Bonnie Bishop fires twin barrels of Dusty in Memphis-worthy soul and Bible Belt country-blues with “Ain’t Who I Was.” Produced by Dave Cobb, the title track to Bishop’s first album in nearly half a decade finds the Texan singing over B3 organ, strings and electric guitar, with Cobb focusing the spotlight on her sultry swoon of a voice.
“Lord, I’m finally proud of who I am now, and I ain’t who I was,” she sings during the song’s final moments, delivering the line with all the conviction of a battered road warrior who, after taking a break to find herself, is ready to recommit to the job.
Exhausted after a decade-long career filled with bar gigs, heavy stress, little pay and nights spent sleeping in her van, Bishop sold most of her equipment in 2013 and headed back to her parents’ ranch to rest and regroup. She needed a change of pace. Two years later, while studying creative writing as a graduate student at Sewanee – University of the South, she received a phone call from Cobb, who was still in the midst of recording Chris Stapleton’s award-winning Traveller. No stranger to powerhouse singers, Cobb had heard some of Bishop’s demos and found himself drawn to her voice. During a meeting in Nashville, he told her she should be singing soul music. Bishop agreed, and the two began tracking songs for her first project in years.
The recording sessions were coming to an end when Cobb’s cousin, singer/songwriter Brent Cobb, walked into the studio with a track he’d co-written earlier that afternoon.
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“Dave opens a brand new bottle of his favorite tequila,” Bishop remembers, “and we all take shots. Then Adam [Hood] and Brent play us the song they wrote. I have chills. I look over at Dave, who is nodding his head and grinning at me. Then I sing the words back to them while Brent plays the guitar and they sound so natural coming out of my mouth. It’s like I’ve been singing this song all my life.”
“Ain’t Who I Was” — a song about stepping away from your past, redefining your present and gearing up to chase down a better, brighter future — has turned into a mission statement for Bishop, who’s ready to re-embrace both the glamour and grind of being a full-time musician. Released on May 27th, the album accompanies her first full tour in years, including stops at the Key West Songwriter’s Festival in Florida and longtime singer/songwriter haven Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta.