, opening for the Avett Brothers during their New Year’s run in Asheville, before joining Sister Hazel’s RockBoat cruise in January. And a week after their Pour House gig, they’ll get back on the boat with Lynyrd Skynyrd for the Simple Man Cruise.
Look for them out on Folly Beach when they come to town.
“Every time I’m in Charleston, it feels like home to go back there,” says Kinnebrew, who spent his pre-Asheville childhood days in New Orleans. “It’s our second time coming through with Truth and Salvage, so I only imagine it’ll be twice the fun.”