Missing Cats Release First Album After Three Decades of Collaboration

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:: Fox Theatre :: September 14 ::
:: Ogden Theatre :: September 15 ::
:: Belly Up (Aspen) :: September 16 ::

By Karen Maye

Two old friends hanging out having a good time — this seems to be the attitude of Missing Cats, in general.

The duo consists of New York-based musician Sherman Ewing, and Oxford, Miss.-based John “Jojo” Hermann of Widespread Panic, and while the two have been “hanging out” as The Missing Cats for years, they are finally releasing their first album Larry Brown Amen, which hits stores on September 4.

“In some ways it’s been 30 years in the making,” said Sherman Ewing in a recent interview with The Marquee. “Jojo and I met each other not quite 30 years ago, but it seems like every time we started to do something, something would come up and it would push it back a little bit.”

“It’s really a songwriter’s project” said Hermann, in a separate recent interview with The Marquee. “We enjoy writing songs and the only way to not forget them is to record them. I guess that is why we did this record, so they wouldn’t disappear.”

The pair recorded the album over four days at Westwood Studios in Nashville, Tenn. with Grammy-nominated producer Jon Randall Stewart and a plethora of guests including Luther and Cody Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars), Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Sam Bush, Jesse Alexander, and Anthony Krisan (The Spin Doctors).

“When we recorded the

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we actually laid the tracks down and then [Jojo] and I went out and did ten gigs in 12 days,” said Ewing. “We were actually working on lyrics and melodies and stuff and then going and playing them that night and then changing them a little bit and then playing them the next night, and when we got back is when I actually put the vocals down.”

“There was a lot of energy in the studio,” said Hermann. “I just remember that everybody who was there really liked the idea that we were just tracking live and at the same time like a real band. It was refreshing just to go in there and knock it out.”

The Minnesota born Ewing and the New York born Hermann met in 1983 at Columbia University, and discovered a mutual passion for songwriting. Along with a couple other friends, they formed the band Sherman and the Bureaucrats and started playing clubs around New York. “I played drums actually, but my wrist would cramp up by the third song,” said Hermann. After college, Ewing stayed in New York, playing in various bands until launching his solo career. In 2002 he released his first album Bluemoon.

Hermann, on the other hand, moved to Oxford, Mississippi and joined the local band Beanland after a friend of the band heard him playing an old upright piano at a local club.

“Piano is my thing. I love New Orleans boogie woogie, Professor Long Hair. I like blues. I just like all that kind of stuff,” said Hermann. “All I played was piano and organ. I knew if I was going to do it for a living I had to get out of New York and a friend of mine told me about Oxford, Mississippi. I went down to visit for two weeks and I never went back.”

After touring the Southeast with Beanland, Hermann moved on to join Athens, Ga.-based Widespread Panic in 1992.

“[Jojo] and I sort of reunited for the first time musically in July 2001 when I was just putting together some songs for my first CD,” Ewing said. “Jojo had gotten ahold of some of the tracks and out of the blue set up a gig after a Widespread Panic show at the Wetlands.”

After playing on and off together for years, the friends finally decided to reunite under the name Missing Cats in 2006. The duo played only a piano and acoustic guitar on stage, and in 2009 toured for the first time.

“Sherman and I would just sit around and write songs. We just kind of did an acoustic duo thing,” Hermann said. “I did some benefits down in Telluride and had Sherman come out and I think that’s when we decided, ‘Well let’s record these songs. We’ve got like ten songs. Let’s make a record.’”

Larry Brown Amen, inspired by the late Southern author, draws from both Ewing and Hermann’s solo efforts, including Ewing’s Single Room Saloon, and Hermann’s Smiling Assassin.

“Larry Brown was an acquaintance of mine,” said Hermann. “His books are just a big part of my life. The way he paints the images of Mississippi, nobody does it better.”

And at the heart of the album is the theme of two songwriters having fun making music with their buddies. “We have just had a whole lot of fun together,” said Ewing. “Jojo’s been really generous and thoughtful in including me in stuff. It really comes down to the fact that we are old friends.”

 

:: Missing Cats ::

:: Fox Theatre :: September 14 ::

:: Ogden Theatre :: September 15 ::

:: Belly Up (Aspen) :: September 16 ::

 

Recommended if you Like:

• North Mississippi Allstars

• Widespread Panic

• Leon Russell

 

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