Whirlwinds of change encircle Nashville’s Muddy Magnolias and society as time marches on.
Just as the year was ending for the quickly rising act, Magnolias’ co-lead singer Kallie North exited the band.
But Jessy Wilson and Muddy Magnolias’ nitroglycerin style remain. They headlined the final weekend of the 6th Annual January Jams on Friday at the fabled Barter Theatre in Abingdon, with Asheville’s dynamic Andrew Scotchie & The River Rats opening the show.
“Jessy can more than handle it herself,” said Chip Dorsch, of Nashville’s Red Light Management, who manages Muddy Magnolias.
Wilson is Tina Turner without Ike. She’s Mo with the Town, soul and Stax, a singer with shake whose sizzle reverberates from the tips of her hair down to her toes.
“My journey,” said Wilson by phone from a nail salon in Nashville, “it has not been easy. For the times I experienced heartache and sorrow, as an artistic person, I want to share it.”
Wilson’s prepared to share a wealth of new music in the foreseeable future. In the slipstream of Muddy Magnolia’s 2016 critically acclaimed debut LP, “Broken People,” comes news of another.
“New music,” Dorsch said, “I’m gonna hear some today.”
Wilson’s nail salon respite is sandwiched between days of recording. Songs written and album largely produced, that leaves just the flourishes of final details.
“Oh … my … God … it’s fabulous,” Wilson said. “I can’t contain myself. It’s a lot different.”
For one, Wilson brought uptown soul to Muddy Magnolias. North integrated rural touches of country and Americana. With North gone, their song will not remain the same.
“It’s grittier. It’s electric. It’s more progressive,” Wilson said. “The last album was more contemporary and traditional. This time I really used all of the same elements but tried to pull them apart so they’re not straight down the middle.”
Patrick Carney of The Black Keys produced Muddy Magnolias’ upcoming record.
“Patrick and I really connected on the music,” Wilson said. “There’s psychedelic and blues and soul of the 1960s and ’70s. We connected on hip-hop, as well.”
The title and release date has not been finalized, but the album still percolates under Wilson and Carney’s collective artistic knives. They recorded on Monday. Wilson had her nails done, conducted this interview and hosted management and record industry folks on Tuesday.
“We have about three weeks of recording to do,” she said. “I started doing my vocals yesterday. We’re embellishing things, but all of the foundation is laid and the album is written. Oh, man, I’m super pumped!”
As Wilson and Carney carve a new approach from an old sound, listeners can still anticipate some continuity. Social awareness-raising songs — including “Broken People” and “Brother, What Happened?” — informed their previous LP, as well as the new.
One title, “What’s Wrong,” which could change, she said, provides a peek at what’s to come.
“I think the theme of the album is me,” Wilson said. “With this new album, it’s the perception of a black woman, the world, and how I see myself in a poetic way.”
First time around, Muddy Magnolias capped “Broken People” with “Leave It to the Sky,” which featured superstar John Legend on piano. Wilson toured the world and recorded with Legend as a backup singer for years leading up to the formation of her own group.
“He showed me how to write songs, directly and indirectly,” Wilson said. “He encouraged me, let me record in the studio with him. When I showed an interest in songwriting, he started picking my brain like, ‘What would you say?’”
Plenty, it turns out. Not sure about Pandora, but upon opening, Wilson’s box of songs flew forth on a wing of needed words. Wilson’s songs glisten in substance.
Life and love of self and humanity swirled outward from a woman whose heart beats to a soul that cares.
“We’ve found the story we care about — people in the state of the heart and state of the world,” Wilson said. “I’m still about that — justice, social consciousness. Being a black woman, that’s dear to my heart. It’s who I am.”