Chuck Mims might take issue with me putting him in this ‘nostalgia’ category of posts here, since he’s still out and about playing gigs, but I’m doing it anyway because I just found an old disc of my writing which includes an interview with him circa 2001 regarding his band The Stelle Group, a Rolling Stones-influenced alt-country rock outfit that still stands as the best manifestation of Mims’ singular talents. check out music from them and other Mims projects at www.chuckmims.com.
(From the Columbia Free Times, February 2001)
Hick’ry Hawkins, The Stelle Group
Elbow Room, Feb 15th
While this show’s headlining act, Hick’ry Hawkins, is undoubtedly Columbia’s finest example of classic honky-tonk country music in the hands of a man determined to live out the clichés in the songs he sings, the openers for the evening are celebrating a long-awaited milestone, the release of their first CD. At Home In Exile caps four years of the band’s hard work at establishing themselves.
“We tried to record for the first time in 1999, with David Barbe in Athens,” Stelle Group singer, guitarist and songwriter Chuck Mims says when questioned about the long wait. While some nice-sounding demos did surface from those sessions, Mims says, “There was no way we could affordably salvage anything out of it to release, so we regrouped and said, ‘Let’s just work on the songs and record in town, save some money.’”
The result is a casually brilliant snapshot of The Stelle Group’s twangy pop sound marked by Mims’ lazy, insouciant drawl, the stinging leads of guitarist Scott Taylor, and the solidly loose drumming of David Daniels. Bassist Jim Taylor left the band soon after recording these tracks–Byron Chitty, of local surf-instrumentalist legends Los Perdidos, is the current bass player.
“The songs on the record are from the beginning of the band up to the point where Jim left,” Mims says, “This is a document of the Stelle Group to that point.”
Of the newer songs on the album, one that has been getting an even more cathartic workout during the band’s live shows is, “Her Disguise.” “When we recorded that song, it was still pretty new,” Mims says as he explains how such a stately tune on the album has become a paint-peeling anthem in concert, “We were doing the ones we could play best, with the least amount of overdubs. It was a very dry, quick, live recording, mostly in an effort to save time and money.” Mims agrees that the band has already grown past even what it represents. “The newer material with Byron is twang oriented but not necessarily country rock.”
The disc’s title rather blatantly brings to mind a classic from the Rolling Stones, a group that knows a thing or two about incorporating country into gritty rock and roll. “Exile On Main Street did come up,” Mims says about the discussion that led to At Home In Exile, “But what the hell, it sums up being a band in Columbia. If you listen to the lyrics, most of the songs on the album are just my take on living here.” Like several other Columbia groups these days, Mims says, “It has been better out of town for us, as far as the crowd response and the number of gigs we are playing. We’re trying to make a point not to get stuck here.”
With an album finally out that they can promote through their expanding touring circuit, it is doubtful that The Stelle Group are going to be sticking around town much anytime soon.