Courtesy of the artist
If Buddy Holly is somehow still capable of hearing the sounds emanating from this mortal plane, there’s a good chance he’s sporting a broad grin upon encountering “Tip My Heart.” The title track from the debut album by Sally & George bears a Spartan sparkle not far removed from the kind that marked the late rock ‘n’ roll pioneer’s venerated output.
Shelby “Sally” Means and Joel “George” Timmons first met back in 2012, when Timmons’ Americana outfit, Sol Driven Train, and Means’ distaff bluegrass band, Della Mae, were playing the same festival. They eventually developed both a romantic partnership and a musical one, adopting the given names of Means’ late grandparents for the latter. But “Tip My Heart” is actually a song Means wrote during her Della Mae days that was too rock ‘n’ roll for the band.
The chords are the same sturdy ones that folks have been hanging great pop songs on for the last several decades. The production is as spare as can be —just vocals, acoustic guitar and upright bass — but you’re two-thirds of the way through the song before it even occurs to you that there aren’t any drums, such is the propulsive power of the deceptively simple arrangement.
Means sings about the giddy leap of falling in love as the guitar and bass provide a simple but sturdy bed of rhythm, adorned by deftly positioned post-rockabilly lead-guitar lines. When Means and Timmons’ voices come together, it feels emblematic of the romantic rush at the center of the song’s lyric.
The vintage rock ‘n’ roll heart that shines through this song represents a link to the pre-Boomer generation. Holly’s guileless but ineluctable hooks and The Everly Brothers’ penchant for marrying pop moves with rock’s rhythmic muscle are touchstones here. And the handclaps that provide the track with perfect rhythmic punctuation lend both a mid-’60s touch and just the slightest whiff of retro-conscious postmodernism. Sally & George have done us all a public service by showing there’s some solace to be found in the fact that some of the things which made music work half a century ago can still cut through in 2017.
Tip My Heart comes out Feb. 10 via PledgeMusic.