About this time last year, the band Cravin' Melon was preparing to tour Mississippi Delta states when their recording contract with Mercury Records came through.
The members were in Clemson, S.C., where they had met as students. They took the contract to a postal service, signed it, and popped it in a UPS envelope. Then they got in their van and drove to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for a show.
Back in Clemson, their signing was big news, but out on the road they didn't exactly feel they had made it.
"We're calling and talking to wives and girlfriends who are all excited," said drummer Rick Reams. "We're sitting over here in Clarksville, Mississippi, and no one knows who we are."
A year later, people are beginning to find out who they are. On Jan. 28, Cravin' Melon released its Mercury Debut, Red Clay Harvest. Its single, Come Undone, debuted at No. 17 on Billboard's new artists' chart. The band expects to shoot its first video in a couple of weeks.
If there's been a difference since the album has come out - aside from having to spend more time on radio interviews and record-store promotions - it has been in the way their audiences act.
People seem to be singing along with their songs, and actually coming to see the band rather than just going to the bar.
"It seems more of a concert situation, a little more of an event, than just playing the same place again," Mr. Reams said.
Saturday, Cravin' Melon performs at the Red Lion Pub on Walton Way.
Despite spending a lot of time on the road on the Southeast the past few years, Cravin' Melon has only visited Augusta a couple of times.
"It seemed like they were closing and opening clubs, so we never had regular clubs we always came and played," Mr. Reams said in a telephone interview from Myrtle Beach, S.C. The band had performed at the South Carolina resort's Hard Rock Cafe, along with Augusta's People Who Must.
The biggest change the band made in recording was to accept the producer's suggestion to bring in additional musicians, who filled out the band's sound with steel guitar, slide guitar, mandolin and other instruments. The result is an album that Mr. Reams described as more mature than its earlier, independent release, Where I Wanna Be, which contained some of the same songs.
Cravin' Melon thank their "golfing buddies" in the liner notes to the album, so it's inevitable that the band is compared with Hootie and the Blowfish. Cravin' definitely has its own sound, but it's really not a bad comparison. Doug Jones' voice isn't quite Darius Rucker's, but it has a lot of feeling behind it.
Mr. Reams said that the comparison, made in most of the reviews of the band's work is somewhat accurate. "There are definite similarities there, but it's because we really are from the same areas, all the same age and all grew up listening to the same kind of music."
Who: Cravin' Melon
Where: Red Lion Pub, 1936 Walton Way
How much: $5
To hear Cravin' Melon, call INFOLINE at 442-4444, and press 8100. You'll hear part of the song, Come Undone, from the CD Red Clay Harvest.