The band name Amigo is intended to send out good vibes, and that’s exactly what the Charlotte rocking roots trio’s debut album, “Might Could,” does.
“When we picked a band name I had three criteria,” explains singer/guitarist and chief songwriter Slade Baird, sitting in Nova’s Bakery in Plaza-Midwood on a recent afternoon. “It had to have a positive connotation. I wanted it to be exotic. And it needed to be memorable.”
The name, which replaced the former lawsuit-courting moniker Old Milwaukee, fits a group that nearly everyone that encounters it and its music seems to like. Amigo draws fans with its congeniality, charisma and universal songwriting that revels in memorable hooks. It celebrates the release of “Might Could” at Snug Harbor Friday.
The album, which “American Songwriter Magazine” praises as “unexpected and serious songwriting rendered by a band capable of vast extremes,” made its debut on Spindale’s taste-making Americana hub, WNCW, last week and the group was featured in an on-air interview Wednesday.
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“We were won over to Amigo at first listen,” says the station’s midday host and producer, Joe Kendrick. “Their music shows that they’ve paid attention to roots music masters like Roy Orbison, Marshall Crenshaw and Jason Ringenberg while remembering to make music that’s uniquely their own.”
Part of that individuality stems from Baird’s diverse musical background from obvious ’70s country-rock to less apparent ’90s grunge and ’80s pop. He grew up in Clover, S.C., on the Ramones, the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, but kept his radio tuned to Magic 96.1 – Charlotte’s now-defunct oldies station. The sock-hop rave-up “(Miss You) Everyday That You’re Gone” is his tribute to that type of Gary U.S. Bonds ’60s pop. It was originally a slow song written during his divorce. That’s the kind of juxtaposition you find on “Might Could.”
“Best Laid Plans” was written during a summer when “people I’d grown up with were dropping dead,” he explains. It’s a heavy rumination on life, death and God against a chugging country-rock tempo with a ripping guitar solo. Like much of the album, Baird says it was influenced by deceased Tex-Mex songwriter/musician Doug Sahm. The Tex-Mex feel certainly comes across on “Oh Easy Rider,” which Baird calls his “impulse to write that macho dude song” in the vein of “Honky Tonk Women.”
“The songs on this album all come from personal experience, even the ones that sound lighthearted,” explains Baird, wearing a brown sweater, long curls and gold-rimmed glasses.
Baird, who played in Charlotte bands before moving to Philadelphia for a corporate job after studying graphic design at the University of South Carolina, decided to devote himself seriously to music after moving home.
He formed Old Milwaukee (now Amigo) with Phillips 3 1/2 years ago and recorded “Might Could” with North Carolina-based indie-rock producer Scott Solter (the Mountain Goats, John Vanderslice) in Monroe and Durham in 2012. The group waited until it could properly tour, market and distribute the album to release it. It’s still early, but the album seems to be catching fire.
What grabs listeners first are the hooks and the easy sing-along nature of the songs. “The melodies – that’s my personal measuring stick,” says Baird.