Local band brings back Southern rock sound on debut album

Published 12:01 am Sunday, June 5, 2016

They’re bringing back the kind of rock ’n‘ roll that no one plays anymore.

Fans have called Bishop Gunn’s sound a resurrection of Southern blues rock, a fitting description since the band’s name is scrawled on a tombstone in the Natchez City Cemetery.

Named for Natchez Bishop John Edward Gunn — the Catholic Bishop of Natchez from 1911 to 1924 — the band formed in the summer of 2014 as a studio project.

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Drummer Burne Sharp and guitarist Hudson Laird had been playing music together for years.

The two kept hearing about the talents of singer Travis McCready and decided to ask him to play a gig with them at the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race.

“I told them I wasn’t going to do it originally,” McCready said. “I didn’t think I had the time to make it right, and I didn’t want to tank for them. I really don’t know how we pulled that together, but before we left the stage, we were hired for Friday night at the next year’s balloon race.”

The band worked in the studio for several months recording songs before booking a few more gigs. They picked up bass player Dan Scott about a year ago. Scott was a drummer for McCready’s former band, but as it turns out, bass is his passion.

“With everyone playing together, it’s really cool how the chemistry came together as far as styles,” Sharp said. “Hudson and I had been playing together for years, and Travis and Dan played together for 15 years. The chemistry is already there.”

Bishop Gunn characterizes their music as a blend of blues and rock ’n‘ roll with Southern flavor. They’ve made it a point to incorporate the roots of the Americana Music Triangle, which stretches over Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas.

McCready writes the majority of the songs, usually finding a melody first and then adding lyrics. McCready said he pulls inspiration from experiences in his life.

“It’s a little bit more working class,” he said. “I was a welder for almost 10 years and a musician at night, so it’s about working and living that kind of life and trying to make it out of that through music.”

The band recently released its self-titled debut album, and the band says the response has been overwhelming. The band played to a packed house in Natchez May 28 for the album’s official release party.

“It’s really been surreal,” Scott said. “We have people honking at us around town and saying hi to us in the middle of the grocery store. People really seem to like it, and we’re all taken aback by it and humbled by it.”

Although Bishop Gunn had offers from record labels to release the album, Sharp said the band chose to self-release their music because they prefer “the grassroots side of things.”

Not that the band is against eventually signing with a label.

“We just want to do that when we’re valuable enough that a label can’t change us,” Sharp said.

The album was recorded as Sharp’s studio — Sharp Sound Design — in Natchez. The band worked with producer Casey Wasner of The Purple House in Leiper’s Fork, Tenn., for the album, and recorded horns and other instruments to add to the album with studio musicians.

The band currently has enough original material for three albums and said they are looking forward to sharing their music with the world, especially its roots in Natchez.

“Natchez is such a beautiful place, and, historically, it’s been a very cultured and musically cultured place,” Sharp said. “Everything washed down the Mississippi River and went back up the Natchez Trace. We definitely want that imagery and that old time feel conjured up. We’re trying to embody that.”

That connection to their roots is what Laird says he thinks appeals to many of the band’s fans.

“People love that we are bringing back the kind of rock ’n‘ roll that people don’t play anymore,” he said.