published Friday, March 9th, 2012

Atlanta group brings ‘alterna-grass’ music to Barking Legs Saturday


What: Roxie Watson and Michelle Malone.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.

Admission: $12.

Phone: 624-5347.

Venue website:

Considering that the band was founded in a kitchen, it’s probably appropriate that Roxie Watson’s music is a blend of many musical ingredients.

The Atlanta-based, all-female band features members with backgrounds in rock, bluegrass and punk music playing songs drawing elements of wildly divergent genres, including R&B, zydeco, country, traditional Appalachian and New Orleans jazz.

As a recipe, it may sound like a questionable mix, but the self-described “alterna-grass” band members said they are winning people over wherever they go.

“We’re preaching the gospel of alterna-grass and getting a lot of converts, and a lot of those are bluegrass fans,” said bassist Lenny Lasater, who co-founded the group about six years ago.

Falling within prescribed genre lines is irrelevant, so long as the music is connecting, banjo player Sonia Tetlow said.

“When people like what you’re doing and are enjoying the music, they don’t really care what you call it. They just like it,” she said.

Roxie Watson grew organically out of an informal jam session started by Lasater and mandolinist Beth Wheeler in Wheeler’s kitchen.

Although they initially weren’t fans of Appalachian old-time and bluegrass music, Lasater said they discovered a new side to the music after listening to Dolly Parton’s “The Grass Is Blue” and “Little Sparrow.”

“The energy and the harmonies and the fretwork on those two albums really excited us,” Lasater explained. “We were like, ‘That’s the kind of music we want to play. Everyone’s playing rock ’n’ roll. We want to play that kind of music.’ ”

Tetlow later joined the band, bringing along original material that fell in line with the group’s hybrid approach.

Alterna-grass music, she said, is more about a feeling than the actual words.

“If it comes from a human place and it feels true, I think that’s what’s most important,” Tetlow said. “That’s what makes it resonate.”

Saturday, Roxie Watson will take the stage at Barking Legs Theater with Atlanta-based singer/songwriter Michelle Malone in support of their second album, “Of Milestones and Moon Pie,” which was released Feb. 28.

Tetlow and Lasater said a central element of Roxie Watson performances is how comfortable they feel with each other, a confidence that can make any show feel as relaxed as a living-room concert.

“There’s an intimacy there with all of us that translates to the audience,” Tetlow said. “We’re up there trying to make good music because we love it, and we hope that they love it. That’s what it’s all about.”

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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