Six guys in faded jeans sat outside Reef one muggy day last June. Their van was parked at the curb, and it looked as though they had just rolled into town and were taking a minute to stretch their legs. Inside the restaurant, a few people ate dinner and a few more enjoyed the evening on the patio upstairs.
The radio station that was broadcasting live at Reef that night didn't even mention that a band was playing--the station was there giving away a free cruise. Chances are that few who walked into Reef that night were familiar with William "Smitty" Byron Smith, Tim Jones, Scott Kinnebrew, Walker Young and Adam Grace, collectively known as the Los Angeles-based rock band Truth & Salvage Co.
Fast-forward almost a year, and the odds are pretty good that the crowd at Neurolux on Wednesday, March 2, won't be there by coincidence. Spending the better part of two years opening for the Black Crowes and the white-hot Avett Brothers has garnered the band quite a following among Southern roots/rock/Americana/alt-country fans, not to mention a reputation for putting on a rowdy live show. The Sacramento Press likened the band to "a freight train ride down the Route 66 of American music," complete with Hammond organ, steel guitar and accordion on board.
Their self-titled first album was released in May 2010 by Silver Arrow/Megaforce Records and is largely comprised of high-energy, easy-to-sing-to tracks. There's no denying the country influence in "101" and "Welcome to L.A.," while other tracks like "Call Back" and "See Her" sound like what would happen if The Band, Credence Clearwater Revival and Black Crowes got together at Waylon Jennings' place for a late-night jam session. Or as keyboard player and singer/songwriter Young said, "I always just tell people it's rock 'n' roll."
The band formed in Hollywood after Young, Smith, Kinnebrew and Joe Edel (who has since been replaced with bass player Frank DiVanna) moved their band, Scrappy Hamilton, from North Carolina in 2005. They started playing at Crane's Tavern and the Hotel Cafe, where Jones was booking shows after having moved west from Indiana hoping to make it big.
"Tim Jones started playing with Smitty, and I got jealous and said well, 'We're all gonna have to play together,'" Young said laughing.
Grace was also part of the Crane/Hotel Cafe scene and knew Jones. Soon the six multi-talented guys, four of whom are singer/songwriters, were playing together regularly. After seeing them perform as a group, a friend at one of those shows told them that what they had together was better than their individual stuff, and they listened. More importantly, they agreed.
"It just came out of enjoying each other's music and respecting each other, and everybody wanting to sing along," Young said.
From the first words of the album's opening track, listeners get a sense of what he's talking about. "Hail, Hail" is a tribute to the hard work, friendship and journey they've taken to get to where they are now: "Hail, hail, the gang's all here / with their heads full of reefer and their bellies full of beer / 16 years of living the dream / and the pride of all our families. / Hail, hail the gang's all here / with their eyes wide open and their eyes super clear / ready to see what it means to be / the rulers of our destinies, all right."
It's obvious from the chemistry they have on stage, and the lyrical harmonies that flow through their songs, that the guys are enjoying riding the wave that the exposure of the last year has brought them, while maintaining a seemingly endless supply of enthusiasm and humility. As Young put it, not everyone gets the chance they've been given, and they are grateful for it.
"Sometimes I'll be singing the songs, and I'm like, 'This is exactly what these people need right now. Something happy and lighthearted and jovial. Something to take their mind off the crazy everyday life that they lead,'" said Young.
Speaking of crazy lives, according to the opening sequence of their video for "Pure Mountain Angel," the band has logged more than 103,000 miles, crossed the Mississippi River 21 times, stayed in 732 hotel rooms and performed 312 shows, including music festivals like Bonnaroo and High Sierra. To say they are busy is an understatement, but Young doesn't seem to mind.
"What I love about what we do is that we are in different towns every day and everybody in the band is really into history and cool restaurants in the places we go," he said. "It's making it fun for us because we kind of feel like every day is a field trip."
He added that it has been exciting. After all, this is why they moved to Los Angeles. It seems to have worked for them and they don't let little things--like having Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes produce their record, or recording at Sun Studios (Johnny Cash and Elvis both recorded there), or selling out shows in New York and Nashville, or appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live--go to their heads. Laughing, Young said things are about to get even more exciting for the band in the first week in March.
"We're going to be in Boise, right?"