When Trigger Hippy, the roots supergroup founded by Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman, made its AmericanaFest debut earlier this month, it was difficult to think of a festival act that better embodied the idea of Americana. Led by Gorman, the members of the cleverly monikered collective — singers Joan Osborne and Jackie Greene, bassist Nick Govrik and guitarist Tom Bukovac — represent the hallmarks of the catch-all genre: rock, soul, blues and country.
"It's all Southern music. Blues and country and soul and jazz, all those things emanated from one general area of the country," says Gorman, who after coming off the road with the Black Crowes in 2013 turned his attention full-time to Trigger Hippy, which he officially founded with Govrik a year earlier. "It started with Nick and I jamming together a lot, 10 years ago, at a club in Nashville. And the first time we played together, we played like we were already a rhythm section. We said, 'We have to do something for real.'"
The rhythm section in search of a singer (along with original guitarist Audley Freed, who left to focus on other projects) eventually recruited Osborne, best known for her stint with the post-Jerry Garcia version of the Dead and for her 1995 Lilith Fair-ready single "One of Us."
"We threw out the name of every dude we ever liked. For whatever reason, it was always like, no, no, no. Then I heard a Joan song on the radio, 'St. Theresa,' when I was driving and I was like, 'oh my god. It never even occurred to me to think about a female singer. What's wrong with me?' I called her the next day, and said, 'Look, I got this band, we got a good name, some cool little riffs and we want to bring someone in and write some songs.' She was way into it."
Greene, who played with Gorman in the Black Crowes, and Bukovac, one of contemporary country music's most sought-after session guitarists, soon followed.
"Even just those four guys together would be an incredible band," says Osborne. "I feel like I have to bring my best game to just hang with these guys. There's no phoning it in."
That was clear to those who caught Trigger Hippy's AmericanaFest performance, as well as for those who have already heard the group's self-titled debut album, released today on Rounder Records. With songs like the Allmans-esque "Turpentine," the propulsive "Tennessee Mud" and the distinct country of "Pretty Mess," the LP is the sort of listening experience that stands out in these days of disposable, homogenized pop and country singles.
"I don't think it does fit anywhere," agrees Gorman. "It's its own thing, and I think a lot of people want to hear records like this, but they don't even realize they want to until they hear it. Anyone who has heard the record, they go, 'This is great, why doesn't anyone make records like this anymore?' The response has been pretty universal."
Prior to the group's AmericanaFest triumph, they played a sold-out showcase at Nashville's 3rd and Lindsley earlier this summer. Check out the video premiere of "Rise Up Singing," captured at that performance, above.
"I think of this band as fitting into a lot of different worlds and reaching out to a lot of different audiences," says Osborne. "We have fans in the jam band world, and all of us have a presence there. The Americana scene has been very embracing of what we're doing. And as far as pop radio goes, I wouldn't say that we're necessarily waiting for something like that to happen, but I wouldn't rule it out, based on the strength of the songs we've been writing."
Gorman foresees a similar broad reach for the group, which will hit the road in October for a tour of California, the South and a date in New York City.
"If we insist on labeling things, I would hope that every label has as wide a net as possible. Rock & roll used to be real wide — if you said that, it could mean a lot of different things. Now, Americana has become the big top, everything limited to real music. It's not samples or loops," he says, "it's musicians, not electricians."