This Atlanta, GeorgiA-based four piece – founding members singer Suzanne Sledge and guitarist Andrew Cylar, plus drummer Matt Kotheimer and bassist Steve McPeeks – originally dubbed themselves The 68-75 Rock And Soul Review, in tribute to the years 1968 to 1975, which Cylar calls, “a creative peak for music. We then tried to come up with a proper name, but every other idea just seemed tragic or really clumsy. So we abbreviated it to 68-75 and it stuck.”
Atlanta anglophiles plumb 70s rock with satisfying results.
Atlanta has, of course, a rich heritage in blues music. “It is crazy to think that Blind Willie McTell played here on the street corners we walk down every day and Aretha Franklin, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Etta James all tore it up at the Royal Peacock, less than a mile from where we rehearse.”
But with a soundscape dominated by hip hop today, “starting out felt like preaching in the wilderness, and it still feels that way sometimes,” Cylar says. “But we’re encouraged by bands like The Temperance Movement, Tedeschi Trucks and Simo, who manage to make great music, don’t compromise and yet still somehow find an audience. That inspires us to keep going.”
Initially, 68-75 found it hard to find their audience. “We once played an acoustic set,” recalls Cylar, “and the club owner asked us to turn it down. We were ‘too rock’ for the local blues clubs and ‘too blues-influenced’ for the rock clubs.”
That changed with the release of their accomplished 2013 self-titled EP, which started to make waves. Their debut album, Stay On The Ride, which builds on those 70s rock foundations, looks set to put them firmly on the musical map. Recorded and mixed over four days last year, the basic tracks and vocals for the album’s 12 songs were completed in just five hours.
“Dan Dixon did an amazing job of recording and mixing the sessions and we had great musicians: joining us were Marty Kearns on Hammond organ and Jeff Baker on blues harp.” Groove-laden and with Sledge’s raw vocals bringing everything together, Stay On The Ride mixes a louche Southern soul swagger with a tough British-like grit. “I’ve always been an Anglophile,” admits Sledge, “and there are some great UK bands we’re into, such as Rosco Levee & The Southern Slide and Maker. They’re blues-based and forging a similar path to ours.”
Having shared stages with the likes of Marc Ford, Leon Russell and Joe Bonamassa, 68-75 are keen to cross the pond and, after Sledge began bombarding social media blues groups and internet radio here, the results have been pleasing. “We’ve received plenty of positive feedback,” she says, “ and we feel we could really connect with an audience, if we get the chance.”
Stay On The Ride is available now via CD Baby.