The name Velvet Truckstop works off of two disparate images: a velvet Elvis and an interstate diner. But it calls to mind something else — something decidedly Southern, yet traveled; something blue collar, yet decadent; something familiar, yet slightly dangerous. All of which work pretty well when it comes to the sound of the local rockers who go by that moniker. And, though Velvet Truckstop has been a band for more than half a decade (guitarist Dorsey Parker and lead vocalist/guitarist/mandolin player Jamie Dose are the two consistent members), it’s this spring that the right kind of momentum is building to catapult them to national recognition.
Not that Parker and Dose are saying that. “We weren’t born with rock star last names,” is what Dose says. Which means they’ve had to work hard. But, lately, Velvet Truckstop has been brushing elbows with rock pedigree, mainly in the form of producer Johnny Sandlin, who has been associated with Capricorn Records and musicians from around Muscle Shoals, Ala. He worked on the Allman Brothers’ early ‘70s-era albums and on the Cher and Gregg Allman duet. He worked with Marie Osmond and produced two Widespread Panic records. In 2009, he expressed interest in Velvet Truckstop.
“He’s a big part of the music Dorsey and I grew up with,” says Dose. Both he and Parker agree that garnering Sandlin’s attention was an assurance that they’re on the right track. Because, face it, recent years have been more about a folk-punk aesthetic than Southern rock. (Says Dose, “We’d like to see musicianship come back, and we’d like it to have electric guitars. We’re not going to change our sound and start writing with drum machines.”)
“When you’re under a lot of pressure [in the studio], it can be difficult to get really focused,” says Parker, “But Johnny’s so calm and focused on what the music needs. It was an amazing experience to to work with someone we all respected and who was coming from the perspective of what makes the song the best.”
Parker and Dose think that the recording process has made them a better band — Dose likens Sandlin’s method to molding wet clay. “He shaped the band’s raw material,” says the singer. “We went through the process. Sometimes your ego’s like, ‘That’s not how we pictured things,’ but when you end up with a finished product, which is what an album is, you can see how strong of an influence he was on what we were doing, and from here on.”
After a couple of years of meetings and sessions in Alabama, the Sandlin-helmed album (as yet unnamed) is close to release, and while a drop date has not been set, Parker and Dose are hoping that it might be concurrent with Velvet Truckstop’s just-announced headlining slot at Downtown After Five. Parker and Dose (with current band members Jacob Baumann on drums and Ian Herrod on bass) will launch the season’s monthly street party series on Friday, May 18. And they’ll do it in style — with guests Shen Hunt of the Zach Deputy Band on percussion and Tom Constanten on keys. Constanten performed with The Grateful Dead from 1968-70. He was on Velvet Truckstop’s debut album, Sweet Release, and played some shows with the band before moving to the West Coast for awhile.
“We were happy to find out he was going to be available for the May show,” says Dose.
That means Velvet Truckstop will not only be showing off its new material but “we’ll get to dive into the Grateful Dead catalog a little more than we would otherwise,” says Parker.
Before that show happens, Velvet Truckstop may have some other big news to report. The band has been nominated by the Charlotte Music Awards for best N.C. band in both the rock and country categories. The awards show takes place on Thursday, April 26, followed immediately by two (hopefully celebratory!) Asheville shows.
— Alli Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
who: Velvet Truckstop
where: Friday, April 27 (9 p.m., opening for Planet of the Abts at Pisgah Brewing. $12 advance or $15 day of show. http://pisgahbrewing.com.)
where: Saturday April 27 (9 p.m. at Emerald Lounge, with Joe Fletcher & the Wrong Reasons. $7. emeraldlounge.com.)