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World Cafe Nashville: Bermuda Triangle

From left, Jesse Lafser, Brittany Howard and Becca Mancari of Bermuda Triangle.
From left, Jesse Lafser, Brittany Howard and Becca Mancari of Bermuda Triangle.

Southern friendship is all about porches. The craftsman cottages of East Nashville were designed for afternoon sweet tea and guitar picking with the perfume of whatever's on the smoker (these days, it's as likely to be tofu as hog) wafting by. Bars like Mickey's on Gallatin Pike have great porches, too — a famous local might come in for a cold beer and leave hours later in a new super group. Bermuda Triangle, the trio of Alabama Shakes leader Brittany Howard and rising solo performers Becca Mancari and Jesse Lafser, formed just that way; on an informal porch tour that started with friends harmonizing on each other's songs and has led to sold out shows across the country for one of the most storied new groups in Nashville. Bermuda Triangle formed on a lark and has only released two songs, but has already developed a worldwide fan base.

Howard, Mancari and Lafser all maintain their own brilliant careers; What brings them together in Bermuda Triangle is friendship, pure and simple. The women's harmonies are sublime, but loose, leaving room for each Howard's edgy alto, Mancari's warm one, and Lafser's, plain and clear as a Western sunset. Each woman moved to Nashville at different times and for different reasons: Lafser from St. Louis and time touring the West in a Jeep by herself; The New York-born Mancari arrived after a long stop in rural Virginia; Howard from Athens, Ala., the town right near Muscle Shoals where she and her high school friends formed a band that would define the sound of Southern rock for a new generation. They were all happily pursuing their own muses. What they found in each other was a rare camaraderie and a vocal and songwriting blend that feels comfortably telepathic.

It's also important that Bermuda Triangle features three women. (Nashville's music scene, though bursting with women's talent, can still sometimes feel a bit like a dudefest.) Running on estrogen power, Bermuda Triangle proves that swagger is a quality that goes beyond gender. Howard, Mancari and Lafser joined Ann Powers at Nashville's Sound Stage Studios for some conversation and sweet harmony.

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