The debut album of Royal Southern Brotherhood (Ruf Records), which hit the street on May 8, is one of the most exciting releases of the year, and that’s only slightly due to the hype that preceded it. The lion’s share of the credit flat out goes to the band, Royal Southern Brotherhood: Cyril Neville, Devon Allman , Mike Zito, Charlie Wooten and Yonrico Scott.
The Royal moniker and lineage are both a lot to live up to for a group formed barely six months ago, but RSB is a musical gestalt of sorts and their self-titled,12-track recording delivers in a big way.
Cyril Neville is a master of funk and soul, bringing with him his considerable contributions to the Meters, Soul Machine and others, including of course the iconic Neville Brothers, of which he is the youngest.
If that’s not enough royalty for you, add Devon Allmanto the mix, son of Gregg Allman, nephew of
Duane Allman and leader of his own sweetly fierce Honey Tribe. Devon brings some rockin’ guitar licks to the show, which bring to mind his legendary uncle even more so than his daddy.
Also on guitar is hard rockin’ bluesman Mike Zito, whose “Pearl River,” co-written with Cryil Neville, earned a 2009 Blues Music Award for Song of the Year.
Lest you think the rhythm section is just there to add fill, Charlie Wooten on bass and Yonrico Scott on drums are at once badass and in the pocket. Wooten is known for jamming with the Woods Brothers and his own Zydefunk, which has been called a gumbo of Louisiana grooves. Yonrico Scott earned a Grammy with the Derek Trucks Band, has played with the Allman Brothers, Col. Bruce Hampton and has his own band.
Royal Southern Brotherhood is a powerful blend of personalities and sound. The synergy between players is evidenced in every tune.
Opening track, “New Horizon,” is also the first single, released on video and all over Facebook back in March.
The in-your-face harmonies are spot on, and set the tone for the CD. The combination of Cyril’s soulful vocals, Devon’s power and the gritty appeal of Mike Zito is as good as it gets. Devon’s wailing on his Gibson. Charlie and Yonrico are laying down a groove. Great way to begin.
“Fired Up” is a Wooten/Neville composition and this band is fired up. This tune brings it on. Hard to sit still. The sweet and soulful “Left My Heart In Memphis,” penned by Devon Allman is the album’s third track, followed by “Moonlight Over the Mississippi,” written by Cyril Neville and Mike Zito. Neville’s soul-dripped vocals are a stand-out.
On “Ways About You,” written by Mike Zito and Cyril Neville, you have to appreciate the combined talent of the band – Zito’s raw bluesy vocal, the harmonies, Yonrico in the pocket, the plaintive guitar of Devon Allman all emphasize the utter sadness of the song.
The musical chemistry is so strong among this band, it’s interesting to note how they came together. It was all Reuben Williams’ idea. Reuben is the owner of Thunderbird Management Co. out of Larose, La. He had originally formed his company to manage Tab Benoit. Then came Monk Boudreaux and Anders Osborne.
In a telephone interview, Reuben told me, “I like to put people together on projects. It keeps things interesting.”
So he gets Boudreaux and Osborne to record together for Shanachie Records. Then he created the Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars (his clients Benoit, Osborne and Boudreaux plus Cyril Neville and Johnny Sansone).
Mike Zito joins Reuben’s client roster, and suggests that Devon and Reuben might be a good fit. Next thing you know, Reuben is looking at this group of artists, all of whom have other groups and projects underway, and the wheels start turning. Royal Southern Brotherhood is born.
Other tracks include the Grateful Dead’s “Fire On the Mountain,” a great surprise, by the way; “Gotta Keep Rockin’,” an anthem-type Allman/Neville piece featuring Devon on lead vocal; Zito’s “Hurts My Heart,” which is a favorite of mine; “Sweet Jelly Donut” by Cyril Neville (I bet this is a great live performance); Allman’s vocal and guitar showcase “Nowhere to Hide;” “All Around the World,” written by Mike Zito; and the instrumental closer, “Brotherhood.”
Royal Southern Brotherhood is a supergroup in the making. You may not know it yet, but you want to see them live, and you want this CD. Visit their website: http://www.royalsouthernbrotherhood.com and go to my blog for a recent interview with them: darielb.wordpress.com.
Tracks: New Horizon(Neville/Zito), Fired Up (Wooten/Neville), Left My Heart In Memphis (Allman), Moonlight Over the Mississippi (Zito/Neville), Fire On the Mountain (Hart/Hunter), Ways About You (Zito/Neville), Gotta Keep Rockin (Allman/Neville), Nowhere to Hide (Allman), Hurts My Heart (Zito), Sweet Jelly Donut (Neville), All Around the World (Zito), Brotherhood (Allman/Neville /Zito/ Wooton/Scott)
Album credits: Cyril Neville (vocals, percussion); Devon allman (vocals, guitar), Mike Zito (vocals, guitar), Charlie Wooten (bass guitar), Yonrico Scott (drums), Jim Gaines (producer), David Farrell (engineer), Brad Blackwood at Euphonic Masters (mastering), Thomas Ruff (executive producer), Reuben M. Williams (associate producer), Dockside Studio (recording), Jerry Moran at NativeOrleanian.com (photography).
Multi-talented S.C. musician Rick Strickland is a one-man band. To say he’s a prolific songwriter just hints at his lyrical stamina. His soulful stylings are out of this world and and – with a four-octave range – his vocals reach even further. Add to that technical savvy, masterful guitar work and a producer’s ear, and you have an inkling of what Rick brings. He can do it all, and he usually does.
That said, this new recording is a departure. It showcases the entire Rick Strickland Band. Titled
Hangin’ Out, the brand new 12-track album (released on April 20) is a collaboration of the entire group, and Rick Strickland is very much the proud papa.
“The idea was for everybody to have their fingerprints all over this. I didn’t want to get in the studio and tell them what I wanted to hear. I just gave them little acoustic guitar/voice demos and said, ‘There, do what you want with it.’ And they stepped up with ideas I would never have even thought of.
“For ‘I’d Rather Be Your Friend,’ the big ballad, my original thought was to have the band in the whole song. But Lesa suggested starting with just the guitar, then bringing her in and then the rest to build. It really makes the song.”
Lead vocalist and keyboard player Lesa Hudson, a songwriter in her own right, is also responsible for some distinctive orchestration on “I’d Rather Be Your Friend.”
Rick explains, “We’re holding these two chords and she kind of does these classical rolls through them that provide the song the tension and release that makes it interesting … Lesa has a million great moments on the CD.”
Lead vocalist and keyboard player Lesa Hudson adds, “For me, I love the harmony and Rick’s take on the harmony arrangement.”
Harmony is key to the Rick Strickland Band, both in an out of the studio. “This experience was all about the group,” Lesa continues. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t just Rick’s project, it was all about everybody.
“What sticks with me is the whole process … the talent, the people. This is my seventh CD, but the first I’ve recorded with live musicians … It really comes through in the recording.”
This is definitely a cohesive, single-minded band, but there’s room for individuals to shine, and shine they do.
Says Rick, “Don [Hamrick] really shows his butt through the whole thing, and being a drummer myself, I love it. On ‘I’d Rather Be Your Friend,’ his first entrance is the second verse, and he’s barely playing on the rim of the snare drum and just before bringing the snare in on the precourse (where 99% of dummers would do a bombastic drum fill on the toms), he instead just lightly touches on the head of the snare drum before bringing it in officially. It’s so artful and restrained.”
“Alive Til 95” is a kick-ass soul tune with lead vocals by bass player Debbie Anderson and Rick.
“I had a band called the Citizens back in ‘85. This was written for them, but I thought it was be great for Debbie to sing, and she nailed it! I had never heard her sing lead until we got into the studio … and she can nail it! To see our Cupcake sing like Mavis Staples …” Rick’s voice trails off here. He’s genuinely proud of his band mate.
That’s a running theme of our conversation, as he recounts the studio sessions, which, by the way, were executed in about three days.
“‘Gonna Come a Day’ is a sassy duet with Lesa Hudson and Rick Strickland on lead vocals.
“Lesa and I wrote that in the car on our way somewhere, to a gig, I think. We got most of it down on the way and finished the lyrics on the way back. It’s another really good example of Don’s brilliance.”
The admiration here is mutual. “It’s an honor for me to be in this band,” says drummer Don Hamrick. Words almost escape him as he tells me about the recording sessions.
“The collaboration in the studio … the intent … the chemistry … The ideas we had just meshed like a dream come true. I’ve had recordings where you spend weeks working with a click track, but this … this is real. This is us playing. What we did in the studio is exactly when we do onstage.
“Sometimes you can lose the chemistry when you try to make it too perfect … We rehearsed, but we allowed the chemistry to come through. For ‘Let’s Take Our Time,’ I was playing cajón. I thought it was a run through, but when we listened, it was right on the money.
“It’s a wonderful experience to record that quickly and still have the quality.”
Chatting with Debbie Anderson, it strikes me as ironic that the woman who can ‘sing like Mavis Staples’ is so soft spoken and shy even. She tells me that this is her first time recording instrumentation, that she’s an understated bass player; she keeps the tempo, keeps the pace. But then suddenly, she makes me laugh out loud.
“I started playing bass when my church needed a bass player,” she says. “So I put on some Lynyrd Skynyrd and taught myself.” Goes to show, you should never underestimate the shy ones.
Listen closely to “Hey What You Say.” Debbie came up with a subtle bass line that adds a lot to the song.
Keyboard player Art Benton is a session veteran. “I’ve been doing studio work sing the 60s, and it was amazing to see how this group with little studio experience ripped through everything.”
I wondered if he had a favorite tune on the Hangin’ Out CD.
“Maybe ‘Little Diva.’ Technically speaking it’s got vocals, piano part, drum track, flute, syncopated piano part all going on at once. I love it.
“It’s great to work with a drummer who can hold his meter and be colorful at the same time.”
CD credits: Rick Strickland (lead and background vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, producer, mixing); Art Benton (keyboards and accordian); Debbie Anderson (lead and background vocals); Lesa Hudson (lead and background vocals, keyboards); Don Hamrick (drums and percussion); Kevin Smith (engineer); Six+1 Studios (recording); Songwriting: All songs written by Rick Strickland except “Gonna Come a Day,” written by Rick Strickland and Lesa Hudson. CD cover design Lesa Hudson. CD cover photography Jim Allen.
Piedmont Blues refers to a regional subcategory of blues, which is characterized by ragtime-based rhythms associated mostly with African-American musicians of the southeastern U.S.
Freddie Vanderford is Piedmont blues. Born in the tiny town of Buffalo, S.C., he grew up listening to his grandad playing harmonica, though more of a mountain style than blues. Freddie started playing guitar at ten years old, appearing on the Farmer Gray show on WSPA radio in Spartanburg, S.C. and the Bob Ledford TV show on Channel 13 in Asheville, N.C.
He credits “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson as an important musical influence in his life.
“I met ‘Peg Leg Sam’ when I was about 15,” Freddie tells me.
Jackson was a percussive harp player with a talent for storytelling. A rough sort of character who played in a traveling medicine show, he lost his leg in a hoboing accident and part of an ear in a shooting.
“I first heard him play harmonica on this little AM radio station. I found out that he lived close by, so I started going to see him. At first he wouldn’t play for me. I played for him.
”He was a crazy old guy, but a good guy,” Freddie says, laughing, “I started carrying wood for him, I’d take him to buy liquor, I’d take him to gamble. Guys would have their straight razors and pistols out on the table. Didn’t see a lot of cheatin’,” he laughs.
“Eventually, he’d play, and then I’d play. We’d go out to where they sold moonshine. Someone would pull out a dollar. And then someone else would pull out a dollar, and this would go on all day.
“Greasy Greens was one of Peg Leg Sam’s tunes, and that’s why it’s the title track on my album.”
Greasy Greens is an album that’s chock full of Piedmont harmonica blues and more, and I love every minute of it. The 16-track recording includes originals by Freddie Vanderford, some traditional blues and some unexpected covers.
The opening track, and one of my favorites is the traditional tune “She Can Cook Good Sallett.” And by the way, that’s Upstate guitar sensation, Brandon Turner on acoustic guitar. “Trouble Come Knocking,” one of Freddie’s own pieces, rocks the room and “Greasy Greens” made popular by Pink Anderson is another fave.
The Josh White adaption, “One Meatball” is just pure pleasure. Freddie offers up a tasty version of Percy Mayfield’s “Lost Mind” and does Townes Van Zandt proud with “White Freightliner Blues.”
Johnny Cash fans, you’ll be happy to hear Vanderford’s versions of “Delia” and “I Still Miss Someone.”
Freddy Vanderford is the 2010 recipient of the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award for his Piedmont blues harp work and is being featured in a special B&C Art Museum exhibition melding S.C. music and visual art.
Players on the CD include: Freddie Vanderford (lead vocals, harp); Brandon Turner (acoustic, electric, resophonic and steel guitar; banjo; acoustic bass; snare drum; bongos; djembe and backing vocals); Matthew Knights Williams (acoustic guitar, backing vocals); Don McGraw (electric bass); Fayssoux McLean (backing vocals); T.J. Jeter (kick drum and hammers; drums and bongos); David Ezell (acoustic guitar, backing vocals); Wes Wyatt
Is there a recording artist who makes you smile every time you hear him on the radio … or whose song you have to stay in the car and listen to even though it’s on your iPod and in the CD player?
For me, Rick Strickland is that artist. So today is another great day because I get to listen to Rick’s latest CD and then talk to him about what I’ve just heard. I have been a fan since his Something Smooth (2005) days and he never lets me down. The new 12-track solo recording is titled Rhythm + Romance (we’ll talk about the title in a minute). It’s full of Rick’s signature four-octave range vocals, perfect harmonies, simple sophisticated songwriting and luscious instrumentation.
In other words, it’s classic Rick Strickland – a mix of brand new tunes and some that have been on the back burner for 30-plus years.
The opening track, “Over and Over,” is one of the new ones, completed just a few months ago. According to Rick, it’s getting great response during club dates.
Track two is “Something’s Gotta Give,” and it features a smokin’ alto sax solo by Butch Barnes of Murrell’s Inlet-based Sea-Cruz. “I think Rick is an incredible writer, artist and performer,” says Butch. “I love everything he’s done on this CD. To me, he’s just one of the best.”
It’s always interesting to hear how a tune is born, and this one is no exception. “It was 1985, I was in a band called the Citizens and we were playing St. Croix for a week. One morning as sat at the window listening to the street sounds and steel drum bands, I saw these two Rastafarian kids in the yard, and they were going back and forth about something, not getting along. Finally, one just stops and says to the other, ‘Hey, somethin’ got to give, mon,’ and I wrote this song. It turned out funky, not reggae, but that’s where it came from.”
“Shing Yo Ling” is up next, an “out-of-the-box” hit, that uses suggestive nonsense phrases as skillfully as anyone ever has.
Jumping ahead, track five is “Just So You Know,” a ballad that really showcases Rick’s vocals, which have a sweet raw quality for this one. I think it’ll fill the dance floor.
“Two Faces,” which is track six, is my fave, at least for now. I love the lyrics and the fast-paced vocals. The song really takes someone to task (actually, two people, I’ve come to find out), first for being the ungrateful, short-memoried nouveau riche and second for back-stabbing and trouble-making. Talking to Rick on the phone about it, I could hear Lesa Hudson in the background laughing, “Moral of story: never cross a songwriter.”
Lesa’s a hoot.
Lesa and Rick fans will be happy to know there’s another duet on this album, too. “Got to Be With You” is a lively tune that puts their chemistry and showmanship right up front. It’s a lot of fun, and sounds like a tush push to me.
Throughout the recording, Rick’s lyrics tell a story, but they’re pretty simple and straightforward. “I read a quote by John Lennon a long time ago,” he explains. “It goes, ‘Just say what you’ve got to say and put it to a backbeat,’ and that’s pretty much how I feel. I don’t want to belabor a point.”
Rick gave me some backstory on “Whatever You Do” that I didn’t know.
“I owe a big debt of gratitude to Curtis Carpenter for this. It was back in 1991. Curtis wrote an article for Headliners In Review magazine. He compared my work to Brian Wilson and Hall & Oates, and went on to say that he felt it should be Song of the Year. I got lots of session work right after that.
“Another reason this song is so special to me is that it’s the first song of mine that my daughters learned all the words to. We’d sing it together at bedtime.”
Closing track is “You’re Not Alone,” a grandly orchestrated clutch-at-your-heart ballad that slows down the pace of the album, but rachets up the emotion. It’s a beautiful tune, and when I spoke to Rick about the album, he told me that he had written it back in 1986 for Pets, Inc., an animal rescue organization.
Getting back to the CD’s title, Rick tells me, “John Hook has been a long time supporter. In fact, John and Ray Scott, before anyone else, were there for my music. Anyway, John said to me one day [Rick does a super John Hook imitation, by the way],’ Rick, I’ve thought of the absolute perfect way to describe your music – rhythm and romance.’ When we got down to brass tack and started doing the album, we decided it fit.”
Not surprisingly, Rhythm + Romance was written, produced, arranged, engineered and mixed by Rick himself. In addition, he played all guitars, bass and drums; and he sang all leads and most background vocals on the recording.
If this is the first you’ve heard about Rick Strickland, visit my blog, DarielB – Flying Under the Radar. I’ve got three different posts about him, four if you count the last Lesa Hudson story: CD Review: Rick Strickland Island Soul (Sept. 9, 2008); Rick Strickland Melds Musicianship in New 7-piece Band (April 21, 2009); Rick Strickland’s Lucky Number ‘Seven’ (March 29, 2010); Lesa Hudson: Laid Back In a Driven Kind of Way (July 11, 2011).
Track list: 1. Over and Over; 2. Something’s Gotta Give (featuring Butch Barnes); 3. Shing Yo Ling; 4. Moth to a Flame; 5. Just So You Know; 6. Two Faces; 7. Got to Be With You (duet with Lesa Hudson); 8. Whatever You Do; 9. If You Don’t Want Me; 10. Mr. Heartache; 11. Experience; 12. You’re Not Alone.
Players: Rick Strickland (guitar, bass, drums, lead and background vocals); Art Benton (keyboards for all but Something’s Gotta Give and You’re Not Alone); Lesa Hudson (vocals on Got to Be With You; background vocals on Just So You Know and Mr. Heartache; keyboards on Something’s Gotta Give, Just So You Know,Two Faces, Whatever You Do, and Mr. Heartache);Jeff Poteat (keyboards on You’re Not Alone); Butch Barnes (alto sax solo on Something’s Gotta Give); Debbie Anderson (background vocals on Just So You Know).
Note to Fans of the Rick Strickland Band: On Friday, Sept. 23, the band is presenting a free Fan Appreciation Concert, 6 – 10 p.m. at the Avista Resort Ballroom, 300 N. Ocean Blvd., North Myrtle Beach, S.C. I understand there will be some great surprises. Seating is limited, so get there early! Free parking on either side or across the street!
(Photos Jim Allen; CD cover photo Jim Allen; CD cover design Joanie Dakai)
On my way to see the fabulous duo, Blue Mother Tupelo, at Mama Rue’s Blues Garden in Pawleys Island last week, I stopped off to visit with singer/songwriter Lesa Hudson, so we could talk about her new solo recording, her work with Rick Strickland Band and her plans for the future.
I’ve known Lesa for a couple years and have always considered her to be pretty laid back and mellow. During this visit, though, I was struck by just how driven she is.
Much like her bandmate, Rick Strickland, she’s driven to write, to create.
“I’m a songwriter first. I’m always writing. In fact, I’d like Rick to produce a
Praise and Worship album for me. I already have the songs for it.”
Hudson grew up in Darlington, S.C. as part of a musical family, with church as its centerpiece. Playing piano since the age of six, her first singing “job” was with a trio at church. N’Accord was very successful and traveled throughout South Carolina. She still sings with the group when time and opportunity allow.
She went on to front her own Lesa Hudson Band, a larger contemporary Christian group. She produces and performs several Christian-based showcases, and has also performed with the classic rock band, 3 Day Funk with Keith Hamrick (formerly with Billy Joe Royal and the Atlanta Rhythm Section).
Lesa tells me she’s been writing and composing for about 15 years. (“I still have my doodle sheets in a folder somewhere.”) Her very first completed composition was “Lukewarm Christian,” written and produced in 2003. It went to No. 8 on the Power Source 100 chart. “I was thinking about my life and where I wanted to be. I didn’t want my faith to take a back seat …” she explains.
She still leads a contemporary worship service in Darlington, but her current position as lead vocalist and keyboard player with the Rick Strickland Band takes up the bulk of her time.
“Rick Strickland is an incredible talent, and I don’t know if the world really understands that,” she tells me candidly. “From day one, he has been the person I could rely on and trust. We think the same way about music.
“When I write a song, it starts with a feeling … I’m just not passionate about singing covers,” she tries to explain.
This particular thread refers to the fact that so many deejays and booking agents prefer bands and singers who perform cover tunes.
“I’ve never really taken the easy road,” she laughs. “And I guess this is one of those times. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I’d just rather not play covers.”
Happily, the Rick Strickland Band is making a name for itself playing Strickland, and now Hudson, originals.
Tunes like “Something Smooth” (Rick Strickland/ 2004), “So Do I” (Rick Strickland/2008) and now “When You Look At Me” (Lesa Hudson/2010), the immensely popular Hudson/Strickland duet on Sweet Wonderful You, have been huge hits with fans and deejays alike.
Sweet Wonderful You is Lesa’s second solo project. According to the artist, the ten original songs each tell a story about love and being thankful for the people you love. Hudson either wrote or co-wrote eight, with the other two penned by Rick Strickland.
“The current breakaway hit,” she says, “seems to be the duet with Rick, “When You Look at Me.” I intended for this song to take people back to the moment they fell in love … when they weren’t quite sure the other person felt the same way … I shared it with Rick and he loved it. He said it had to be on the project.
“Track two, ‘Can’t Help Lovin’ On You,’ is a little different for me. I love the bluesy, laid back feel. It’s a little more romantic. It was a way to stretch my songwriting and my vocals.
“On the title track, ‘Sweet Wonderful You,’ I love the harmony vocals by Debbie Anderson … and for the whole CD … the amazing keyboards from Art Benton and incredible guitar work of Rick Strickland.”
The truth is, although I think Lesa comes alive when she’s under the Rick Strickland spell, she was making a name for herself long before they met.
A few years ago, one Chamber of Commerce prez said, “It wasn’t just fireworks that sparkled and lit up the sky at the July 4th Hartsville Family Fireworks Festival. It was also Lesa Hudson and her band who kicked off the holiday event with a bang!”
Kevin Stokes, songwriter for G3 Productions in Nashville, said, “Lesa’s sound is progressive and honest. A lot of times, artists deny their own passions creatively in order to squeeze into a marketplace that’s already crowded with artists doing the same thing. Taking a different road may seem like a harder route, but applaud Lesa for coming up with a sound that is as commercial as it is unique …”
David Wade agrees. He has recently signed both Lesa Hudson and Rick Strickland (as solo artists) to his Shanty’s Records label. Wade will be booking the two artists and promoting them on radio in some expanded markets.
“I don’t want to put myself in a box. I want to write a song, express myself and create music the way it comes to me.”
Lesa Hudson is definitely driven. In a laid back kind of way.
CD Tracks: 1. Only You (Lesa Hudson); 2. Can’t Help Lovin’ On You (Lesa Hudson); 3. Falling For You (Lesa Hudson); 4. Baby Baby (Lesa Hudson & Rick Strickland); 5. When You Look at Me (Lesa Hudson); 6. Win My Heart (Lesa Hudson & Rick Strickland); 7. Try (Rick Strickland); 8. You Make the Good Times Better (Lesa Hudson); 9.Just To Wake Up Next To You (Rick Strickland); 10. Sweet Wonderful You (Lesa Hudson).
Players on Sweet Wonderful You include Lesa Hudson (lead & background vocals, keyboards); Rick Strickland (lead & background vocals; guitar, bass & drum programming/producer); Art Benton (keyboard); Debbie Anderson (background vocals).
Even with gas prices reaching $3.95 a gallon in some parts of the southeast (according to gasbuddy.com), summer is for road trips. And road trips mean music. So with that in mind, here are three recordings, as different as different can be, but each wholly satisfying and exciting in its own way.
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
Red Beet Records (2010)
I mentioned this album in my last post because I was about to go see these guys at their South By Southeast show at the Myrtle Beach Train Depot. I was so taken with their performance that night, I picked up a copy of the CD and have been transported to another place ever since. Mind you, this is more acoustic guitar than I’ve listened to for the whole last year, but it reminds me how much I value melody and harmony and intelligent song-writing.
Master Sessions features two of East Nashville’s up and comers: Peter Cooper and Eric Brace. If you’re at all into Americana music, you need to know about these two. For this 11-track disc, they’ve enlisted the talents of two of their own musical heroes: Mike Auldridge, legendary dobro player for the Seldom Scene, the progressive bluegrass group out of Alexandria, Va. and master of the pedal steel guitar, Lloyd Green. Throughout the recording, the synergy is awe-inspiring.
Opening track is “Wait a Minute,” the bittersweet Herb Pedersen tune about love shattered by life on the road. This song, by the way, was a staple for the Seldom Scene. And both Cooper and Brace say they used to be mesmerized by the group’s performance of it – long before they ever met. “Circus” is a sweet little tune penned by Brace and Cooper, one that I find completely enticing. Maybe it’s the simplicity. In the album notes, they credit contributions by Lloyd and Auldridge for taking the song “far beyond what Eric and Peter could have imagined.”
Track 8 is “I Flew Over Our House Last Night,” written by country legend Tom T. Hall. It’s another quietly longing tune that’s performed simply and beautifully. Of course, I could say the same thing about the whole album. And I do.
Track List: Wait a Minute, Suffer a Fool, It Won’t Be Me, Missoula Tonight, Big Steve, Circus, Behind Your Back, I Flew Over Our House Last Night, Nice Old Man, Silent Night, I Wish We Had Our Time Again.
Youth Is In Our Blood
The Dirty Guv’Nahs
In a nutshell, this CD is a rockin’ good time, and I can’t wait to take it on the highway with me. The sound is sophisticated and fresh. The band is tight. The vocals blow me away. There’s a great mix of rockers and power ballads. But why had I not heard of these guys before? Have I been living under a rock?
The Guv’Nahs have played Bonnaroo. They’ve opened for names like Zac Brown, Drive By Truckers, Blues Traveler, and Levon Helm, naming just a few here. The Dirty Guv’Nuhs has been voted – three years in a row – Best Band in Knoxvillie, Tenn. by the Metro Pulse Readers Poll.
Recorded at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, N.Y. Youth Is In Our Blood brings some strong country, blues and soul influences to bear. Opening rocker “Baby We Were Young” sets the CD’s theme.
Love was the shape we made
Love was the breath we drew
Love was in our blood
And baby we were young
“Wide Awake” is a vocally rich ballad, somehow simultaneously fresh and reminiscent.
I’ve never seen this band live, but I’m betting that “Ain’t It Strange” is a great sing-along.
This band is one to watch.
The Dirty Guv’Nahs are Michael Jenkins (guitar), Justin Hoskins (bass), Aaron Hoskins (drums), Cozmo Holloway (guitar), Chris Doody (keyboards/ organ/vocals) and James Trimble (vocals). All 13 tracks are original with music and lyrics by Jenkins and Trimble on all except track 12 by Chris Doody and track 13 by Aaron Hoskins.
Track list: Baby We Were Young, Wide Awake, Walk Wtih Me, We’ll Be the Light, Song For My Beloved, New Salvation, It’s Dangerous, Courage, The Country, Blue Rose Stroll, Ain’t It Strange, Seeds On the Rise, Recovery.
Trouble With Lovin’
Serenity Hill (2010)
You remember the female vocalist in Little Feat belting out the Bob Dylan tune, “It Takes a Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry,” on Chinese Work Songs (2000)? Well, that was Shaun Murphy. And this mama rocks the room. After leaving her gig with Little Feat in 2009, Murphy – also a veteran of Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band and Eric Clapton’s tour band – formed the Shaun Murphy Band and released her first solo CD, Livin’ the Blues (Serenity Hill 2009), followed by last year’s Trouble With Lovin’ .
The ten-track CD is chock full of Murphy’s signature soulful blues, velvety smooth one minute, gritty the next. It’s hard to choose a favorite tune. The title track, “Trouble With Livin’,” is classic Shaun Murphy, really showing off her vocal range. “Blue Tears” is a sexy piece that can get your hips to swivelin’ in a heartbeat. On Burton Gaar’s “Mississipi Water,” Shaun gets that gravelly thing going that we love so much.
Also featured on the CD are some of Shaun’s high-powered buddies including Grammy Award nominee Johnny Neel (keyboard, harp), keyboard player Mike Finnigan, saxophonist Danny Pelfry.
In my unasked-for opinion, Shaun Murphy should be a lot more famous than she is. Buy her CD. Help make her famous.
Track list: Bed of Roses, Deservin’ of Love, Mississippi Water, The Trouble With Lovin’, Hopelessly In Love With You, Blue Tears, Did you Call, Rio Esperanza, The Blues Don’t Tell It all, That’s What Love Will Make You Do.
This is also published in Alternatives NewsMagazine and Coast Magazine (issue June 2 – 16, 2011) and in the online version .
Strange or Sweet?
No matter what your leanings, there’s something to love on both of these new CDs: Strange Love by Roy Roberts and Sweet Love from the Holiday Band.
Ocean Beach Records (2011)
When it comes to soul-blues, Greensboro, N.C. artist Roy Roberts is one of the smoothest, coolest, classiest around, and I expect this latest offering to bring him even more superlatives. The ten-track recording is classic Roy Roberts, showing off – among other things – his songwriting talents on all ten tracks. Vocals range from funky to sultry and back again. The Mofo Horns section is just killer.
The opener, “My Love Bone,” is a shout out from a man to the woman who owns his heart, and other favored organs. The Cray-esque “We Still Together,” with its nod to “I Slipped, Tripped and Fell In Love,” Roberts’ award-winning R&B tune from 2004, is sure to be a hit in the shag market. The title track, also reminiscent of Robert Cray stylings, showcases Roy’s very apt vocal abilities. “I Can’t Wait” is worth the wait. But, I’d pick up a copy today!
Players on the CD include: Roy Roberts (vocals, guitar, Hammond organ, keys), A.J. Diggs (bass, rhythm guitar), Chuck Cotton (drums), Eric Callands (piano, Hammond organ), Reggie Wall (background vocals on “A Woman Needs Love”), The Mofo Horns: Rusty Smith (trumpet, trombone), Scott Adair (tenor, baritone sax), Eddie Blair (additional sax solos). Strange Love was produced and mixed by Roy Roberts and David Seward. Engineering/ mastering: David Seward. Recorded at Rock House Studio.
The Holiday Band
Green Dot Discs (2011)
Sweet Love, the band’s new ten-track CD features a tasty mix of covers and original tunes penned by band members Mike Taylor and Duane Neese. The opening track, currently on several beach charts and a favorite with fans, is “She Sure Got Away With My Heart,” written by country writing team Walt Aldridge and Tom Brasfield.
“We always get a lot of requests for ‘Don’t Play That Song,’ so we decided to do the Aretha Franklin version It was a chance to show off our horn section,” says band leader Mike Taylor.
“Someone Like You,” (Van Morrison) with lead vocals by Taylor is a hugely successful track on the disc, and definitely one of my favorites.
“I love the arrangement,” says Taylor. “If you listen to the piano line, it’s almost like a Bruce Hornsby lick.”
Taylor and Neese wrote the title track about six years ago. It was originally recorded by the Castaways. “They never pushed it that much,” adds Taylor, “ so we recorded ‘Sweet Love’ ourselves, and it’s become a real signature song for Duane [lead vocals].”
Also included on the disc is “Jukebox,” another Taylor/ Neese tune, which won a 2010 CBMA award for Best Blues Song.
Players on Sweet Love include: The Holiday Band: Mike Taylor (vocals, guitar), Bill Ward (drums), Duane Neese (vocals, trombone), Bob Martin (saxophone), Doug Neese (bass, vocals), Mike Neese (vocals, guitar). Additional musicians: Robyn Springer (background vocals), Mark Stallings (keyboards), Rick Murray (drums), Tim Gordon (saxophone), Brad Wilcox (trumpet), Ben Shaw (trumpet), Keith Johnson, (trombone). Producers: Tim Eaton, Mark Stallings & Mike Taylor. Engineered by Tim Eaton & Mark Stallings at Studio East, Charlotte, N.C. Also recorded, mixed & mastered at Studio East.
This has been a great week for music. Strange and sweet, just like me.
Livin the Bluz
Ruff Pro Records (April 2010)
Livin’ the Bluz (Ruff Pro Records 2010) by DieDra Hurdle, better known simply as DieDra, is the second solo recording by this talented Alabama blues singer and it’s a winner. The ten-track CD is a lively mix of dance tunes, swingin’ blues and vocals you’d expect to hear from a singer at a national level.
DieDra and partner Keithen Ruff are pretty much the whole creative team on this project. She tells me that most tunes start with a “sound” from Keith and then typically she writes a lyric to it. On Livin’ the Bluz, she penned lyrics for eight of the tracks, with Keith writing “He’s Alright” and “Don’t Wait Too Long.” As for the studio, Keith played guitar, keyboard, horns, drums and bass guitar on the album.
Right from track one, “Dance the Night Away,” you know this is dance blues, so get ready to shag, bop and boogie the night away.
Track four is “You Do Me Wrong,” which was also included on Deep Fried Southern Style, the 2010 compilation on the Shanty’s Records label. Another hip swivelin’ tune.
“Left You Behind” at 5:04 is the longest track on the recording, and it’s one of my faves. Featuring gutsy guitar riffs from Keithen and DieDra’s emotionally charged vocals, it’s prime for dancing in the dark.
“Fantasy” delivers more sultry vocals and raw, plaintive guitar work. A sexy slow dance.
“Anybody Seen My Man” is blues with a sense of humor. DeiDra wrote me about it, “My favorite on the CD is “Anybody Seen My Man”.. It was fun. So that concept to me, is so fun when I’m performing it on stage… When I ask.. “Has anybody seen my man”… People will point to Keith.
“My next favorite is “Lovin on the Edge of Hate”.. I wrote that song as I look at tough times in relationships. You can love someone and in the same breath – hate them … It’s about the ups and downs of love … Sometimes it makes you feel good and other times it makes you feel bad … but … you still love.”
DieDra and Keithen have been partnering, both in life and the studio, since 2007, but their first contact was back in the late nineties. The two were both assigned to Polygram/ Boogiedown Productions. She was an R&B artist and he was her producer. Ironically, they conducted business over the phone and never met during this period. They lost touch until 2007, when after a monster seven-hour phone call, they decided to meet and begin dating.
DieDra adds, “Keith was on the road with Bobby Rush at that time. He had been with him for 15 years. Keith produced Bobby’s hits “Booga-Bear” and his newest CD, Look At Whatcha Gettin’. I knew nothing about the blues. He took me on the road with him. I was able to open for Bobby several times and get a feel for the scene.”
Shortly after, they married, she moved to Alabama, signed with his Ruff Pro Records and her debut album Overcoming Hurdles was produced in about a month.
The standout track from the recording was “Hip Swingin’’ Blues,” which has brought her kudos from all over the industry. It ended 2010 at No. 4 on the R&B Dee Jays Top 50 chart, and No. 5 on the Beach Music 45 Smokin’ 45 for 2010. “Hip Swingin’ Blues” was also nominated for the 2009 JUS Blues Southern Soul Song of the Year-Female. In addition, JUS Blues honored DieDra with a 2010 nomination for Best Southern Soul Artist.
Livin’ The Bluz is also earning raves. DieDra was the winner of The 2010 Blue Note Award (Association of Rhythm and Blues DJ’s). In the shag market, she was also nominated for four 2010 CBMA awards: Blues Album of the Year (Livin’ The Bluz), Solo Album of the Year (Livin’ The Bluz), Song of the Year (“Hip Swingin’ Blues”) and New Artist of the Year.
When she’s not recording or singing in church, DeiDra is usually donating her time to working with kids.
“Keith and I both work for the Alabama Blues Project, which is designed to keep the blues alive by teaching it to kids, in an after-school program in Tusalossa, Alabama,” she explains. “We drive there once a week – an hour away from home. Keith teaches guitar and I teach vocal. There’s a blues camp in the summer for one week each year. We stay in Tuscaloosa the whole week and teach the kids from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
DieDra Hurdle is a four-foot-something bundle of talent. You can keep up with what she’s doing on Facebook (DieDra Dionne Tucker). Her CDs are available online at CDBaby.com and SouthernSoul.com. If you get the chance to see her live with the Ruff Pro Band, jump at the chance. She’s a rockin’ blues mama!