Clint Lowery and Sevendust, rock out at McGuffy’s
By Alan Sculley
Clint Lowery was no stranger to carrying a big part of the songwriting load in Sevendust. When he was in the band for its first four albums, he was the main songwriter (with guitarist John Connolly and drummer Morgan Rose, also significant contributors).
But Lowery, who returned to Sevendust in 2008 after four years away from the group, said he felt an extra dose of pressure after the band called on him to take the lead in writing songs for the group’s current album, Cold Day Memory. The fact was, Lowery said, he felt he needed to prove himself with the album.
“I didn’t want to come back and have people say ‘Oh, it’s not as good as it was,’” Lowery said in an interview. “There was definitely a need to go up another notch, and I hope we did.”
Chances are Sevendust fans are liking Cold Day Memory just fine — and are probably also pleased to see Lowery back in the fold. While Connolly and Rose stepped up as songwriters in his absence, the general consensus seems to be that Sevendust missed Lowery’s contributions as a songwriter.
Certainly Sevendust went through considerable upheaval during the years that Lowery was gone — although the problems had nothing to do with the guitarist and his absence.
On the 2003 Seasons, Sevendust’s label, TVT Records, had pushed the group to soften its sound. (That album was the final album with Lowery before the guitarist left the band to join his brother, Corey, in Dark New Day, a new group that had just landed a deal with Warner Bros. Records.)
The move didn’t result in a major commercial breakthrough for Sevendust, and the tensions with TVT prompted the band to leave the label. The group also changed management companies at that point.
But things would soon get worse. A deal with Winedark Records for its 2005 album, Next, went south, and then they found out it was deep in debt. Still, Sevendust soldiered on, releasing the albums, Alpha, in 2007 and Chapter VII: Hope & Sorrow, two albums that continued to deliver the kind of moderate success that had become typical for the group’s albums over the years.
In the meantime, Dark New Day was encountering its own issues. After releasing a debut album, Twelve Year Silence, in 2004, the group went through some personnel changes and then encountered problems with Warner Bros. Records and was unable to get the second album released by the label.
By 2008, lines of communication had reopened between Lowery and members of Sevendust.
“I just started talking to Morgan,” Lowery said. “When I started pulling my life together a little bit, I started reaching out to some friends. I started talking to Morgan on a friendship level and then the rest of the guys, I started talking to them a little bit. The natural progression was ‘hey man, you guys think we should actually jam together again? Would it be weird?’ Then we just started trying to make some decisions as far as what would be best for all of us, the fans and everything. It was a pretty quick choice. Once we started re-connecting, it (the reunion) happened pretty quick.”
Not only did Lowery saddle back up rather seamlessly with Sevendust, his bandmates — singer Lajon Witherspoon, Rose, Connolly and bassist Vince Hornsby — pretty much looked to Lowery to carry the songwriting load for what would become the Cold Day Memory album.
In writing for Cold Day Memory, Lowery said he wanted to re-emphasize a few key elements that he felt had set Sevendust apart from other hard rock and metal bands that centered around the group’s instrumental approach and Witherspoon’s singing style.
“I think the goal for Cold Day Memory was kind of to re-establish our sound,” Lowery said. “We have a contrast that’s always been our niche, and that’s like aggressive music with a melodic sense with the vocals on top of it. So there’s like a soulful element that Lajon has, and then this really aggressive music with a lot of rhythm and a lot of syncopated stuff. So I think that’s what this was. I think if you’re a Sevendust fan, this is an all-around Sevendust record.”
Indeed, Cold Day Memory feels like a signature Sevendust album. Rockers like “The End Is Coming,” “Splinter” and “Forever” have their share of roiling guitar riffs and pile-driving beats, but the melodic vocals give these songs a lighter touch to balance the aggression. The group also provides a few breaks from the intensity with the soft-to-loud dynamics of songs like “Confessions” and “Unraveling.”
Sevendust has been touring since last summer, and for its latest run of shows, Lowery said the band plans to play several new songs, and may have some surprises for fans.
“We try to spice it up a little bit for the fans and for us,” Lowery said. “Playing as many shows as we do, we tend to try and keep it new and fresh. If it’s playing some really old songs, sometimes you haven’t played them in so long, they’re new.”
Sevendust will perform Tuesday, November 29 at McGuffy’s House of Rock, 5418 Burkhardt Road in Dayton. Show starts at 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.Sevendust.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at AlanSculley@DaytonCityPaper.com.