Barnesville native JB Strauss will be featured at the grand re-opening of historic Grant’s Lounge in Macon this Thursday and Friday, July 15th and 16th. Grant’s Lounge originally opened its doors in 1971 and is the place many claim was the ‘birth place of Southern Rock’. Some of the world’s greatest performers played on the nightclub’s stage, including The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Wet Willie. Strauss’ influence ties his Barnesville and Macon roots with a hint of the mystery and beauty of Georgia’s Golden Isles. He now lives in Nashville and tours nationwide.With original tunes influenced by the heavy, electric, southern style of the bands who played at Grant’s back in the day, and several contemporary artists such as Brent Cobb, Chris Stapleton, and Jason Isbell, Strauss combines their sound with his own, which are also reminiscent of poetic, witty, singer-songwriters such as John Prine, Gram Parsons, and Jim Croce. Strauss followed in the legal footsteps of his father and both grandfathers and with a law degree of his own JB stepped out of the traditional role of the courtroom and instead writes and sings songs about the stories hidden beneath the surface of life in the deep south. Deftly balancing the very human qualities of the south’s sometimes enigmatic contradictions, along with the essential spiritual redemption that must follow, he claims these songs are ‘part of the foundation of who I am as a person and now as an artist.’ For example, in Man Possessed, the title song of his debut EP, JB expresses this when he speaks of his grandfather’s life as a prosecutor and judge and ‘how that life wore him down like river over stone…he became a man possessed with moving on.’ Another cut on the EP, Pissant Hill, is a humorous, yet poignant, tale of a man whose fatal mistakes land him on death row in Georgia’s Reidsville Prison. Since there’s no one to claim him once he dies, his fate becomes a date with a pine box on a real piece of land on prison property reserved for unclaimed souls. Also influential are the years JB spent with family and friends on Georgia’s Golden Isle, and his music is also redolent of the intricacies and depth of life within the marshes and intracoastal waterways. ‘Leaning on the islands’ life-giving elements to feed the soul when the rivers of home run murky,’ he says, also influenced two Southern rock-inspired tunes, ‘Carolina Siren’ and ‘Lady Cuscowilla,’ as well as the acoustic ‘Wrong Side of the River.’ A few weeks before the pandemic brought everything to a screeching halt in March of 2020, something else happened that led Strauss down another remarkable path. ‘I did these writers’ rounds when I first got to Nashville,’ he said in a recent interview with Mercer Music at Capricorn, ‘and one of the people I met early on was a guy named Aaron Raitiere, a really well-known writer in town.’ Ratiere co-wrote with Lady Gaga and two other songwriters on ‘I’ll Never Love Again’ for the 2018 film “A Star Is Born,” and won Best Song Written For Visual Media at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards. The two started writing together. ‘It was right after the tornado that devastated East Nashville and Germantown and right before COVID really hit, so the streets were empty,’ Strauss said. ‘Aaron had a song that mentioned something ‘˜nation,’ and I said, well, let’s call it ‘˜Ghost Town Nation.’ After writing, they recorded it on Raiteire’s phone and legendary artist Travis Tritt heard it. ’Travis said it reminded him of ‘˜A Country Boy Can Survive,’ Strauss said, referencing an old Hank Williams Jr., tune. ‘Ghost Town Nation’ was released in the fall of 2020 as the first single off Tritt’s latest album and was his first original release in over a decade. ‘It’s been a crazy ride,’ Strauss told Mercer Music at Capricorn, where he is now working on a full studio album of his own. ‘Nobody knew who I was, and to get my name on something of that magnitude is pretty cool.’ Last November, JB and band members visited Macon to check out the recently reopened and renovated Capricorn Sound Studios. ‘It’s amazing to come home and get the opportunity to record a track in such a historic place – the isolation booth at Studio A is like a time capsule from the days when Phil Walden owned it,’ he said. ‘We recorded three songs, got familiar with the equipment and just the feel of it, and it was a lot of fun. It was really incredible. I’ve been in Nashville for a few years now, and Macon is where I grew up, so it’d be really cool to have both those places involved with this record.’ The coronavirus pandemic took a toll on the music industry, essentially shutting down live shows. At the beginning, Strauss performed live-streamed concerts and compiled his best originals and a few cover songs in a studio recording for an album called ‘Shut In Sessions.’ One cover, ‘I’ve Got Dreams,’ is a tribute to Macon’s legendary Otis Redding, Capricorn’s first recording artist. During the pandemic, JB used the time to focus on his songwriting. ‘If you didn’t take advantage of the time that was given to you to make that happen, then you’re probably behind the eight ball as a songwriter,’ he said. ‘Storytelling music is its own thing, and those kinds of writers (Prine, Isbell, Stapleton, Cobb) are the ones that you aspire to write like,’ he said. Strauss is now working with Nashville manager, Owen Canavan, of True Grit Management Group, along with Mint Talent Group, which includes on its roster: The Allman Brothers Band, Jaimoe, Duane Betts, Chris Roberts, Art Garfunkel, Herb Alpert, Mavis Staples, Blind Boys of Alabama, and fellow Capricorn alumni, Blackberry Smoke, among other talented musicians. Strauss is the son of Jeanie Mays of Macon and John Strauss of Lake Oconee. He is the grandson of Eileen Jackson of Barnesville and Judge Byron Smith of Jackson. Tickets for this week’s shows at Historic Grant’s Lounge in Macon can be purchased online https://wl.seetickets.us/event/JB-Strauss/422571?afflky=TheHistoricGrantsLoungeJB’s music can be found on iTunes, Spotify, You Tube, or anywhere music can be streamed.
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