Tab Spencer
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Tab Spencer

Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013

Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Americana Folk




"Stream Tab Spencer's new EP, "Somewhere, TN""

Nepotism isn't always such a bad thing. There's been a history of familial musical legacies going all the way back to Hank Williams and the Carter Family—and further, depending on where you look and listen. Some people swear that it's simply genetics; others point to the hard work and determination of the artists. And maybe it is a little bit of both, but there's no denying the creative drive that unmistakably snakes its way through certain families.
And that sense of melodic lineage leads us to Chattanooga singer-songwriter Garrett Bourdon, whose musician father went by the name Tab Spencer back in the '70s. Adopting his father's pseudonym for his own brand of folk and country-styled narratives, Bourdon and fellow musician Jack Kirton (of Endelouz) began recording together as Tab Spencer—carrying on the musical mantle of Bourdon's father.
On their latest collection of songs, "Somewhere, TN," the duo channels the spirits of artists like Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown, applying their ramshackle bucolic aesthetic to a set of songs that is as timeless as Bourdon's honest and unadorned voice and as powerful as a runaway freight train. This is music that hits those nerves long worn down by regret and remorse—allowing them the opportunity to feel pain and joy and sorrow once again.
Mixing together aspects of bluegrass, country and folk music—not to mention more than its fair share of Southern rock inclinations—"Somewhere, TN" is awash in gorgeous hues of acoustic rhythms and lyrical inclusiveness. Opening track "What's the Reason" plays out like some forgotten gem from Bob Dylan's "Nashville Skyline" sessions—all steel guitar, graceful violin and workingman perspectives. "Undiscovering America" is an acoustic-mannered song that deals with the façade of everyday life and the effort it takes to uncover your purpose in this world.
The title track of the album finds Bourdon and Kirton delving a bit deeper into the lives of the original bluesmen, as well as touching on aspects of traditional bluegrass. The slithering string work gets under your skin in the best possible way, lifting up the melody until it's held aloft by heartfelt vocals and airy instrumentation. The album closes with "New York," a song that feels far more musically subdued than its predecessors. Tremulous pedal steel notes shuffle along beside a measured acoustic melody and filaments of mournful violin.
Bourdon, Kirton and a collection of other Chattanooga musicians (including Davvy Glab, John Tunstall, Joey Berkley, Dennis Hubbard and B. Spaz Macisco), have polished these well-worn sounds until they glimmer like precious stones reflecting sunlight. By drawing on their own familiarity with these rhythms—and having guidance through a tightly held family connection—the songs on "Somewhere, TN" feel as relevant and necessary as anything you're likely to hear in the near future.
Regardless of whether you think there isn't anything creative left to say or do within these genres, it is hard to argue with the sheer tenacity that Bourdon and Kirton bring to these songs. And once you've had your first listen, it won't be long before you'll be back, setting "Somewhere, TN" on repeat and waiting patiently for whatever else these two guys care to share. -

"Paying Tribute to Generation Before"

Tim Buckley begat Jeff Buckley. Bob Dylan begat Jakob Dylan. Tab Spencer begat Garrett Bourdon. Three sons following in their father’s footsteps; three musicians, each finding their own voice. Plenty has already been written about the first two. The third duo is our subject today.

In the ’70s, Tab Spencer was the stage name of a Nashville country songwriter. Today, Tab Spencer is the name of the band that belongs to that songwriter’s son, a token of respect and tribute to the musical gift passed down from one generation to the next. The men behind the band are Bourdon on vocals and guitar and Jack Kirton on pedal steel, harmonica and background vocals.

The fellows have just finished up their latest recording, a four-track EP featuring three tunes by Bourdon, one by Kirton and the violin and piano of guest artist John Tunstall. When I say, “just finished”, I am being literal. This project was wrapped up just about 72 hours ago and as far as I know I am the first person to hear it who wasn’t actually involved in its creation. Now it is my job to tell you about it, gentle reader, and that’s no mean feat.

Is it folk? Well, sure, there are undeniably some folk elements. Is it country? Arguably, yes, but not commercial, wangy-twangy country, it’s something a little more mature than that. I hesitate to use the word “Americana” only because the term is used so freely and indiscriminately these days that it’s become almost meaningless BUT…if we subscribe to the AMA’s very specific definition, “contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles” then, yes, that is absolutely what it is (but that still doesn’t tell us much).

In a nutshell, this collection of tunes reminds me of Townes Van Zandt. That’s very odd because none of the tunes sound specifically like Townes, but there is definitely some ineffable quality shared by Tab Spencer and one my favorite songwriters of all time. There is something of the workingman poet here.

“What’s the Reason” is the first track on the album (titled Somewhere, TN) and it is a flawless introduction to Tab Spencer. In his distinctive voice, Bourdon croons languidly over the confluence of violin, guitar and pedal steel. It is a concoction that is two parts blue collar, three parts philosophy. It is a beautiful tune.

“Undiscovering America” is the next song, this one penned by Kirton whose talent has been written about in this column already. His prodigious writing ability filtered through Bourdon’s unique delivery is a great example of what happens when collaboration goes right.

“Somewhere, TN” is the titular track, an ode to loss and longing. I will say two things of this track: 1) Tunstall’s fiddle playing is outstanding. It was a good song already, but the fiddle really makes this one for me. 2) If Bourdon doesn’t own one of those denim and sheepskin coats, someone needs to buy him one. There’s some powerful imagery in this tune.

“New York” rounds out the recording and it is the perfect bookend to the project, a powerful and emotional piece that seems to summarize everything that came before it in a sweet/tragic resolution.

Somewhere, TN is music for music lovers, musicians and anyone whose musical palate is just a little more refined. It is a very intelligent piece of work, and I doubt it will be long before Richard Winham has it in heavy rotation during afternoon drive time.

In the meantime, you can find Tab Spencer at Barking Legs on May 29, the Honest Pint on June 16 and periodically at the Pickle Barrel (check Facebook for times and dates). - The Chattanooga Pulse


Still working on that hot first release.



Tab Spencer are Tennessee sons with an urban memory. Their music is a combination of Americana and Neo-folk music with lyrics set in a thoroughly modern setting. The band recently released their second album entitled, "Somewhere, TN" and is on the road in support of the record. The band can currently be found winding through back-roads and interstates to share their haunting melodies and definitive lyrics with all listeners and passersby.

Band Members