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A & E

Artworks: 'Energy, attitude and some jams'

Joliet's Righteous Hillbillies to play Will County Celtic Fest on Saturday

The Righteous Hillbillies – Brent James, Nick Normando, Chris Bartley, Jeff Bella and Barret Harvey – will play at Will County Celtic Fest.
The Righteous Hillbillies – Brent James, Nick Normando, Chris Bartley, Jeff Bella and Barret Harvey – will play at Will County Celtic Fest.

According to its website, the Joliet band the Righteous Hillbillies is a "rock ‘n’ roll band launching a revival of the Southern spirit of blues boogie, soul groove, along with the primal and visceral energy of rock ‘n’ roll power."

The Righteous Hillbillies will play at this weekend's Will County Celtic Fest.

Recently founder, lead singer, rhythm guitarist and songwriter Brent James talked with Herald News Features Editor via email about the band's fourth CD of original music along with other insights into the Righteous Hillbillies.

Baran-Unland: Tell us about your new album, it’s release date and what fans can expect from it.

James: Our new album “Playing With Fire” is a diverse collection of songs that draws from the melting pot of soul, rock 'n’ roll, R&B, alternative country and Americana. Brent James, lead vocalist and songwriter, has an eclectic approach to songwriting that allows the band not to be pigeon-holed into one genre. The album is due out in late August 2018 and can be purchased from, I-Tunes, CD Baby and Amazon. With the resurgence of vinyl records, the band will also be releasing the album on limited edition transparent green vinyl in October 2018.

Baran-Unland: How does this compare to your previous releases?

James: The overall musical direction for Playing With Fire has taken some exciting new turns, with added background vocal harmonies constructed by the bands bass player Jeff Bella and Chris Bartley’s piano and organ tracks have taken a more center stage approach than our previous records. Between the diverse songwriting and the other factors, we believe this is our strongest release to date.

Baran-Unland: Your website said the Righteous Hillbillies released its first recording in 2008? Was that when the band first formed? And what brought the five of you together?

James: The band was formed in late 2008 and has had different lineups through the years, making lead singer Brent James the only surviving member from its inception. Righteous Hillbillies are Brent James on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Jeff Bella on bass guitar, Nick Normando on lead guitar, Chris Bartley on piano and organ and Barret Harvey on drums.

Baran-Unland: For newcomers to your music, what can music-lovers expect to see and hear when the Righteous Hillbillies perform at Will county Celtic Fest?

James: Our live show is full of energy, attitude and some jams. We like to stretch out the songs a bit and see where things go and offer existing fans the opportunity to see and hear something new each time.

Baran-Unland: Who are the band's musical inspirations?

James: Our musical inspirations vary by each member, Jeff’s favorite band is Cracker, Barret loves Daniel Lanois, Chris is into a lot of jam bands, Nick is baptized in Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers, while Brent listens to a wide variety of Americana from Tom Petty to Lucero. Put all that into a melting pot and you get the Righteous Hillbillies sound.

Baran-Unland; Who writes the songs?

James: Brent James is the band's primary songwriter, along with contributions from Nick Normando and Chris Bartley. Brent also collaborates with co-writers David Masciotra and Scott Ellerbrock. After the initial songs are written each band member puts their individual stamp into each track that truly makes them what they are.

Baran-Unland: What are your goals for 2018?

James: Our goals are pretty simple, play music and make some friends along the way. The support of a record label or booking agency to widen the bands fan-base is always a goal to be obtained.

Baran-Unland: What do you wish people to take away from a Righteous Hillbillies performance?

James: The feeling that they had a connection with the band and to our original music that makes them feel good.

Baran-Unland: What advice would you give other musicians?

James: Have a good time doing something you enjoy, write your own music, put your thoughts down and share it with the world… and play, play, play.

Baran-Unland: Any parting words?

James: Support local original music when you can, the Joliet music scene is thriving with a lot of original talent. Get out and see a show!



WHAT: Righteous Hillbillies performance

WHEN: 8 to 9:30 p.m. Aug. 25

WHERE: St. Joseph Park, 700 Theodore St. Joliet


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