She won’t remember this, but I met Michelle Malone on the Hummingbird stage back in 2005. The Replacements’s “Bastards of Young” was playing overhead, and Michelle was kneeling with her guitar and working through the chords and riffs, singing along. At this point, she hadn’t noticed me– but dig that we were both dressed in boots, jeans, white v-neck t-shirts, and black leather jackets. I stood with my guitar case, watching her remember the song– it was obvious she knew it, had probably obsessed over it, but somewhere down the road had set it aside. So, there I was mentally noting the chords Michelle Malone’s fingers were forming. She looked over, sized me up in about a second, and smiled. If I hadn’t known better, I might’ve fallen in love.
Michelle Malone came out of that fantastic Georgia music dynamic that created Drivin-N-Cryin, The Georgia Satellites, REM, the Black Crowes, and the Indigo Girls. It was actually Emily Saliers and Amy Ray who encouraged Michelle to seriously perform back in the late 1980’s– legend has it around a table at the Majestic Diner in Atlanta. In 1990, Michelle Malone and Drag The River released the album Relentless on Arista Records. It was a pretty heavy debut record to promote, almost ahead of it’s time, but not quite on time. Alt-country was just beginning to rattle, alternative and grunge was gestating… Michelle found that a major label’s expectation wasn’t necessarily her own.
In 1992, Michelle Malone formed her own indedependent label, Strange Bird Songs. Since 1999, Michelle has exclusively released music on SBS. But what do you call it? You have to call her work something, but to put Michelle Malone in a box would be a labour of Herculean proportions somewhere between the girdle of Hippolyta and the Stymphalian birds. She’s a guitar goddess, a craftswoman. She’s a Georgia artist, Southern and unencumbered. She’s political or punk as the mood strikes her. She sings the blues, rocks with angst and abandon. She’s at home on the stage, alone and stomping or driving rhythm with Chuck Leavell or Gregg Allman. She hears her peers when she picks up the phone– Shawn Mullins, Dan Baird, Kevin Kinney, Kristen Hall and Jennifer Nettles… To witness or work with Michelle Malone is to experience what Georgia rock n’ roll is, was, and always should be.
I’d always considered the Hummingbird stage mine, and I probably always will. It was my home, where the Liabilities practiced, and wrote songs. I slept there, fought there, bled there, saw some of my all-time favorite bands there, met my wife there… Yeah, I called it mine– but, here’s what makes Michelle Malone so good… It doesn’t matter where she goes, who’s opening or closing the night, whether she’s a one woman band or leading an ensemble– Michelle Malone owns any stage she puts her boots on. The rest of us are just keeping it warm for her.
On March 2nd, Michelle Malone released Slings and Arrows. The new album is classic Moanin’ Malone and full of blues guitar, solid lyrics, and Georgia heart. Slings and Arrows features Michelle’s friends and local musicians including fellow Atlanta singer/songwriter Shawn Mullins. Hear Michelle Malone live on the Creek Stage at The Rookery on Wednesday March 21st!