Today, Amy Ray announces the release of her tenth solo album, If It All Goes South, out September 16 on Amy's own Daemon Records, and shares a peek into the album sessions with a DIY video for her upbeat song "A Mighty Thing" featuring Sarah Jarosz. The song, which captures the fervor of a tent revival meeting and features the propulsive banjo picking of Alison Brown, deals with how Jesus figures into the identity of gay Southerners raised surrounded by the Christian faith — "they taught me how to hate myself" Amy sings — but also explores the comfort offered by the "true gospel of love."
Amy Ray: One of my favorite moments from recording my new record, If It All Goes South, was the night we recorded "A Mighty Thing". My band and I were recording live to tape in Nashville, and it was not only the last day of our recording session but the last 4 hours. The virtuosic, Sarah Jarosz showed up after flying home from a gig, she came straight to the studio from the airport, mandolin in hand. We popped her into an iso booth and all got into our positions and did about 7 takes. Then we picked our favorite, recorded her harmonies, and the song was ready to mix. It was an appropriate whirlwind recording experience to go along with the punkabilly nature of the music and lyrics for this song.
The best line I have heard recently from a preacher, was at a funeral for a friend up in North Georgia. The preacher was so excited about Jesus, and in his evangelizing about Jesus, he kept saying over and over, "Folks, you can’t beat that deal”. I grew up in the church and this was one of the most convincing moments I have ever experienced, the sheer charisma, the glory. But then in the afterglow, I thought of all my self loathing and years of healing I needed to get past the negative parts of my church life. But, I will never lose hold of the positive things, and all the teachers that taught me about the true gospel of love in every aspect of my life. One thing I know for sure, fear is what keeps us apart, and this song is all about that too.
Recorded live to tape at Nashville’s Sound Emporium and mainly produced by her frequent collaborator Brian Speiser, If It All Goes South owes much of its freewheeling vitality to the potent chemistry between Ray and her longtime bandmates, including guitarist Jeff Fielder (a Seattle-based musician known for his work with artists like Mark Lanegan and Duff McKagan), keyboardist Daniel Walker (Heart, Ann Wilson, John Fullbright), pedal-steel player Matt Smith (also a member of The Honeycutters), banjo player Alison Brown, fiddle player/guitarist Adrian Carter, bassist Kerry Brooks, and drummer Jim Brock. The follow-up to 2018’s Holler (a widely acclaimed release featuring Vince Gill and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon), the album also includes a dazzling lineup of guest musicians: Brandi Carlile, Allison Russell, The Highwomen’s Natalie Hemby, Phil Cook, and I’m With Her, to name a few.
In keeping with the spirited eclecticism that’s always defined Ray’s work (the cathartic punk of her 2001 solo debut Stag, the finespun country of 2014’s Goodnight Tender), If It All Goes South encompasses everything from gospel to punkabilly to folk, each handled with equal parts unruly ingenuity and extraordinary precision.
“Every day we had a new challenge—we’d have a string section in one room, the band in the main room, the backup singers somewhere else, and we had to figure how to make it all happen live,” says Ray, who also had the album mixed to tape by sound engineer/mixer Bobby Tis (Tedeschi Trucks Band, Neal Francis). “But even though the parameters were much stricter, I think it really added to the character of the record,” she adds. “You had to either love what you’d done, or commit to doing it all over again.”
Completed in nine whirlwind days, the making of If It All Goes South includes countless moments of indefinable magic. In reimagining an Indigo Girls gem called “They Won’t Have Me,” for instance, Ray and her bandmates pulled off the tremendous feat of deftly switching from acoustic to electric instruments mid-recording, giving way to one of the most powerfully exhilarating turns on the album. And for Ray, those moments of communion with her fellow musicians have proven to be an endless source of sustenance.
“My band and I have been driving around in a van together for about nine years now, so at this point we’re like family,” she says. “We’re all so loyal to each other and to the project, and everybody’s doing it for the love of it. For us it’s about carrying your own amp, putting on your own show, and being proud at the end of the night that you were able to achieve something. None of us ever wants to get too comfortable—it’s always about the act of trying.”
The Amy Ray Band will kick off the release with the following shows. Look for additional dates to be announced soon. Go to www.amy-ray.com for updates.
AMY RAY BAND - CD RELEASE SHOWS
WED, Sept. 21 Asheville, NC - Salvage Station w/Katie Pruitt
THU, Sept. 22 Atlanta, GA - The Fox Theater; Amy Ray Band supports Brandi Carlile
FRI, Sept. 23 Franklin, TN - The Franklin Theatre