Artist Discovery:
Luella and the Sun

In the spirit of helping you discover the range of talented musicians on the 2013 lineup, we’ve enlisted local writer, Arden Ward to tell the stories behind some of the most buzzworthy musicians on the 2013 lineup. Last week we (re)introduced you to local sensation, Shakey Graves, and this week we’re showcasing the sound of Nashville band, Luella and the Sun.

By Arden Ward

Formed in 2011, Luella and the Sun has a relatively short history, but what the Nashville-based band lacks in years on the road it makes up for with soul and unmatched depth.

Rooted in the powerful vocals of frontwoman “Luella” (also known as Melissa Mathes), Luella and the Sun blends gospel and blues with classic rock ‘n’ roll for a full sound that is as soulful as it is raw. That sultry sound — along with standout live performances — has quickly propelled the band onto the national scene, winning over critics and music lovers alike.

While Luella and the Sun is rising in prominence, its musical footprint is rather sparse, existing only in the form of a 2012 self-released vinyl recording featuring two songs. (The band plans to release a full-length album, currently in production, in early 2014.)

The offering is small, but the songs — “Fly So Free” and “We Got To Meet Death One Day” — capture the broad spectrum of the band’s impressive sound. Bluesy “Fly So Free” relies on strong female vocals and simple rock riffs to create a bare bones, empowering track that you’ll want to put on repeat. Peel back the layers of “We Got To Meet Death One Day” and you’ll find similarly haunting vocals encased in a modern rock package.

With such a limited catalog, the true Luella and the Sun experience lies in discovering the intricacies of their live performance. The band plays with abandon, delivering a show that’s fearless — just as rock ‘n’ roll should be — and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. After a 2013 SXSW showcase, NPR’s Ann Powers called Luella “a ferocious, feminine voice” who “performs with zero fear.” Currently touring at small venues throughout the country, Luella and the Sun will bring its acclaimed show to ACL Fest on October 11.

Image via Nashville Lifestyles
We asked this band on the road to share their favorite songs for trekking down the highway. Delve into their playlist — as varied as Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath and Devo — and get to know Nashville’s newest must-see soulful rockers.

Luella and the Sun’s Top Road Tunes

1. “Jump Baby Jump” – Jesse Mae Hemphill
Any song that says “Do the backstroke baby” is a welcome sound when cruising America’s highways and byways. We just can’t seem to stop listening to the whole She-Wolf record on endless repeat. 

2. “Blockhead” – Devo
Perfect for people-watching at rest areas.

3. “Unfit Mothers” – Isaac Alexander
Really anything by this virtually unknown fellow from Arkansas who is brilliant at everything he does. And that’s a whole lot. 

4. Anything by Tinariwen.
The particular trance they provide is always welcome to us. 

5. “The Crystal Cat” – Dan Deacon
This melody (and lyrics) will get stuck in your head and provide hours on end of puzzling entertainment. 

6. “Spanish Boots” – Jeff Beck Group
This stuff will rock your face off! 

7. “War Pigs” – Black Sabbath
Hypnotized. Funky. And somehow Ozzy gets by with rhyming “masses” with “masses.”

8. “Have You Ever Been-To Electric Ladyland (isolated guitar track)” – Jimi Hendrix
This is off of the purple velvet box set. Mind-blowing, soulful, rootsy and futuristic. Always inspires. 

9. “I Have Only Loved Three Women” – Jimmie Rodgers
Because it always makes Jon cry.

10. “Put Your Arms Around Me” – Joe Price
Because it always makes Luella cry.
(*Ed. Note: This track is not available on rdio)

11. “Brace’s Tower Dub No. 2” – King Tubby/Augustus Pablo
How else would you test the low end in the rental van? 

You can catch Luella and the Sun during Weekend 2 of ACL Fest (Friday, 10/11) at 4:30pm on the BMI Stage.