Way Up South is a northern band with deep southern rock roots. Way Up South's music goes in directions and to places beyond the Southern Rock or Jam Band genres, and has earned them the right to call their music "Big Sky" sound, incorporating a maturity and musicianship that weaves in and out of southern, blues, country, jazz, and Americana rock songs with precision and finesse that still retains the loose spacey qualities that are the hallmark of improvisational rock.
Listening to one of their many extended jams, you will be transported to those natural wide open spaces in your mind where you can breathe easy and do some soul dancing. Fresh vocal harmonies, instrumental virtuosity, and dynamic energy transference between the musicians and the audience are the hallmarks of Way Up South.
"A few songs in they played a song, “Ghost” which in my opinion showcased the signature sound of this band. It had elements of country rock, blues rock, and psychedelic rock – very “Big Sky”. "
Recorded almost exclusively live in bassist’s John Brigham’s home studio, the band’s debut album truly reflects the “Big Sky” sound that characterizes a Way Up South live show. The band insisted on producing the CD LIVE, with no extra special studio effects or add-ons, so they could give the fans an experience akin to seeing the band in person. The decision was made not to set any limits on time or the length of the jams so that fans would get a real taste of the signature Way Up South “Big Sky” sound. Says guitarist Charley Carrozo, “Most of all, we made a record that represents our aspirations and passions. That is why we are all so proud of this record. The album was recorded with no restraints on the music…The sound of Way Up South is supposed to be felt as much as heard, just like at a live show, and between the mixes and the performances I think we achieved that with this first album.”
The guitars loll like a river, punctuated by strained notes and fills that evoke the moment before the gunfight in an old-time Western. The sound – which the band refers to as “Big Sky” – conjures images of the music stretching out across wide deserts and grand vistas, disappearing into the horizon.
A lot of this effect is generated by the muscular, haunted vocals and the oddly isolated guitar line. Everything else, even the percussion, feels like it’s receding into the background, which means that when the vocals or guitar lines pop, there’s something isolated and lonely about them.
That desert-whistle loneliness informs the song, and while we really don’t learn the nature of the “ghost” that’s haunting the persona, the feeling of old loss and pain is palpable, although lines such as “c’mon boy/come and fly with me again/I’ve been with you from the start/I’ll be with you in the end” bespeak something more visceral and ingrained than loss. Addiction? Depression? A dark whisper in your ear you can’t recall never hearing? The particulars don’t really matter. All that matters is, for at least a brief moment, the ghost is too much to silence.
The band’s live shows always feature a heavy dose of their signature original songs that fit in well with a diverse array of choice cover tunes, such as Whipping Post by the Allman Brothers and Willin’ by Little Feat. Even when Way Up South plays other covers that are not from the Southern Rock repertoire, like “Turn On Your Love Light” a Bobby Bland song made famous by the Grateful Dead (played as a jazz rock tune) or “Big Shot” by Billy Joel (played like a blues rock tune), they take the audience out of their comfort zone by playing them in styles that makes them familiar and new at the same time.
These veteran musicians have also played as supporting musicians in a variety of other projects: Another Planet was Merle Saunders’ backup band; John Brigham played with members of the Allman Brothers; Dave Osoff played with Little Feat, Leon Russell, Spindoctors, and Widespread Panic; and AJ Vallee played with The Southern Rock All-Stars (featuring members of Marshall Tucker Band, Molly Hatchet, and Blackfoot) and with Grammy nominated Doug Bell. Still other members of Way Up South have been on bills with Derek Trucks, Rusted Root, Merle Saunders, JGB, The Radiators, Aquarium Rescue Unit, and moe., to name a few.