The Congress

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Virginia Native Jonathan Meadows reaches ’across the aisle’ to form Colorado’s The Congress

:: The Congress ::
:: Cactus Jack's Saloon :: December 4 ::
:: Agave (Avon) :: December 11 ::
:: Front Range BBQ ::  December 18 ::

By Ben Waligoske

When The Congress’s Jonathan Meadows moved from Richmond, Va. to Colorado just a year ago, it was with a one-way ticket in hand and the convictions of a close friend in mind — convictions that the burgeoning Rocky Mountain music scene could be fertile enough to support him as he began to write and play after two years away from live music.

“I was in a band in Richmond called The Grove,” Meadows said in a recent interview with The Marquee. “It was out there, man, we thought we were like The Dead. We invested everything into that band, moved to the Virginia countryside and had a big following. But, as it does — life happened. Things happened to people, and the band crumbled. After that I took a long break.” But then, as friends do, Meadows’ long-time musical companion and lead guitarist Scott Lane called him from Colorado, where he had moved in 2008, in an attempt to convince him to start fresh on the Front Range.

“He said, ‘What are you doing back there man?’” Meadows chuckled as he recalled Lane’s persistent tone, “‘I’ve met a bunch of people out here who are badass. You need to come out here and let’s play. I’ll line up a gig.’ And so I did. We played around a couple of times with various people but almost right away we had solidified our lineup.”

That lineup, which features the addition of Dwight Thompson on bass and Damon Scott on drums, is now known as Denver-based The Congress. Their soulful brand of rock and Americana is rooted in a traditional Virginia mindset — one that is full of beauty and contemplation. And yet the music retains a noticeable edge, perhaps owing to the storied history of Meadows’ hometown, to which he attributes some of his inspiration.  “Richmond is an old city, it has tons of character,” Meadows said. “There’s a lot of messed up things that have gone down there — the burning of the city in the Civil War, of course, but also current racial and social class tension. Still though, there is a great, very happening music scene, of all genres, but without any attention to it on the map.”

That lack of attention, coupled with the pleading of Lane, was what finally brought Meadows to Colorado in 2009, where, after two short rehearsals, the newly formed The Congress began playing around the Denver area. They knew, though, that in addition to honing their live act, they needed to get into the studio to begin realizing their full potential. So last year they teamed up with famed Denver recording engineer and Grammy winner John Macy (Macy Sound Studios), as well as renowned keyboardist Daniel Clarke (K.D. Lang, Ryan Adams, The Dixie Chicks), to cut a seven-track debut EP.

“We wanted the album to be something along the lines of Harvest (Neil Young) — not the songs or the style necessarily, but the feel of it,” Meadows said. “We wanted that sound. That old sound. We wanted the warmth and character of it, for it to feel as if you should listen to it on an old record player.” Those intentions were certainly helped by the piano and organ work of Clarke, a personal friend of Meadows’ from Richmond.  “Beyond the obvious — Daniel’s masterful and otherworldly piano and organ playing — on a production level, he wipes your personal filter away,” Meadows said. “There is no room for withholding ideas or creative flow. He’s got the ability to draw things out of you that you didn’t know you had.”

The result of the collaboration is a stunning self-titled debut, one that features a careful blend of musicianship and songwriting, and one that Meadows is very proud of. “Everyone brought virtuosic talent to this album, but the cool part is they were able to check that at the door, and just serve the music. Making this album with these guys was easy,” he said. “I want that to be known — this record really made itself.”

But, anyone who is familiar with the development of a young band knows that the live performance of a group can speak volumes about their character and desire to succeed. For The Congress, this certainly rings true. Over the past year, the band has logged two separate tours — one in the Southeast and one in the Northwest.  “The past year has been insane,” Meadows started. “Beginning in May of 2010 we hit the Southeast, and it was good. While we were doing that, our booking agency lined up our Northwest tour, which went very well, and was very beautiful, too. Every day the sights we saw made me want to cry! We also did a couple of official after-Phish shows on that tour (with Great American Taxi and The Stax Brothers) which were great.”

With such impressive tours already under their belt and a fresh EP in tow, one may think that The Congress might be content to relax for awhile. Meadows thinks otherwise. “We’re writing new songs faster than we can play them, and have Colorado and Southeast tours in the works for 2011,” he said. “Every time we play together another piece falls into place, the light gets a little bit brighter.”

:: The Congress ::

:: Cactus Jack’s Saloon :: December 4 ::

:: Agave (Avon) :: December 11 ::

:: Front Range BBQ :: December 18 ::

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