Without band, J.B. Beverley trying something new at Howlers Coyote Cafe

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When you part company with the ones who always backed you up, you don’t back up yourself. You push forward.

That’s what brings singer-songwriter J.B. Beverley to town tonight without his longtime band, The Wayward Drifters, who have drifted wayward.

“This is new,” said Mr. Beverley, who had produced four albums with The Wayward Drifters since forming the group in December 1999. “What brought this around was I had lineup changes for the first time in 11 years. My bass player retired from the road, and soon after that my banjo player decided he wanted to relocate to the West Coast. And suddenly, for the first time in more than a decade, I was a player without a band.

“I had a choice. I could go get some hired guns — but that’s not that easy. So I had to do something new and different and take advantage of the fact that for the first time I wasn’t bound to anything that I didn’t want to do.

“I’m an old mountain boy and I’ll never get away from that. But I had some down time and I just figured it was better to reinvent myself and try to do something different than to be static.”

Mr. Beverley, who was born in Virginia and now lives in North Carolina, cut his teeth playing punk rock in bands called The Bad Habits, The Murder Junkies, and The Little White Pills. (Obviously, the songs weren’t about rainbows and buttercups.)

Inside him, however, was a honky-tonk heart that found its beat with The Wayward Drifters, playing old-school country music — like they used to play in Nashville before everybody started wearing cowboy hats.

The group had some success and built up a following. They stopped in Pittsburgh a couple of times.

“I have a great deal of love and respect for the folks in Pittsburgh,” Mr. Beverley said. “My dad’s family is from the Appalachians in Virginia, but my mom’s whole family is from Western Pennsylvania. Growing up, I always had a lot of respect for the people there.

“I’ve toured all over the world, and I always have a great fondness for towns that have had their industry messed with but the people haven’t lost their spirit, their sense of humor, their sense of community. They persevere.”

And so does Mr. Beverley, coming to Howlers Coyote Cafe tonight to promote his album “Stripped to the Root,” a collection of songs that depict a man with an aching soul, holding tight to his guitar while everything else in life is either out of reach or slipping away.

“This particular tour is different because it’s not a tour with The Wayward Drifters and it’s not a straight honky-tonk acoustic set,” he said. “The new record is a very eclectic mixed bag of an album. There’s some country on there, there’s some folk, some blues, some Southern rock, there’s some straight-up rock and roll. It’s a departure from the structure of a Wayward Drifters album. I mean, it’s very much me, but it’s like the other side of the coin.”

Labels are so limiting. Mr. Beverley describes the sound as “kind of like the countrier Southern rock side of the Rolling Stones meets the Drive-By Truckers meets Social Distortion. That’s pretty much it.”

Once he finished conjuring the sound up in the studio, it was time to hit the road.

“On my solo album, I played virtually all the instruments myself. But for the tour, I got my buddy Rory Kelly and his band. They’re good friends of mine in Carolina. I asked him, ‘Do you and your guys want to come and open some shows for me and get some exposure to a new demographic and then also back me up?’ And they were all, ‘Hell, yeah,’”

So tonight it’s J.B. Beverley with Rory Kelly and Danny Kaye.

“This is the first leg out a tour that’s only a couple weeks. This is sort of like a trial run,” Mr. Beverley said. “Then we’re going to do a big run in the summer, hit the west coast and a couple festivals. But this is sort of to test the waters.

“It’s been unanimously positive. Everybody that’s seen it and heard it gets it. I was apprehensive, because everybody that sees you and hears you for all those years, they expect a certain sound. I made the joke that this must be what Bob Dylan felt like in ’66 when he plugged in his electric guitar. This is the ‘J.B. gets to be Bob Dylan tour.’”

You can see it tonight at 8 at Howlers Coyote Cafe, 4509 Liberty Ave., in Bloomfield. There’s a $5 cover.

Dan Majors: dmajors@post-gazette.com.

First Published March 10, 2014 4:00 PM

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