Five years and seven months ago I called up a friend in a well known party band in my hometown of Tallahassee, Florida. I didn’t ask, I told him, this trio of a rag tag band I somehow became a “manager” of was moving in on his gig at a fairly small pool hall that coming weekend. He didn’t say much. I didn’t give him an opportunity to. But oh were they nervous to follow the show my guys put on that night! The Jordan Miller Band packed the place out and the second story bar was shaking the roof of the place below.
This last Saturday evening, I was honored to be in the Music City for a show at the iconic venue, The Basement East. You would never know it suffered such destruction in the Nashville tornadoes of 2020 followed by the industry crippling COVID-19 pandemic. “The Beast,” as it’s known, has been nominated for some very prestigious honors and hosted top rate artists since opening in 2015. On this evening, though, the stage was set for one of my favorite bands of all time.
Some would say I’m biased and I’d normally not argue with that. However, Highway Natives, a 5 piece band based in Nashville, earned my rave review fairly. It’s safe to say that the entire venue on Saturday agrees with me. They just also happen to include, (in my opinion,) one of the finest songwriters of our time. Jordan Miller, though writing for most of his life, has only just begun to make his mark in the music industry. He’s come a long way in stage presence since that pool hall gig over 5 years ago. But Jordan’s lyrics and musicianship skills are still those of the leader of that trio from back home.
Alongside Miller on stage Saturday night was Natives co-founder, Brandon Moore. The two leaders of this evolving band hit it off shortly after Miller’s move to Nashville in 2017 and found their co-writing to be a natural and successful partnership. As a matter of fact, three weeks ago they celebrated the release of their debut full length album together, West of the Blindside. This album was a collaboration of Miller and Moore’s lyrics adding in the musical contributions from the band to polish off this well rounded mix of tracks that don’t seem to fit into any one genre. With an EP released last year and a handful of singles since, the guys were excited for this big milestone album that bassist, Artie Scarazzo, named symbolically for a positive direction in their lives both on and off stage.
An obvious influence of southern rock, mixed with a bit of bluegrass and a hint of alternative all packaged with a retro feel of the late ‘70’s gives Highway Natives a label that matches their combined orgins… Americana. Guitarist, Matt Drummey, hails from Kingston, MA. Bassist, Artie Scarazzo, isn’t far from his home of Mt. Juliet, TN. Drummer, Arthur Stover’s hometown is Kings, NC. Brandon Moore titles the song on the new album, Lincoln County, after his hometown in Waynesburg, KY. And Jordan Miller rounds out their sound with his signature southern style from north Florida’s Wakulla County.
The five guys stood playing together on stage in a unified yet individually unique and undeniably fun performance. They were obviously excited to be playing to a packed and welcoming house. “This is a big deal for us,” Miller told me. But if there was any nervousness, it didn’t show. The spotlight was native to this band on Saturday. Their sound was perfect. Not a single note missed and beats and rhythm were spot on. As they got comfortable and settled into their set they started dancing all over the stage, riling up the crowd. The energy from the stage matched the audience’s. Between songs they played through with strategic, flawless, bonus transitions.
Each member of the band said separately the strongest song from the album is A Bullet With My Name. When they played it, it showed. These guys are proud of this song and they should be! It’s a show stopper that will have you downloading it before they finish playing.
In all honesty, I was nervous about attending to review this show for the sake of my former role in Jordan’s musical beginnings. But I cannot tell a lie. His hard work and immense talent together with very precise choice in bandmates leave me with nothing but the highest compliments for this band and their killer show. If you have any chance to catch Highway Natives live, I suggest you take it. And if you haven’t streaming their music, you’re missing out. Catch them on any of your favorite platforms.