July 2, 2018 by Jay Minkin
It’s funny how fate works. The time line was an October Saturday night in 2011 at 3 Crows Bar in East Nashville. Dale Elwell and I just completed a whirlwind week of Americana Music Festival purging and we weren’t quite ready for it to end. It was last call for food in the backside bar and along with a cast of characters left of us including Mojo Nixon and Todd Snider, a long conversation is struck up with Scott Collins sitting to the right. That’s how I heard about The Smoking Flowers and future trips continued to foster a friendship with Scott and his lovely wife and musical partner Kim Collins. Dale and I would go “off the grid” during subsequent AMA weeks to catch the couple performing at a now defunct motorcycle garage called The Zombie Shop, the original Family Wash, or The 5 Spot. These evenings remain to be some of our epic “highlights” which can all be traced back to one particular chance moment.
Scott and Kim Collins have long been part of the fabric that makes up the East Nashville music scene, an area that once was “the other side of the river” home to musicians is now an exploding neighborhood. The landscape is laden with talent and a few like Margo Price and Aaron Lee Tasjan have become breakout outlaw country artists. The Smoking Flowers two-piece southern gothic folk is full of raw rock and roll punk attitude. Kim, whose voice graces the Deadstring Brothers Cannery Row Lp, plays ferocious drums along with accordion, acoustic guitar, mandolin, and harmonica. Scott rips on the electric and acoustic guitar, harmonica and blends fiery vocals with his better half. Their interplay on stage during live performances is sensual foreplay between lovers and not the usual husband and wife shtick shenanigans.
A lot has happened since the release of the duo’s last record 2 Guns in 2013. Kim was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer just after they recorded and mixed the album. Thankfully, she is in remission today due to only using holistic and non-toxic alternative methods including a raw food diet. They spent the last four years traveling through North America and abroad performing and composing new songs of strength, perseverance, and spitting into the eye of darkness. Now celebrating twenty years of marriage, The Smoking Flowers have channeled their triumphant journey into eleven tracks that make up the new album Let’s Die Together.
Most of the album was recorded at Nashville’s Playground Studio which was produced, mixed, and engineered by Justin Collins and Adam Landry. Additional musicians include Justin Collins (guitar), Chris Autry and Sean Beavan (bass), Robbie Crowell (keyboards), Marshall Richardson (drums), and Landry (multi-instruments). The record kicks-off with the upbeat “Young & Brave”, dedicated to those who remain young at heart and brave in action. Kim’s angry vocals and Scott’s guitar shredding vents their displeasure over artists copying old styles and not being original on “Rip It Off”. A few months after Kim’s diagnosis, Scott penned a love letter titled “Here 4 U Now”. Kim explains “Scott was my “cancer buddy” through it all and I’ll never forget when he sat down and played “Here For U Now” for the first time. Better than any “love” song could ever mean. Got me through a really hard time and still does every time we play it live.” Recorded with some blazing electric guitar work, I’m starting to think these songs are so powerful, they could blow the roof off of Bridgestone Arena.
At a time when the area indie music scene almost disappeared, East Nashville became the neighborhood that artists cultivated and those changes are the heart of “Woodland Avenue”. A great radio single titled “Outlive Me” is Kim’s defiant stand to fight back against cancer. With Kim just hammering away on the sticks, Scott takes the lead on a distorted blues rocker “Sunset, MO” about an old childhood neighborhood on the other side of the tracks. The jangly pop hook song “Street Fight” is a fictional story inspired by life in and around the bars of East Nashville twenty years ago. The album takes another turn with the haunting ballad “One Friend”. The song is dedicated to many special friends for all the love and support during Kim’s holistic treatment approach that was not covered by insurance.
“One Horse Town” is just plain nasty and painful with Kim’s gothic expressive voice about a hometown she longed to leave. It’s as though the lovers have come to the end of the road with the title track “Let’s Die Together”, a slow burner with an electric ending on the refrain “Don’t Leave Me Now/Don’t Leave Me Now”. The final track is the gorgeous acoustic aftermath “Heart B 4 The Head”, a visual poem of a love affair with a tip of the cap to Leonard Cohen.
The Smoking Flowers new record was self funded, but they decided to create a Pledge Music campaign for a unique purpose. Along with the usual unique buying experiences available on this platform, the couple also created their own non-profit charity called ‘The Treasure Chest’ whose purpose is to be both an informational and financial resource to anyone diagnosed with cancer seeking to treat it holistically or with alternative means. Grants are given to those who qualify and go towards their choice of non-toxic healing protocol that insurance companies do not provide coverage. A portion of all proceeds made on Pledge Music will go towards this new charity, which goes above and beyond the music touching your heart.
Life is precious. It can change in an instant and for some the pressures can cause you to stop trying. The ties that bind Scott and Kim Collins are strong and that is the magic behind what makes The Smoking Flowers. Let’s Die Together is more than just a new record. It’s just another chapter of their love story.