For seven years, City Hotel has brought young energy to an old-school genre. Bandmates Aaron Zimmer, Cory Chambers, Jay Rudd, and Anthony Teixeira have used acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo, and upright bass to spin stories and harmonies on stages throughout Savannah.
In 2017, the bluegrass band released its most ambitious project to date. Don’t Go to the Porch, a 14-song LP recorded locally with Kevin Rose at Elevated Basement Studios, features the band’s best songwriting, with fictional Southern Gothic stylings, humorous spins on old family idioms (see the title track), and arrangements that show off the group’s incomparable chemistry.
Chambers described the title track to Connect in 2017:
“My grandma’s neighbor was fixing his porch and it collapsed. He said to his wife, ‘Don’t go to the porch.’ She said, ‘Why not?’ and he said, ‘Because there ain’t one.’ That’s become a mantra in my head for a while now, for when maybe your brain is going somewhere you don’t want it to.”
It’s an album of personal mantras that have now touched the group’s fan base.
“There’s been way more people requesting songs off Don’t Go to the Porch, and that’s just been incredible,” Chambers says over fresh pours at their Friday night Service Brewing residency. “We feel like it’s been well-received, and this award only adds to that feeling.”
The band celebrated their album release on Service’s stage in August 2017; that performance was one of their first without their signature old-school condenser microphone. In the year since the acoustic band plugged in, audiences have seen their musicianship evolve in a whole new way.
“We’re finally used to it now,” banjo player Jay Rudd says of the change.
“It’s just a bigger sound,” vocalist/guitarist Zimmer says. “It’s a little more rock ‘n’ roll.”
With Don’t Go to the Porch still in demand (available on Spotify, iTunes, and CDBaby), the band plans on booking some out-of-town gigs soon—they recently hired a promotional manager to help—and will start working on new material.
“We’re ready to learn some new stuff,” Rudd says. “We’re in the thick of the wedding season right now...but I think we’re ready to start writing again.”
“We’ve been a band for seven years now,” notes Zimmer. “Lately, we’re experimenting with our regular covers and old tunes, bringing new life and feels to it.”
Fans can see it all live every Friday at Service Brewing for Bluegrass & Brews, a new series that the band is hosting. Get off work and head down to Indian Street and enjoy local beer and a long City Hotel set from 5:30-8 p.m.
Zimmer, Chambers, Rudd, and Tiexeira certainly aren’t strangers to the Best of Savannah Awards, but their first Best Local Album win is uniquely special for the group.
“We just have so much gratitude for when people ask for those songs,” Chambers says. “It’s the best feeling.” — Anna Chandler
Runner-Up: Honey, Danielle Hicks & The Resistance