In college, a friend of mine introduced me to the music of a band called Soul Miner’s Daughter, a popular acoustic rock outfit in Atlanta in the late 90’s. He guessed it would be right up my alley, and boy was he right. I’ve held onto this burned CD for years without really knowing much about where it came from.
The band is basically some bongo drums, a guitar guy who sings also, and this powerhouse female lead singer who has a singular voice. It is a sharp-edged snarl, soaring on the bluesy tracks but also angelic on the lighter side. And their weird, nasal harmonies work very well together, producing an incredibly unique combination of sound.
So it goes like this for a while. And then one day, about a year ago, I hear this song on a country station and I think – “that’s Soul Miner’s Daughter!” I recognized Jennifer Nettles’ voice immediately. But what is this? Twangy, cheesy country? whats up?
It turns out that Ms. Nettles has moved on to this group called Sugarland, and over the past year they have completely blown up and I bet som eof you reading this are surprised that this is news to me. So I’ve heard a couple Sugarland songs on the radio, and her voice is as smokin’ as ever, but it seems so out of place in this context. Doesn’t make any sense to me. It feels like, to me, that she sold out.
So i googled her. What I found was this quote from an interview back in 2002 (already a few years post-SMD):
”From an artistic perspective, I had a lot of different things I wanted to try and I didn’t feel at liberty trying different genres and styles of writing with different inputs from band members,” explains Nettles of the Soul Miner’s Daughter split up. ”I wanted to have more diversity, I was tired of being in that acoustic folk rock niche,” she continues.”
So things are flipped, it turns out that she felt pigeonholed the other way around. As a SMD fan though, I feel a bit like I’m losing out, but I have to be careful to refrain from automatic assumptions.
What I do know is that Jennifer Nettles has a mighty career ahead of her. I couldn’t predict what it will sound like, given her track record, but it’s bound to be stunning.