ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 4, 1995
BY STEVE NEWTON
While more than 40 singers auditioned for the lead-vocalist job in Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash’s solo band, Snakepit, probably just as many bands would have lined up to try out for the prestigious opening spot on that group’s tour. When that bill hits the sold-out Commodore this Tuesday (May 9), the lucky warm-up act will be Birmingham, Alabama’s Brother Cane.
“There were several things working in our favour,” says Brother Cane vocalist–lead guitarist Damon Johnson, checking in from a Chicago hotel. “First of all, the singer in Slash’s band, Eric [Dover], is an old friend of ours. He’s from Birmingham also, so it’s really a small world. I also know a lotta people in Slash’s road crew, and actually Slash and I had met a couple of years ago. So it was one of those things where you know what’s goin’ down, and you just sort of get the powers that be to start putting their heads together to see if it makes sense.
“Last night in Detroit was our first show,” he adds, “and I could just tell the people were really into it. The place was sold-out, so I’m sure there’s gonna be a lotta other shows like that over the next three weeks.”
When Brother Cane makes its first Vancouver appearance, it’ll be focusing on tunes from its second CD, Seeds, scheduled for release in early July. The band’s self-titled debut of ’93 sold a respectable quarter-million copies, thanks in part to the slamming southern-rock vibe of the single “Hard Act to Follow”. Since then, original rhythm guitarist Roman Glick has replaced Glenn Maxey on bass, and new guitarist David Anderson has joined the fray. Original member Scott Collier still mans the drum kit.
“I think people will find us experimenting a little more,” says Johnson of the current lineup. “There’s a few different sounds and stuff goin’ on. The rhythm section is a little more diverse now with Roman on bass, and David’s addition has been great. He doesn’t play so many things as a lead player, but uses more of a textured approach. He plays a lot like Andy Summers from the Police or someone like that.”
Judging by the strong southern-rock vibe of Brother Cane’s music—and the fact that all its members hail from Alabama—you’d think that Lynyrd Skynyrd might have had a strong effect on the group. But Ronnie Van Zant and company were only part of the influences.
“We were just fans of everything that came through there,” says Johnson. “We all grew up in fairly small towns—and even Birmingham itself isn’t that big—but thankfully there was a handful of bands that used to come through and play all the time, like Aerosmith and Van Halen—used to see Ted Nugent a lot. So all of that stuff, mixed with the blues and the southern rock, gave us a pretty wide variety of things to listen to.
“But I’ve been surrounded by music all of my life,” adds the 30-year-old rocker. “Both my parents sang a lot in church, and my dad played some acoustic guitar. He used to have his friends over and they’d sit around and play all this Chet Atkins and Jim Reeves and Elvis Presley, stuff like that. And I got a pretty decent guitar early on, when I was 11 or 12, so I just sat around, man. I never put it down very much. It was one of those bugs you couldn’t shake.”