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Tyler, Northern Lights shine on Rev Room


This article was published November 22, 2012 at 12:33 a.m.


Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights

— Jonathan Tyler is veritably champing at the bit to release his band’s next album. After all, it has been more than two years since his major label debut album, Pardon Me, was released in April 2010 by an Atlantic Records subsidiary.

So surely he can be, uh, pardoned if he seems impatient.

“I’m so ready,” Tyler says. “It’s overdue, I know, but I’m kind of waiting to release it, or the label is waiting. So I’m not sure when it will be coming out.”

He is at least sure of the name of the new album by him and his band, the Northern Lights. He’s calling it Holy Smokes, or perhaps it will be Holy Smokes!

“I haven’t fully decided,” he muses, while soliciting the opinion of his interviewer about punctuation, or the lack of it. As for whether or not there will be any religious overtones, he notes that the album’s only cover song will be one that had been popularized by Gram Parsons, “I Am a Pilgrim,” which was on The Byrds’ legendary 1968 album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Citing Parsons as one of his early influences, Tyler says he feels a responsibility to carry the rock ’n’ roll torch onward through the fog, as it were, as Parsons did in his brief lifetime.

“I believe it’s my job, yes, that whole reincarnation thing, maybe,” he says.

Tyler, who was born in Alabama, moved to Texas when he was 16. He put his band together and they played for several years, but broke up for a year. They then came back together, made an independent album, Hot Trottin’, which became an early step on the way to being taken seriously. Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes saw the band at a show in New York, liked what he saw, and helped them progress by doing some writing with Tyler.

Now 27, Tyler and his band have performed in Little Rock enough times that he’s unsure if it’s seven or eight times, or maybe even 10. He does know he and the band have built a sizable following with their rock AND roll shows, as he insists on devoting time to perfecting a performance that’s dedicated to both forms of musical mayhem — the rock and the roll.

“I wrote some of the songs, and the band was involved in writing others,” he says, “And there’s one bluesy, swampy thing I wrote with Ray Wylie Hubbard. We went back to Nashville [Tenn.] again to record the album, and we used the same producer as on Pardon Me.”

The producer, Jay Joyce, has production credits with John Hiatt, Patty Griffin, Cage the Elephant, Audio Adrenaline and Crowded House.

The members of the Northern Lights are Brandon Pinckard on electric guitar, Jordan Cain on drums, Chase McGillis on bass and Emotion “Mo” Brown on backing vocals. Pinckard and Cain have been with Tyler since the band formed in January 2007 and Brown joined four months later. McGillis, a former member of The Effects, is an old friend who joined after original drummer Nick Jay split from the band late last year.

Tyler and Pinckard play guitar and enjoy facing off now and then, in the great tradition of other dueling duos of rock guitar.

Tyler notes that some wonder if he is related to another famous rocker named Tyler, Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith. He is not, he says, and has yet to meet the other Tyler.

Though Tyler and the Northern Lights have not opened for Aerosmith, they have done the honors for AC/ DC, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Deep Purple, JJ Grey & Mofro and Robert Randolph & the Family Band.

Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights

9 p.m. Saturday, Revolution Room, 300 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock

Admission: $10

(501) 823-0090

Weekend, Pages 44 on 11/22/2012

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