They aim to be the gentleman cowboys of country music.
The band members of Gravel Roads want to move their fans with their lyrics about life, love and faith and their soulful, often-rocking instrumentals and vocals. They’re committed to do it in a way that is respectful to all people. That means no lyrics that demean women, trivialize sex, promote drunkenness or are explicit.
The band is made up of four God-fearing, working-class guys living in the north suburbs. All in their 50s and 60s, the men explain that they have some life under their belts and are at a point where they want to make music that matters. They want to play songs that their friends, wives, children and grandchildren can enjoy and understand. All four members have day jobs and moonlight as musicians.
“Our music is about, ‘How can we encourage you?’ ” founding member Jim Mellor said. “It’s a ‘life is good’ message.”
“Success for me is a chance to perform the music live,” bass player Tom House said. “And the parents don’t have to worry about what the kids are hearing.”
Gravel Roads recorded its first album of all-original songs in Mellor’s Isanti basement last summer. It’ll play shows all over the state starting this spring, including at festivals in Nowthen, St. Anthony, Ramsey and Ham Lake. It’ll also perform at the Crossroads Chapel at the Minnesota State Fair.
Their concerts include a mix of original and carefully selected cover songs — mostly classic country anthems.
The band started when brothers-in-law Jeff Pasbrig and Mellor decided to enter the Country Showdown, a nationwide talent competition looking for undiscovered country stars.
Pasbrig, who had been writing music for years as almost a form of healing, sifted through his pile of songs. He first picked up a guitar during those tough adolescent years. He was raised by a single mom, who rented a guitar for him.
“It was an escape for me to play the guitar and get my feelings out. I was a lonely kid,” Pasbrig explains.
He and Mellor, who have played together for years in church bands, finished third in the state round of competition and decided to record an album of original work.
Then they formed a band.
Mellor put an ad on Craigslist for two musicians to fill out the band. House and drummer Darrel “D” Ion joined Gravel Roads in the summer of 2013.
On stage in Coon Rapids
A recent concert in Coon Rapids was thick with classic country riffs and nostalgia including Randy Travis and Alan Jackson covers.
The concert also featured many original songs, including “Gravel Roads,” which Pasbring wrote about a challenging time in his life.
“I am one of those people that lost their house to foreclosure,” Pasbring explained at the concert before performing the song.
“Walking down the gravel road kicking dirt and kicking stone,” Pasbring sings.
“Just lost my job today. Don’t know how I’m gonna pay.
“I know it will all work out in the end with my faith and my family and my friends.”
Mellor expressed admiration for Pasbrig’s lyricism.
“They always speak what’s on his heart at that time and they are always sincere,” Mellor said.