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True Grit: Hail Dale's high-speed, rubber-burning ride

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  • | 5:33 p.m. September 4, 2013
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In a cluttered warehouse unit north of downtown Sarasota, twangy, interweaving guitar leads ring out through the garage door and echo into the empty parking lot outside. Twice a week, after the surrounding businesses have closed for the day, the four members of Hail Dale file into the unit, bottle of whiskey in tow. After scraping together enough strings and cables to play, the members dive into several hours of smack talk, boozing and blistering, dirty, southern garage-rock.

The tongue-in-bearded-cheek tribute to Dale Earnhardt belts out quick-and-dirty tunes that offer a whiskey-soaked nod to 1970s rockers, like Molly Hatchet and Lynyrd Skynyrd, but with more self-deprecating lyrics, steeped in topics like women, depression and excess. Their style stands in opposition to most of the music currently coming out of Sarasota, and according to the band members, it's no accident.


"We were tired of all the indie, artsy hipster music that coming out of this area," says guitarist and vocalist Chris Flannagan. "I mean, we were all in those kinds of bands, but we found each other and felt like we could make some real, southern rock 'n' roll."

Singer and guitarist Garrett Von Räd, drummer David Cornicelli and bassist Brockford Lee play in another band, called Umbrella Cult, and they recruited Flannagan to help achieve their gritty sound.

"We actually came together as a joke," says Cornicelli. "The name Hail Dale came about because apparently, some people like to fly Dale Earnhardt flags above the American flag in the South. So, it started as a play on words, and something that was a funny, beer-drinking joke has turned into a pretty decent band — at least we think so."

The four-piece has embraced and exaggerated the persona, which they say often spills over into their live performances.

"People kind of expect us to be a mess, though," says Cornicelli. "If we weren't, I think people would be like, 'Wait, they have their stuff together?'"

The members say the band's name has grown to represent their affinity for small-town, southern lifestyle and its accompanying authentic music. They recently took a trip to Bomb Shelter Studios in Nashville, where they recorded an analog, seven-track album, called "Smoke it Off," which they've released on cassette tape, 10" vinyl and as an MP3 download.

They hope the album will help deliver a more diverse sound to Sarasota and that listeners will appreciate the authentic musicians who have influenced them.

"I think southern rock holds a special place in everyone's heart, and we're just trying to help get it out there," says Von Räd. "We want to remind people that rock, in its purest form, is still alive. We're such music lovers that we want people to respect the music history that's inspired us."

Click HERE for an additional live performance.


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