Authentic country music still exists in Nashville; it thrives in the songs and voices of hard-edged southern storytellers like Stephen Flatt. Country music quite literally runs in this Nashville native’s veins, his great-uncle being bluegrass music legend and country music hall of famer Lester Flatt. It was this traditional family influence that ultimately forged Flatt's grasp of musical authenticity and honest storytelling, as well as the rejection of mainstream Nashville’s oft-overproduced musical styles.
After a lifetime in a musical family and performing in other projects, Flatt is set to release his solo debut Cumberland Bones — a vivid collection of character sketches born from the storied cultures of the American South, combining musical elements of country, Americana, folk, southern rock and, of course, bluegrass.
A seasoned vocalist and guitarist, he honed his talents performing in bars, clubs and writer's nights while in college, and eventually formed the Americana duo Flatt & Alvis with fellow singer/songwriter Shane Alvis. Featuring an all-star cast of Nashville session players, Flatt & Alvis recorded and independently released their debut album Fields of Fire to critical acclaim. The band toured regionally during the early aughts, garnering a formidable reputation for their vocal harmonies and unique sound combining traditional Appalachian folk, southern rock and traditional country. In 2011, Stephen formed the blues/rock outfit known as The Tolleson Experiment; again, combining multiple musical styles into a potent new sound. The band regularly performed in Nashville and garnered a sizable fan-base through their energetic live performances, and ultimately recorded and released two original albums.
Over the lifespan of these projects, Flatt found himself writing an original catalog of alternative country and Americana songs that seemed to stand on their own — and would ultimately come to be Cumberland Bones.
“These are my favorite songs that just didn’t have a real spot in the other bands,” he remarks. “These aren’t Tolleson Experiment material, these aren’t Flatt & Alvis material — these are me.” Flatt is also quick to note that he's not an archetypal “Nashville songwriter” with a mindless catalog aimed at chart success; these are deeply personal songs that have been meticulously crafted over the course of the past decade.
Tracking for Cumberland Bones took place in the Spring of 2020 with a prominent cast of studio musicians and close friends. The record was produced by legendary bassist Dave Roe, and features renowned musicians such as Kenny Vaughn, Pete Abbott, Charlie Cushman, Steve Hinson, Ronnie Bowman, and Deanie Richardson.
Cumberland Bones drifts through time, conveying the introspective storylines of various southern personalities and the direct impact on their lives by rural society. It’s a welcome debut from a masterful songwriter, and a more-than-worthy entry in the Flatt family canon.