September 1, 2012
THE MUSICAL PRESENT:
Perhaps when you are 6' 6', 300 lbs and your Dad is your high school football coach you are simply fated to attempt a pro football career. The newest King Arthur Flour employee, Brian Barthelmes, followed that path, foreordained or not, to four years of Division I football at the University of Virginia and then to the New England Patriots.
Then again, maybe when you find yourself on the margins of the pros for a few years-being released at the end of camp and then signed to the taxi squad-and realize you're getting more enjoyment out of teaching Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi to play guitar and ukele than out of putting on your pads next to them, the fates have a different course in mind for you. Certainly, Brian found some inner peace, and a wholly new personal drive, when he accepted one last cut from Bill Belichick along with the coach's advice to figure out what he really wanted to do. That something was to walk away from a game he was ambivalent about anyway and to pursue a career as a musician instead.
It was unquestionably a fortuitous turn of events that saw Brian meet up with Scott Thompson in a Providence bar one night in 2007. By then the former offensive lineman had turned the bedroom of his apartment into an ersatz studio and was picking away at guitar and banjo, writing and recording his own songs. Thompson, a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, was a guitar player with a shared interest in making music and the two began playing together in the early morning hours.
Their collaboration evolved into the band Tallahassee when they added one of Thompson's fellow students, Shawn Carney, on bass and then drummer Matt Raskopf. An EP and a full length album, "Wolfe Moon" (2009), were followed by "Jealous Hands" in 2011 and the indie music world really started taking notice. My Old Kentucky Blog gushed , "this country-folk quartet have found a musical crossroads lying somewhere between The Avett Brothers, Iron and Wine, Alabama and themselves. The song Jealous Hands is a heart-stopping standout; a lush, halting, carnivalesque dirge whose lonely, spooky tone is outweighed by the all-encompassing, homey-warmth of Barthelmes' comforting croon." The Sound and the Fury named it one of their top 20 albums of 2011]. In Your Speakers enthused, "Throughout the album, Barthelmes' vocals thrive. The songs themselves are populated with a wealth of folk-instruments masterfully mixed (guitar, banjo, resonator, mandolin, upright bass, keys), which sets the stage for Barthelmes pitch perfect vocals (somewhere between Tindersticks' Stuart Staples and Iron & Wine's Samuel Beam)." And all three reviewers at The Round Table gave it a thumbs up . Topping it off, they were invited to do a Daytrotter Session.
Meanwhile, Brian's previous career makes an irresistible hook for stories and has led to appearances on NPR's Only a Game and write-ups in places like the Providence Phoenix and ESPN Boston. But one thing stands out in all the posts and profiles, while the football past lures them in, it's the quality of the musical present that really grabs their attention.
This burgeoning success convinced the band members that they have a real shot at the brass ring and they decided that a full commitment to the music meant they all had to reduce their living expenses. So when Brian's wife had an interview for a job at Dartmouth, and the couple got a glimpse of the Upper Valley, they decided to make the move North.
Brian had been doing social work but felt like he needed a change of pace and something not quite so emotionally intense. He applied to a couple of companies whose products he liked and was hired by King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT. The warehouse job provides him the sort of physical workout he hadn't been getting for the past several years-replenishers walk about 12 miles a day-and, thanks to the flexibility of supervisors Ryan Boynton and Robin Royce, a schedule that will allow him to continue touring and working on the band's third album.
Given the band members' backgrounds and Brian's own love of drawing it should come as no surprise that their website- TallahasseeBand.com -is a work of art. It also includes a generous helping of their music for listening and download. Visit because you're curious about the singing offensive lineman, but be prepared to stay because you will love the music.
Posted by Orrin Judd at September 1, 2012 7:32 AM