Auntie Bellum hasn’t been at it for very long, but one of the projects we’re most proud of is our Southern Cover Girl series. We’re always so delighted to bring together talented and open-minded singers, musicians, videographers, and some very generous friends to create beautiful things. The concept is simple: pick your favorite song written or performed by a Southern woman, and we’ll arrange the filming of a stripped-down, solo performance. For us, the idea captured what we were trying to achieve with Auntie Bellum, revisiting and reviving something special.
The filming was always an adventure. We’ve been all over the Columbia area and, in one case, we even wrangled a Nashville shoot. I hope you’ll allow us to indulge a bit by once again showing you the Southern Cover Girls of 2015.
Also, ladies, whether you’re in the music scene, strumming at home, or singing in the shower, please let us know if you’d like to take part in this experiment. We’ve had a blast this year, and we’re hoping to keep it going into 2016.
Our first two videos were shot by Josh Rainwater of That Rainwater on the same long day. King Vulture‘s Kate Pyritz sang an arresting version of “A Good Start” by Maria Taylor in Josh’s studio (only in retrospect did we realize how awesome that choice was for our debut). That evening we traveled to a small baseball diamond to shoot Kelly Douglas (the first of two Prairie Willows that we convinced to perform for us) singing “Strange Fruit.” Weird spot, truly amazing voice.
Our third video featured South Carolina phenom Stefanie Santana with Kitty Well’s “fuck you” to Hank Thompson, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” Stephen Maluck and Jeff Driggers filmed Stefanie on an extraordinarily hot summer day in and around one of Columbia’s emptiest malls. You won’t be able to get this one out of your head. As Travis Bland says on Stereofly’s best of 2015 roundup, “The simple uke chords and her charming voice—it’s irresistible.”
Next up was Perrin Skinner (Another Prairie Willow! We’re coming for you, Kristen.) singing Dolly Parton’s gorgeous, though daunting for most mortals, goodbye to Porter Wagner. Perrin slayed it, and Stephen Maluck got it all on film in the belly of the Lincoln St. tunnel. I should also mention here that the Prairie Willows’ “Whiskey” should not be missed.
For our fifth video, Josh Rainwater filmed the indefatigable director of Girls Rock Columbia, Mollie Williamson, singing and playing the keyboard in the backseat of a car as they drove around town, stopping for Sonic shakes and passing by bigots trying to keep a shitty flag flying. Mollie singing “Harsh Realms” by Laura Jane Grace taps into the pain and anxiety of an unavoidable journey with an uncertain destination. It’s a ride through South Carolina’s summer of 2015.
We snagged another Girls Rock guru for the next one. Beth Dickerson, stylist, rock-climber, artist, and musician, belted Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” on the banks of the Congaree River. A new day, indeed – we felt it! Stephen Maluck captured the delicate strength and emotion of this badass rendition of a Simone classic.
Kyshona Armstrong came to us all the way from Nashville. She’s a pro clearly chin-deep in the blues and it’s apparent on this cover of Cary Ann Hearst’s “Dust and Bones,” which will devastate you in the best possible way. The folks at Tiny Sunshine Studios, namely Caryn Johnson, found the dust and the bones in an verdant, overgrown Tennessee cemetery. Now, Kyshona travels far and wide with her bluesy performances, so let’s all cross our fingers for a South Carolina show in 2016.
On a recent visit back to South Carolina last October, Susan Margolis of The Rosewood Girl agreed to a Southern Cover Girl performance, and we were over the moon. Maybe it’s just me, but Lucinda Williams’ “Fruits of Our Labor” combined with a rainy SC day is so damn fall, particularly as Margolis trades Williams’ trademark gravel and languor for a crisp, sad sweetness. Katherine McCollough, a powerhouse artist, writer, and musician in her own right, shot this one on our friend Chris Bickle’s rustic estate in the wilds west of Columbia.
I said it once and I’ll say it again, Desirée Richardson is the bravest of the Southern Cover Girls. She took this weird instrument to the middle of Main St. Columbia and sang a beautiful, soul-seeking critique of race and class in America, “Hell You Talmbout” by Janelle Monáe. Josh Rose from Elephant Room Media along with Stephen Maluck captured the frenetic imagery of the song set against those dreamy sounds.
Finally, our holiday gift to all of you who keep coming back to see what we’re up to – no matter what kind of weird shit we throw your way. This was the brainchild of photo editor Karla Turner. She convinced singer-songwriter Jade Janay Blocker to perform “Hard Candy Christmas,” a song sung by Dolly Parton in the ribald and strange movie version of the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. We got Josh Rose and Matt Breeden to film and edit on very short notice, and the result is magical. During the filming, all of our jaws dropped when Jade hit the chorus (I wish everyone on the planet could’ve been there). Also, Tapp’s was kind enough to let us use their Fountain Room when we weren’t cavorting in the street lights, and some friends showed up to mill around and look cute. Happy 2015, ya’ll.