It’s hard for Hootie & the Blowfish’s Mark Bryan to remember a time when the music of R.E.M. wasn’t a crucial component of his personal playlist. First as a fan, then as a colleague and eventually as an occasional collaborator, Bryan’s affection for and connection to the Athens act’s seminal songs runs both deep and wide. He acquired a black Rickenbacker strikingly similar to R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck’s signature six string. He picked up the mandolin that allowed him to lose his religion. And he connected with former People Who Must frontman and fellow veteran of the Southeastern scene Joe Stevenson to find The Voice of Harold.
Born of Bryan and Stevenson’s regular performance of select R.E.M. tunes at the Murray Bros Caddyshack Charity Golf Tournament, The Voice of Harold – named for a famous R.E.M outtake – is more than merely a musical tribute to the musicians’ favorite act. It’s a full band experience that celebrates the iconic hits and deep cuts of one of America’s most influential catalogues. Joined onstage by Aaron Utterback (bass) and Matt Zutell (drums) of the Charleston, SC band Human Resources, Voice of Harold is built not to recreate a note-for-note facsimile of the band’s distinctive jangle, but rather channel the joy fans felt, and still feel, when confronted by the band’s uncommon approach to the classic guitar-bass-drums format.
“The truth is you can’t recreate that sound,” Stevenson said. “But you can try to grab some of that energy. We’ve all been around for a while. There is a lot of history. But what’s remarkable about Harold is that when we start in on Radio Free Europe, we are all just kids marveling at the mysteries of that song once again.”
Listen up. Can you hear it? It’s The Voice of Harold.