By Mark Grabowski
I am living mere houses away from rock stars! That's right, real rock stars, the kind who look tough (kind of like the early Replacements), live hard, and are likely to die young. All right, I made the last two up, and most likely I live near their booking agent (demos and press packs can be requested from an address close to mine), but there’s no denying one simple fact: the boys of Small Town Workers have met the Rock Fairy. And the meeting went well.
Something as amusing as a mutual love of prog-rock brought together Mike Meadows (lead vocals/guitar) and Devin Malone (guitar/vocals), two former cellists in James Madison University’s Music Industry program, and the first two members of the four-man band. Being inquisitive, I wanted to know about the Music Industry program (visions of an assembly line for rock gods floated in my head), so I did a little research. The JMU prospectus describes the program, part of the Bachelor of Music degree, as "[offering] a broad course of study suiting the needs of a diverse profession." But Professional Rock Star was not on the list of potential post-BM gigs.
Luckily, no one told Meadows and Malone that. After stealing Geoff Sprung (bass) from the JMU Symphony and Whit Sellers (drums) from the throes of campus life, they began to make a name for themselves playing original rock tunes under the moniker Small Town Workers.
This is where we catch up with them. They have a professional sounding demo, Blueprints: Demos 2000-01, which gives some hint of a promising career. "My Way," available online from the group’s website (www.smalltownworkers.com), shows off the band's fairly hard-rocking melodic sensibilities quite well. The song begins slowly with a fuzzed-out guitar line, on top of which a simple bass riff soon skates. Drums make it a threesome, and then who should appear but our old friend vocals. Sure, some of the lyrics might seem a little uncertain (“I'm burning up/Like a fuse lit at both ends/With me in the middle/And you on top again”), but you can't help but smile when the band slips into high gear to rock you through the sing-along chorus. And isn't having a good time what rock music is really all about?
Small Town Workers performs at Outback Lodge Thursday, April 18, at 10pm. $6.