Possum Jenkins
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Possum Jenkins

Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States | SELF

Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States | SELF
Band Americana Rock

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Story by Lela Jackson
Boone residents have no doubt run across their fair share of possums, but there is just one that is really worth seeing live- local band Possum Jenkins. The band are regulars on the High Country music scene, pounding the pavement from Murphy's to Legends to Canyons and back again, spreading their own rambunctious brand of rock-blues-folk Americana tunes that the members have dubbed "Carolina-cana." Two weekends ago the Possums were rocking at Boone Saloon.
Way back in the winter of 2004, some friends got together and jammed at a party, liked the sound, and decided to take their acoustic act on the road. "The live band ended up being a lot more rock and roll than we'd originally anticipated," says Dave Willis, one-fourth of the possum posse. "We'd planned to do some acoustic covers, but by the time we really stared playing, it was a lot louder and more rowdy. We just went with it."
The one thing they lacked was a drummer. Instead of hiring someone from the outside, the intrepid bandmates decided to share the responsiblity, a decision that has ended up becoming one of Possum Jenkins' most distinguishing characteristics: the switch. "We can all keep a beat," says Dave Brewer, "So at some point we all do." With the exception of static bassist Jared Church, each member (Brewer, Willis and Nate Turner) plays both guitar and drums in a rotating order.
And they all sing and write the songs. Their first CD, 2005's descriptively titled "To What's Her Name, Wherever The Hell She Is," has lyrics and music penned by all the band members. Willis says this equality is important to the band's chemistry. "We don't have a lead singer. We don't have a big focus on one person. We don't have rockstar egos or anything like that. It's all about the music; that's why we're here."
The musical influences on this band are many and varied, and they fuse into an amalgam of sound that keeps fans on their toes. They cite everyone from Otis Redding to the Stone Temple Pilots among their favorites. "We pull from so many places," says Willis before the show. "Old country, old blues, soul, bluegrass..." "And showtunes," adds Brewer. "Lots of Broadway stuff." This elicits laughs from the rest of the band. "Yup. We got it all from Annie," jokes Church.
Daddy Warbucks and Rooster notwithstanding, it's the music that takes center stage here- Jenkins' bluesy lyrics of personal loss and woe set to driving country rock riffs and beats have garnered the band a dedicated following. The fans are a diverse group: college students, interested locals, other musicians, bar partrons-and they are out in force at Boone Saloon to see the local boys rock the stage. In the increasingly crowded bar, women sway and sing on the dancefloor while their boyfriends play air guitar and nod along with the beat.
The Possums put on an energetic show (despite it being their third gig in as many days,) tearing through an almost three hour setlist of original music coupled with a few carefully chosen covers. The crowd sings along, cheering on the swithces and applauding each new lead vocalist. "I Ain't Missin' and "Treat Me This Way" are crowed favorites as usual, showcasing the way a raucous country song can even make heartbreak appealing.
Even though "To What's Her Name..." is a fairly new release, these Possums aren't playing dead- they're heading into the studio this summer to record some new tracks. "I don't know that it will be a whole new CD of material," says Willis, "but we wanted to get these new songs recorded while they're fresh. They will definintely be available on our website."
"This is about having fun," states Willis matter-of-factly. "We all like music, we like each other's company, and we're here to have a good time." And that's what's really important for a live band, both for members and fans- having a good time. And a Possum Jenkins show is a mighty good time. - The Mountain Times


Story by Jennie Thompson
Throw me a deep driving guitar riff, and I'm hooked, especially if it's one that stems from loss and heartbreak.

The boys of Possum Jenkins understand how to deliver just that. Songs such as "I Ain't Missin'" and "Elevate Me, Mama" highlight precisely what effect dysfunctional romance has on the Southern man.

"I Ain't Missin'" begins on a particularly poignant and ironic note with an explanation to an ex of how easily the music comes now: "I know you always wanted me to write a song for you; well, now that you have left me … I got an idea or two."

This is what music of the South is all about: the ability to sass and rock through the blues and the ache. With Possum Jenkins' first album, "To Whatshername, Wherever the Hell She Is," its audience will be satisfied in terms of that tradition.

"This band was formed with guys who just got out of bad relationships," says David Brewer, one of the band's rotating musicians.

That common bond, coupled with Possum Jenkins' pride in its roots, is one of a few things the members share.

"We're all very happy to be from the South," Brewer said. "But we are not all necessarily cut from the same cloth."

Possum Jenkins members hail from all over North Carolina, including Kernersville (which Brewer refers to as "K-Vegas"), Gastonia and Clemmons, but essentially claims Boone as the band's home. On April 20, the band plays Greensboro for the first time at The Blind Tiger.

"We think of ourselves as an Americana band," Brewer said. "One of the guys calls us "Carolina-cana."

The band's influences are much broader than the mid-Atlantic, though. They can be heard in sliding strums and weighty drums throughout its work.

"I'm an Allman Brothers fan. They're a heavy touchstone for my guitar style except we don't really jam out (as they did)," Brewer said.

Yet Possum Jenkins is a versatile band. Three of the four members (with the exception of Jared Church, the stable bass player) trade the responsibilities of playing lead and rhythm guitars and drums. Each member offers vocals as well.

Brewer attributes Possum Jenkins' diversely textured sound to its unique and relaxed arrangement of musicians.

"The reason things sound so different dynamically is because we flip-flop and rotate instruments," he said.


This ever-changing atmosphere allows for a wide range of listener response, as well. To some of Possum Jenkins' songs, its fans may want to dance; to others, fight and drink.

"We definitely try to bring a rowdy aspect (to our concerts)," Brewer admits. "We honed our skills in this bar here in Boone called Murphy's. It's cramped, hot and smoky, and people try to dance, and we love it.

"We're definitely not the belly-button-gazing, singer-songwriter scene."

Still, Possum Jenkins has a respect for the cool and collected.
- Go Triad - Greensboro, NC


I recently heard a sermon by a down-to-earth pastor about how we all experience the world through lenses. I don't hear many sermons, but as a photographer that one spoke to me. We all have our own lenses, our own way of looking at the world, and certainly our own way of experiencing music.

As a photographer, I have had the opportunity to know many of our fine local musicians. I tend to hear live music through a literal lens -- a camera lens. I admit that I like the music better when the lighting is right and the musicians are expressive and physical, and therefore interesting to photograph.

So when I find a band whose music is so good that I put down my camera, that's really saying something.

That's how I knew that Possum Jenkins was golden the first time I heard the band play at The Garage in Winston-Salem. The Boone-based band blew me away with its raw energy and forceful good humor, which made me giddy despite my best efforts to focus on the photo opportunity. At that show, I found myself being twirled around the dance floor for the first time in 20 years. (Granted, harmonica player Brent Buckner kidnapped me to the dance floor.)

The band's music barreled through The Garage that night like a freight train, and when the show was over, the house was packed with a lot of happy, sweaty people. Even the band was surprised by the enthusiastic response to its Southern-fried rock rendition of "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley."

Every local band has a shtick that makes it unique, unforgettable, rare. If it doesn't, it is doomed to GRD: Garage Rock Death. In an area like ours, which is rich with talented musicians such as Andy Freakin' Mabe and the late Sam Moss, being memorable is pretty important.

So, what does Possum Jenkins offer a local music connoisseur? What makes this band so memorable?

For starters, the band members are likely to confuse you with their instrumental musical chairs.

Should you find yourself going to the bar or the bathroom, when you return you're likely to find the guitarist playing the drums, the drummer playing bass and the bassist playing keyboards. Jared Church, newlywed and bass magician, said, "We are able to challenge one another, and that keeps me interested and makes it fun for me." It is the band members' freedom. By not limiting themselves to one instrument, they are perpetually growing and changing as musicians. They never get bored, and neither does their audience.

With their musical inspiration ranging from Waylon Jennings and Steve Earle to Sly and the Family Stone and Otis Redding, their sound, which is fundamentally good, old-fashioned country, manages to be unique. Dave Brewer, band manager and mouthpiece, calls it "blistering country soul." Each of the band's songs reminds me of someone or something that I miss or need, or that I just haven't had yet. It's hard to describe how the sounds make you move and reminisce simultaneously and against your will, but it is an adventure that I highly recommend.

Jacqui Causey is a photographer living in Winston-Salem. Submit Off the Cuff columns to carla@gotriad.com. - GoTriad


Fresh off of their New Year’s Eve show at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem, the Americana Country Rock outfit Possum Jenkins will get their area appearances started with a bang, playing a trio of shows around the High Country during the busy Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

Starting on Friday night, January 13, members of the Possum posse can catch the instrument-switching band at their debut appearance at the Klondike Café.

On Saturday night, January 14, Possum Jenkins will make the short drive up the road to Banner Elk, making their second debut appearance of the weekend at Banner Elk’s live music hot spot of late, the Corner Palate.

Rounding out the weekend, the band will bring it back to familiar and rowdy environs as they make a rare Sunday night appearance at the ever-eventful Murphy’s on January 15.

Approaching their two-year anniversary, Possum Jenkins consists of Davo Willis on guitar, drums and vocals; Nate Turner on guitar, drums and vocals; Jared Church on bass and vocals; and Dave Brewer on guitar, drums and vocals.

A rollicking and potent Americana mixture of raw energy, raucous playing and clever songwriting, Possum Jenkins has worn their various influences on their sleeve while developing a cache of fan favorites from their own pens. Indeed, it has not been out of the ordinary to hear Possum originals alongside tunes from Willie Nelson, Stevie Wonder and Whiskeytown.

Playing regionally in support of their 2005 release To Whatshername, Wherever The Hell She Is…, the band has big plans for 2006, including expanding their reach farther across the state, launching their Website and possibly heading back into the studio later in the year to begin work on a follow-up to To Whatshername.

Although the band was conceived as a three-piece acoustic project, Possum Jenkins quickly morphed into a considerably more electric affair. With three of the four members tackling the drums as well guitar, the early live shows were an exercise in chaos as much as music, with members crawling around small, equipment-littered stages.

From Willis’ greasy guitar work to Turner’s bluesy vocal growl and Church’s pulsing bass lines to Brewer’s crashing drum work, Possum Jenkins’ live arsenal is certainly not in short supply of weapons.

Hitting a new stride with fresh originals and a slightly more streamlined approach to their live performances, Possum Jenkins is poised to make a leap to the next level.

Both Friday and Sunday night shows will have a $5 cover and will start around 10:30 p.m. Saturday night’s show in Banner Elk will be free of charge. You must be 21 to enter each show.

For more information about Possum Jenkins or to preview tracks from their CD, click to www.myspace.com/thepossumjenkinsband.

- High Country News


Discography

In October 2007, the band released their highly-anticipated sophomore effort entitled "On Time." The disc features seven new Possum Jenkins originals that confidently announce the band's artistic growth through driving, melodic Americana. The disc can be purchased at www.cdbaby.com.

The summer of 2005 marked the release of Possum Jenkins' upbeat, eclectic and rocking debut CD entitled 'To What's Her Name, Wherever The Hell She Is...' Several of the tracks have been featured on WNCW, North Carolina's top public radio station that is broadcast all over the Western part of the state as well as in Charlotte and into South Carolina. The band has also received airplay on 90.9 WQFS in Greensboro.

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Bio

Call it alt. country.
Call it Southern rock.
Call it Americana.
Call it shake-yo-ass blues-fried boogie with flashes of raucous cow punk.
Call it a honky-tonk Chinese fire drill.

Any one of those musical descriptors could hit the mark during a Possum Jenkins show and be dead on.

Since coming together during their final year at Boone, North Carolina’s Appalachian State University in 2004, rising Americana quartet Possum Jenkins has toiled and triumphed in bars, clubs and at festivals across their home state, as well as venturing into South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

A sonic Southern recipe of simple but effective melodies married to boundless, off-the-rails energy find the tight-knit group zeroing in on a sound that seamlessly incorporates strains of the timeless mountain music of Appalachia, the compelling alt. country of East Nashville and Austin, a touch funky Memphis soul and a helping of unabashed Southern rock.

It’s not hard to see why Possum Jenkins is just as comfortable sharing stages with outlaw legend Billy Joe Shaver as they are with blues rockers the North Mississippi Allstars. Fans of Shaver’s raw, heartfelt country as well as those of the Allstars’ brand of hill country boogie have both identified with the hard-driving and passionate Americana of Possum Jenkins that finds common ground in both traditions.

On Collection Of Bad Habits, the third independent studio release by Possum Jenkins, the Winston-Salem and Boone, NC-based quintet matches their strongest batch of original material with equally compelling production courtesy of Doug Williams (Avett Brothers, Mad Tea Party) of Electro Magnetic Radiation Recorders and former Emma Gibbs Band guitarist and vocalist Richard Upchurch. In addition to solid playing throughout by the band, guest turns by Will Straughn (Emma Gibbs Band, Shannon Whitworth) and longtime collaborator Aaron Burleson on keyboards add depth to the band’s self-described blend of “Carolinacana.” Swapping instruments throughout and sharing songwriting and lead vocal duties, Possum Jenkins’ driving, country-tinged rockers mesh perfectly with soulful acoustic fare, delivering the band’s most mature and fully realized album to date.