Alabama-based rock and rollers Rob Aldridge & the Proponents leaned into a two-part strategy for their upcoming second album Mind Over Manners: speak thoughtful truths and back them up with tasteful grooves. To that end, they dodged the dreaded sophomore-slump by a mile, delivering a twelve-song collection strong enough to break through into the ranks of fellow-Alabaman contemporaries like Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit or Alabama Shakes. This week, JamBase premiered Rob Aldridge & the Proponents’ title track from their new album, “Mind Over Manners.”
Seemingly taking one part loosely-timed Bay Area rock—think Jerry Garcia’s lilting “Birdsong”—and one part sweet-soul of Stax-era Otis Redding, the Props crafted a tune both effortlessly timeless in its feel and devastatingly timely with its message. Inspired directly by the Black Lives Matter movement, Aldridge describes “Mind Over Manners” as “a response to white people who dismiss the movement based on the riots and property damage.” Aldridge adds, “It’s essentially asking white people who feel this way, ‘If you’re being honest with yourself about the history of racism in this country, how can you blame them for rioting?’” Fans can hear “Mind Over Manners” now at this link and pre-order or pre-save the full album ahead of its January 21st release right here.
The Proponents recorded Mind Over Manners at Studio 144, a smokey clubhouse-like loft space in Green Hill, Alabama. Aldridge produced the album with Jay Burgess of Shoals psych-rock/power-pop band The Pollies. In addition to the Proponents’ current lineup—guitarist Rob Malone (Drive By Truckers), Nick Recio (Great Peacock) on drums, and the late Stone Anderson on bass—Burgess’ bandmate Clint Chandler contributed keyboards on “Mind Over Manners,” and the strings were courtesy of cellist Caleb Elliott and violinist Kimi Samson. Grammy-winner Gary Nichols, formerly of The Steeldrivers, contributed lyrics to the song “Devil on Sunday” and Freddie Hewitt did so on “Poor Taste.” Mind Over Manners follows The Proponents’ feisty, lean 2018 self-titled debut, which contained the Wilco-meets-Skynyrd gem “I Won’t Be There.” In 2020, Burgess and The Pollies backed Aldridge on “All Along After All,” a song scape-drenched EP boasting standout vignette “Man Made Lake.” That EP helped inspire Aldridge to be more sonically adventurous on the next Props record. “Jay knows how to make things sound really big,” Aldridge says. “And I feel like The Proponents are good at making things sound really big with very little. And usually somewhere in the middle between where I want to go and where he wants to go is where we find this cool sound.”
For a talented band that’s paid its dues, the release of Mind Over Manners should be a triumph. And it is. But it’s a bittersweet triumph. In April of 2021, Proponents bassist Stone Anderson died from an accidental drug overdose. His passing shook the North Alabama music scene and of course the band. For Aldridge, it’s been especially tough. He and Anderson had been tight since they were little kids. Even now, Aldridge will sometimes catch himself reaching for the phone to text Stone a new music idea or just a funny thought. As the finishing touches were being put on Mind Over Manners, Aldridge was haunted by the fact this was the last thing he’d ever work with Stone on.
Anderson’s death at age 27 was truly tragic, but Mind Over Manners is a fitting final statement from a musician destined for bigger stages. “[On] The first record Stone was still learning how to play the bass,” Aldridge says of Anderson, who was also an accomplished singer, guitarist, and drummer. “His talent and potential were all very much there, but he hadn't quite figured it all out yet. On this album, his bass playing is just fantastic.” For live shows, The Proponents have added Matt Ross, who played with Malone in the popular regional band The Fiddleworms, to play bass. “Matt showed up to the first rehearsal and knew everything already,” Aldridge says, “without even using charts or anything. And he loved Stone. It was an easy decision.” So yeah, a lot of miles, smiles, pain, crescendos, and whispers went into making Mind Over Manners. It’s the kind of album that’s meant to live life to. Asked what effect he hopes his music has on people who hear it, Aldridge says, “If you find yourself in a situation where one of my songs enhances it or you can escape into it, I just want people to enjoy listening to Mind Over Manners. If they just want to turn it on quietly in the background, it's got good vibes...it adds to a room. Or if they want to crank it up and get into it, there's plenty there for them to do that.”
For more information please visit robaldridgemusic.com.
Mind Over Manners Tracklist:
Mind Over Manners
Want It More
Explaining To Do
Devil On Sunday
Loneliest of Company
Ball of Yarn