Seth Libbey & The Liberals

Seth Libbey & The Liberals


"The ladies love to dance to The Liberals hillbilly-soul sounds" Two Stick Oxford, MS "Seth will always put on the best, funniest, upbeat performance you'll see" Whiskey Blues Starkville, MS "If you want to shake your hips, swing by and check out this group" George St. Grocery Jackson, MS


Taken from Jackson Free Press Vol. 6 No. 15 "Taking Liberties" by James Hughes.
December 2007.

Does your nose scrunch up when some journeyman troubadour lets you know he’s “paid his dues?” Mine too, usually, but it’s a claim Seth Libbey, who’s been singing and playing in public for half his 30 years, could get away with—not that I’ve ever heard him mutter it. For fans of Seth Libbey and the Liberals, some labels resonate, some stick in your craw, depending: old-timey, southern soul, redneck rhythm & blues (“hillbilly R&B,” in the words of one supporter) or drunken country gospel, as Libbey himself has been heard to say. These might be bland descriptors—underpowered rather than overstated—but a nice change from boasting that the band has no peers or predecessors (like some rock groups and their followers). Even as a youngster, Libbey was partial to grown-up grooves. He’ll tell you up front that his mom and dad turned him on to the music he loves—Muddy Waters, Motown, Merle Haggard—and he performs it unabashed and irony-free, though not so dead-seriously as an over-awed acolyte. “Why live in a van and sleep on couches and drive five hours a day just to play the same stuff every night?” Libbey says, explaining why he loathes cover bands that don’t make the songs their own and why he never uses a set list. No early days as a pouty poser shadow him, though he’s quick to rank punk outfit Social Distortion right up there with Robert Johnson, Little Walter and Etta James. He counts himself a fan of R.L. Burnside and Cary Hudson, both of whom he’s shared a stage with. Some may remember teenage Seth showing up for open-mic at the Biscuit Company in Vicksburg with his harmonica belt strapped on. I wasn’t along for the ride the night he gave my brother (who eventually helped make a movie about the place) directions to the Subway Lounge, but I don’t doubt Libbey when he says the late Levon Lindsey used to introduce him to the Subway crowd as “my son.” Libbey remembers the Biscuit Company in its ’90s heyday as a friendly but intense scene that “taught you how to be a performer,” with listeners sitting so close “you could hear what (they) were saying about you.” I recall a slightly maniacal, curly-blond youngster with harps for all the major keys girdling his waist, wailing into the microphone come hell or high water. (The Biscuit later drowned in a terrible flood and today sits bereft, forsaken by the city and the downtown developers.) And then, some years later, I recall a still-energetic but more-relaxed (and longer-haired) old hand, fronting his own combo at Fenian’s, joking with the audience and drawing from a deep bag of American songs. The band is aptly named, if by “Liberals” they mean to cover a wide range of musical style. Think Sly Stone meets Johnny Cash—an old field holler, “pick a bale of cotton,” becomes the refrain of a bluesy Seth original. Here’s some Marvin Gaye to sweeten—no, scratch that, to go with—the naked lust of “Northeast Texas Women,” a song by the same guy who wrote “Muskrat Love” (or “Muskrat Candlelight,” as it was first called), roughened up by the Liberals so that it crunches like early Z.Z. Top. A friend of mine likens Libbey to Donovan on speed, or Dancing Goat coffee (the house brew at Hwy. 61 Café, where Libbey sometimes plays). But which Donovan—the young Dylan disciple or the later hurdy-gurdy man? A blend of both, I think, but with some Otis Redding in his gut to go with the caffeine. With the Liberals revving him up further—Stan Black on lead guitar, Derrick Patton on bass, Matt Newman on drums—he’s liable to jump on tables or offer up the joint’s appliances and furnishings as door prizes. I’ll spare you further “sounds-like” noodling. Go hear Seth Libbey and the Liberals for yourself, if you haven’t already.

Set List

Sets are 60/40 Covers/Originals. Here is an example of our cover songs.

Northeast Texas Women
Folsom Prison Blues
Don't Think Twice It' Alright
Chain of Fools Medley
Set You Free
Let's Get It On
No Woman No Cry
Voodoo Child
One Way Out
Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound
Good Hearted Woman
Down By The Riverside
Take Me Out To The Ballgame
Papa Was A Rolling Stone
Love and Happiness
Good Hearted Woman