Texas based Psyche-Folk outfit Leon III has released their own version of Hoyt Axton’s “Kingswood Manor” to benefit mental health and substance abuse recovery charity the SIMS Foundation. This follows on from their recent album release, Antlers in Velvet.
Andy Stepanian explains:
“Many people seem to be struggling with mental health and substance issues right now especially in the music community. With this release, we decided to make a donation to the SIMS Foundation for every download on our Bandcamp page and for every time someone saves the song on Spotify or Apple Music for the first week after release. The Sims Foundation, which is based in Austin, is doing great work providing mental health and substance use recovery services for music industry professionals and their families.”
Andy Stepanian gives the full story of choosing this song to record:
“I came across Hoyt Axton’s 1969 album “My Griffin is Gone” in 2020. Like a lot of people, I discovered all kinds of music during the COVID months but “My Griffin is Gone” really stood out to me. I played it a lot. The record rambles all over the place and it has this very late 60’s psychedelic folk thread running through it that is borderline absurd at times. There are quasi-cheesy string arrangements and songs with lyrics about “riding on a green velvet dragon” but there’s also a manic darkness to the record that offsets all of this and grounds it as a serious, singular work.
After digging into it I realized I knew a bunch of Axton’s songs that were made famous by others like ‘The Pusher’ that Steppenwolf did (although I only know the Blind Melon version) and ‘Snowblind Friend’ that I knew from the Vic Chesnutt / Widespread Panic collab called brute. And, of course, everyone knows Joy to the World. He was also an actor in movies like Gremlins and Black Stallion. ‘Kingswood Manor’ hit me most on the album. It encapsulates the duality of the entire record. It has these over-the-top lyrics about “floating through the air on a cotton candy cloud” and “crystal Buddhas from the sea” and chimey lullaby sounds but it also has a dark underbelly about struggling to find bliss in the throws of mental illness. It’s a disconcerting song but also soothing and hopeful.
A few months back we had a day to kill in Nashville and I thought it would be fun to go into our friend Kai Welch’s studio and try and get down a version of ‘Kingswood Manor.’ It was a super relaxed session. We had exhausted ourselves for two whole days before shooting a live set so we had no real agenda or expectation. Some friends who had played on our Antlers in Velvet record like Paul Niehaus (Justin Townes Earle) and Tony Crow (Lambchop) stopped in to play and producer Paul Ebersold (Morgan Wade) just stopped in to hang and talk shit. We had a great day. After we were gone, Kai got Molly Martin to come in and sing background vocals. She really brought the song together and gave it a timeless feel.
After it was all mixed we thought it would be cool to release the song digitally and try to use the occasion to do some good.”
More about the SIMS Foundation:
The SIMS Foundation provides mental health and substance use recovery services and supports for musicians, music industry professionals, and their dependent family members. Through education, community partnerships, and accessible managed care, SIMS seeks to destigmatize and reduce mental health and substance use issues, while supporting and enhancing the wellbeing of the music community at large.