by Al Kaufman
In the late 1980s, Atlanta and Athens were what Seattle was to become in the ’90s. Flip from one station to the next and you’d hear the Indigo Girls, the Black Crowes, the B-52’s, or the band that started it all, REM. If you had a band and you lived in Athens or Atlanta, someone wanted to sign you.
After finishing a show in Little Five Points Pub, local blues goddess Michelle Malone and her band, Drag the River, became part of the feeding frenzy. Arista’s big man, Clive Davis, pulled up in his limo and signed them on the spot.
The band, featuring Malone on vocals and guitar, Jonny Daly on guitar, Phil Skipper on bass, and Billy Pitts on drums, released Relentless in ’91, which included guest appearances from Indigo Girl Amy Ray and Georgia Satellite Dan Baird. The CD, produced by Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye, displayed the band’s wide range; containing crunchy rock, acoustic ballads, and country-tinged blues. But as is the way with major labels, knobs were tinkered with, expectations were too high, promises were not kept, and the band self-destructed a year later.
Malone went on to continue to reign as the local blues dynamo. Her most recent release, 2006’s Sugarfoot, is some of the best swamp rock and blues of the past 20 years. Imagine a hungry Bonnie Raitt with Janis Joplin’s ability to wail. Moanin’ Malone will release her 10th studio release in the spring of 2009.
Malone and the Drag the River boys got back together again in December 2007 to play a benefit for Eddie’s Attic soundman, Shalom Aberle, who fell vicitm to a heart attack and had no health insurance. The band had so much fun playing their sold-out 45-minute set, that they have continued to play throughout 2008, albeit not too often. They are playing the Roswell Concert Series at Riverside Park on Saturday, October 4th, at 7 pm. The show is free and open to all ages. It’s a great chance for many to show their kids what all the fuss was about back then, and why a fuss still should be raised today. Come to sweat.