The Rivertown Music & Arts Festival is held in Conway, S.C. each year on the first Saturday in May, and it’s always fun. But this year, it’s going to be even better. Headlining the festival will be the eclectic and uber-talented Randall Bramblett Band.
The twenty-sixth annual Rivertown Music & Arts Festival will be held May 5 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. in historic downtown Conway, S.C. Great music, art and a variety of cuisine choices will celebrate this annual event. Local and regional bands will provide music ranging from jazz to gospel to beach music from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The headline act, Randall Bramblett Band, is an extraordinary group of “musician’s musicians.” From his early career with Capricorn Records (Cowboy, Gregg Allman, Sea Level) to his more recent tours with Widespread Panic, Traffic and Steve Winwood, Bramblett has worked with the best in the business. Chuck Leavell (Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers) says “Randall is in my opinon one of the most gifted and talented souther singer-songwriter musicians of the past several decades.”
Bramblett has toured and recorded with national acts including Traffic, Gov’t Mule, the late Levon Helm, Elvin Bishop and Gregg Allman, to name just a few. Guitarist John Keane, of Widespread Panic fame, is joining the band for the Rivertown Festival show.
Randall Bramblett Band performs at 5:30 p.m.
Also playing the Festival will be alternative rock’s Kick the Robot, a young powerpop trio driven by strong songwriting and vocal harmonies. The group, which recently won the Atlanta division of the Hard Rock Rising 2012 competition, is produced by Gerry Henson, legendary session drummer and producer for many artists, including Shawn Mullins and Randall Bramblett. Kick the Robot takes the stage at 4 p.m.
Another plus, local favorite Southern Blue is also set to perform at the Rivertown Festival. Playing throughout the southeast, the southern rock and blues band has opened for a long list of national acts that includes Blake Shelton, Molly Hatchett, Little River Band, David Allan Coe, and Confederate Railroad. Southern Blue performs at 7:30 p.m.
Festival-goers are encouraged to bring a chair to enjoy the musical acts on Laurel Street and then meander over to the Classic Car Show hosted by Chicora Car Club and sponsored by Palmetto Chevrolet.
From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. local artists, crafters and merchants will line the downtown streets offering an assortment of wares including pottery, wood, glass, photography, jewelry and paintings. Gourmet food, hotdogs and local cuisine will also be available in the food court area.
Proceeds from this event benefit Conway Downtown Alive, a nonprofit organization that aims to stimulate economic development, encourage historic preservation and promote the vitality of downtown Conway. For more information visit conwayalive.com or call 843-248 6260.
This is going to be a lot of fun, so I thought I’d share it with you. Sunset River Marketplace,
the very cool gallery in Calabash, N.C. where I hang out so much, is bringing in Bo Schronce to speak at their next Creative Exchange event on Monday, April 23 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Bo formed the Fantastic Shakers back in 1978, so you know he’s got decades of stories to share.
Growing up in Lincolnton, N.C. Bo Schronce first started singing at church, but he admits candidly that he liked the attention that came with being the lead singer in a band. His very first group was the Little Logan Hot Dog Band (He was Little Logan). A few other small bands followed including Bo & the Fugitives and Nobody’s Perfect. In the mid 70s, he joined the Catalinas, one of the Carolinas’ definitive beach bands. In fact, it was Bo’s vocals recorded on what has become the band’s signature tune “Summertime’s Calling Me.”
However, Bo Schronce is best known for his Fantastic Shakers, which, by the way, he co-founded with keyboard player Dino Fair, now with the popular S.C. powerhouse trio, Sea-Cruz. The Shakers are known throughout the region for beach hits such as, “Myrtle Beach Days,” “Shakin’ the Shack,” and the classic ballad, “Where Do I Go.”
With the Shakers, Bo has built one of the most versatile bands around. Five lead vocalists, three horns and what seems to be a limitless song list of original and cover tunes mean this group is always in demand.
They have performed at Lincoln Center in New York City, where blues fans and radio station deejays welcomed them warmly. “After they heard ‘Shakin’ the Shack,’ we got in big with the N.Y. blues stations,” said Bo. “I didn’t know how to handle it. I’m just a redneck farm boy from N.C. who knows how to sing.”
Bo Schronce’s vocals are well known and respected throughout the industry. Nashville guitarist and vocalist Rickey Godfrey says, “I think Bo Schronce is easily the most talented, versatile singer in beach music. He can do everything … and he does!”
Jim Quick, front man for the Coastline band and King Tyrone & the Graveyard Ramblers agrees. “ Bo has a voice that is the representation of the greatest songs in beach music. He’s a performer who can’t be compared to any other I’ve known, a southern gentleman … A father figure, a tutor, a singer’s singer, a show man a nd a dear friend. He’s a red-neck badass, a family man, and the hardest worker in and out of the music scene … a man of truths and a man of the most audacious lies an ear can absorb.”
How’s that for a ringing endorsement, Bo?
The Fantastic Shakers have been guests of honor at both North and South Carolina gubernatorial events. Myrtle Beach has presented them with the key to the city. They have also played the American Bop Association Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. The band’s gigs take them from the Carolinas and Virginia, beyond to Maryland, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. Bo Schronce has taken home three Carolina Beach Music Academy (CBMA) awards for Male Vocalist of the Year. The band has five Group Album awards to their credit, plus other honors for singles and blues albums, including a 2011 Song of the Year award and 2011 Blues Song award for their hit single, “I Still Do.”
Despite all this, they cut back their play dates a little bit each year. “I want time for my family,” says Bo. “I love to garden, I love to fish and I’ve got my dogs – a competition pack of beagles that I take out whenever I can.”
Since opening in 2002, Sunset River Marketplace has become an active supporter of performing, literary and visual arts in the area. The gallery hosted Brunswick Arts Council’s Evening of Miniature Masterpieces fundraiser multiple times and is a regular sponsor for the Friday evening Summer Concert Series at Ocean Isle Beach.
Creative Exchange is an interactive community event held at Sunset River Marketplace. The gallery is located at 10283 Beach Drive SW (Hwy. 179) in Calabash, N.C. The Bo Schronce presentation takes place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. There is a $7 fee and, due to limited seating, reservations are required. This event is expected to fill up quickly, so get your spot early.
For more information, call 910-575-5999. If you’d like to be notified about upcoming Creative Exchange, Coffee With the Authors or other gallery events, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery news is also posted on the website: www.sunsetrivermarketplace.com.
Nashville singer/songwriter David Fair is coming to Myrtle Beach this weekend for two shows. Tonight, Friday night, he’s opening for Phil Vassar at Club Boca at Broadway At the Beach (in fact, he’s probably on stage now!); on Saturday, he’ll be at 2001 Nightclub in their intimate Stage room.
David plays a rockin’ guitar, writes some solid lyrics and brings a kick-ass voice to the stage. No surprise, he grew up with music all around him. His dad, Joe Fair, is a respected Nashville singer/songwriter in the Christian music community (Listen to “I Am Certain,” written by Joe Fair, vocals by David Fair). By age 12, David was playing drums in a garage band. Then he joined Tennessee rock group Pieces of Eight, playing clubs and local events. David formed his own band at age 15. Dubbed Walt-Dizzy by David’s father, the group had a southern hard rock sound that helped them land gigs opening for Steppenwolf and headlining local shows throughout the south.
“After that I joined a hard rock metal band called Medicine Mann,” David said in a telephone interview last week. “I fronted them for eight years. We opened for some major acts.”
David is very low key about these major acts, so let me tell you. During his career, he’s opened for Tesla, Craig Morgan, Warrant, Skid Row, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, Jewel, Quiet Riot, Big and Rich, Eric Martin and Eric Church. He’s played The Fillmore in San Francisco, the Cannery and the Starwood Amphitheatre in Nashville, and the Bitter End in New York City.
“It was pretty cool,” David says. “I opened for Tesla at the Warfield in San Francisco … and I played the Fillmore, too, which was great because my dad had played there with the Grateful Dead. I grew up looking at the poster.”
Have you been living in Nashville this whole time, I asked.
“No, I had moved to California in 1999. After I left Medicine Mann, I began to pursue the Americana thing.
“My dad really helped me make connections,” he laughs. “He’s good friends with David Garibaldi, the Tower of Power drummer, who hooked me up with Troy Luckketta, the drummer for Tesla, who wound up producing my first solo CD. Halfway through the album, Tesla went out on the road. That was when I opened for them at the Warfield.”
Returning to Tennessee, David toured with the Mulch Brothers, opening for the group and then playing in the band. He also began work – with the help of CJ Boggs – on a second EP, You Never Know.
“CJ played on my first album and played for Mr. Big, and now he has this engineering gig. We set up a studio in the house, brought in these fabulous players … it was great.”
Players included some of the best session players in Nashville and then some: Troy Luckketta, Tesla’s drummer; Kevin Carlson from Aldo Nova on guitar and keys; bluegrass performer Chris Thile; Bryan House, Sam Bush’s bass player; Bruce Bouton on steel guitar; “Banjo Ben” Clark, who plays with Taylor Swift and the Clark Family; Chris Solberg, Eddie Money guitarist, and N.Y.C.’s Phil Roselle, now part of the Sowing Circle.
David’s favorite writing partner, other than his dad, is music veteran Billy Falcon, who shares songwriter credits on half a dozen Bon Jovi albums and whose tunes have been covered by Stevie Nicks, Cher, Manfred Mann, Sherrie Austin, Meatloaf, Trace Adkins and others.
Based on what I’ve heard, the new CD will be a keeper.
Band members include: David Fair, acoustic lead vocals/guitar/harmonica; Moises Padilla/drums; David Phoenix/bass; Josh Gramling, lead guitar/backing vocals.
David Fair and I share the same hometown. Floral Park, N.Y. I went to school with his Uncle Dave. My older brother was great pals with David’s dad, Joe. Joe played ball on one of my dad’s ball teams, either Little League or Babe Ruth, and my sister is friends with David’s aunt.
Until last week, though, when I got a message on Facebook from David, I didn’t know him and wasn’t familiar with his music. Now I’m a fan.
If you’ve been in the Carolinas for any length of time, most likely you know Charlie Snuggs. You may not remember which band you know him from, but you definitely know him.
“I’ve played in so many bands, even I can’t remember them all,” laughs the versatile guitarist during lunch in Little River, S.C. this week. “I’ve been with country bands, dance bands, blues bands … all of them.”
Born in Highland Park, Ill. to native N.C. parents, Charlie moved to Pittsburgh, Pa., Lakewood, Fla. and Thomasville, Ga. all before he was five years old.
“My dad was a municipal manager,” Charlie explains. “He’d be fired and rehired with every election. We lived all over the place.
“Blues was in the air in southern Georgia, when I was there in the 50s. The old men playing on the street fascinated me, and I’d put a penny in the cup, and sit to watch them.”
Family life revolved around music, too. Charlie’s old sister played classical piano. His father sang in the choir at church and community events.
Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964 was a pivotal date for a young Charlie Snuggs. He, along with a reported 73 million others, watched The Beatles for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show.
“Watching John Lennon, it hit me. That’s what made me get a guitar.
“It took me two years to learn my first song. I did it by ear. It was ‘Love Me Do’ by the Beatles.”
His next big musical moment would come in 1967 with the release of Cream’s critically acclaimed psychedelic rock album Disraeli Gears. It catapulted the young guitarist into a whole new area of music – blues.
“I started really listening to British music … the Yardbirds … the Stones … I didn’t know it was blues, but I knew I liked it.”
During this time, Charlie was busy playing. At 14, he had his first gig, playing for a teenage center (By now the family was living in Mooresville, N.C.). A few years later he landed a spot with a more experienced band, Nova’s IX. They had recorded a record and appeared on American Bandstand. The band included Bobby Nance (trumpet player for the Catalinas), vocalist Gary Brown and guitarist Sammy Ingram (now a professor at Clemson).
“They hired me to take Sammy’s place … a 17-year-old in a happenin’ band … I think Gary Brown got me drunk for the first time!”
Later on, in Charlotte, N.C., Charlie met drummer Earl Truette, and then the Barkley brothers – Rusty and Johnny.
“We toured the hotel and fraternity circuit, playing Top 40. Then one day the Barkleys walked in wearing cowboy hats and boots. ‘We’re shutting this band down. We’re going to play country.’
“So now we’re a country band,” said Charlie.
Rusty Barkley’s comment to me about this, when I reminded him of the incident during a phone conversation this afternoon? “That was the only way we could get out of playing disco … And doing country really opened up another kind of playing for us. Charlie’s dad had told him, ‘You’re never going to be a real guitar player until you can play Chet Atkins.’ So Charlie started doing “Yakety Axe” [the Chet Atkins 1965 single, which was an adaptation of "Yakety Sax" by his friend saxophonist Boots Randolph.] Then doing James Burton‘s chicken pickin’ stuff and playing with Jim Brown, a guitarist for Charlie Daniels Band, who had a big influence on both of us … well the country thing opened us up to a new kind of playing.”
So the newly designated country group hooked up with Larry Presley, who built the Beach Wagon on Business 17 in Myrtle Beach and Kaleidoscope Productions.
Continuing his saga, Charlie says, “We opened the place and played there for a couple years, opening for folks like George Jones, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless and others, until the band broke up. Rusty and John went back to Charlotte. Earl and I stayed here.
“My next adventure was at Sock’s [Myrtle Beach club on Hwy. 501]. It’s around 1979, and I’m working the 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. gig.
“I played with Kerry Michaels and Mike Stevens for about a year. It was a crazy place … gambling, hookers. John Jenrette [from the FBI ABSCAM debacle] used to hang out there.”
“I moved to Nashville; that didn’t work out. Went back to Charlotte, got a great gig with the Country Underground [now Morehead Street Tavern]. Upstairs was the blues band and downstairs, it was country.”
Back at the beach in the late 80s, Charlie was again playing country music with Silver at the Beach Wagon. After Hurricane Hugo, he joined Party Sharks playing the hottest gig in town at the Holiday Inn in downtown Myrtle Beach.
When Chicago Bob Hess quit his gig with Blues Express, the house band at House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, Charlie took his place.
“It was great,” he says. “They sent us to Orlando for two months. We opened for Johnny Winter … we opened for
Robin Trower – one of the highlights of my life.”
In the mid nineties, Charlie played at Sandpipers. “Bo Diddley came in, hired a local band, so we hung out, another great time. What a storyteller he was. And I ran Smokehouse Brown’s band for a while.”
After that, Charlie played with local musician Jaynie Trudell, for some 15 years. In fact they still work together sometimes and pull in the crowds when they do.
“I decided at some point I wanted to have a blues jam band. And that’s the Sharks [formed in Fall 2011], with Earl Truette on drums, Terry Harper on bass, and me on guitar. It’s sort of Widespread Panic meets Albert King,” he says. “You can’t just mimic old Elmore James sound. The rhythms are different now. So our jam band sound is appealing to a pretty broad crowd.”
Charlie Snuggs is all about the music. When he’s not playing, he’s practicing or listening to music.
“I study music all the time,” he tells me.” I’m fascinated. I like it. I like hip hop rhythms. I listen to Rihanna and Mary J. Blige. I listen to Derek Trucks and Jimmy Herring.”
Chicago Bob, Ambassador of the Blues for the State of South Carolina elected by the National Blues Society Hall of Fame, told me, “Charlie Snuggs is probably the most accomplished musician I’ve ever had the pleasure to share a stage with … He probably knows more styles of music then anyone I’ve ever met … Charlie is the absolute best
I’ve ever worked with and I’ve been at this business for over 40 years.”
Kerry Michaels and bandmate Terry Harper concur. She said, “Charlie and I go way back [He is a] great, great guitar player as everyone knows, but with Charlie this is no other guitar player as sincere and honest. He has always been my friend.”
Terry adds, “Charlie has such great stage presence. He brings a personality to the stage before he even opens his mouth … and his playing …. it’s just topnotch.”
Rusty Barkley was happy to elaborate. “Charlie’s ability to set a groove helps other players sound better,” said Rusty Barkley. “He’s never selfish, always does his best to help. It was Charlie, back in the day, who pulled me along. He knew theory and taught me … I always loved playing with Charlie … He was playing like Jeff Beck; I was playing Clapton. We put it together and got rock & roll … oh, and Charlie on slide…
Charlie told me that a great guitar player doesn’t want to play a bunch of notes. “We want to make the guitar sing like a voice … like B.B. King says about Lucille.”
“I hear so much emotion in Charlie’s playing,” adds local blues legend Michael “Pops” Stallings. “It’s not just technique. It’s more.” And when you go see Charlie Snuggs play guitar. That’s what you get. More.
You can catch Charlie jamming with the Sharks at 2001 Night Club on Sunday nights, beginning at 9:30 (often along with pals such as Chicago Bob, Kid Drew, Anson Funderburgh, Jaynie Trudell, Scott Cable, Digger Tozzi, and Calabash Flash. On Wednesday nights, he’s usually there, too, playing with the Coco Loco Party Band. And if it’s country licks you’re lusting for, look for the Most Wanted band, with Charlie Snuggs on guitar.
I first heard about Royal Southern Brotherhood (RSB) from the band’s drummer, Yonrico Scott. He was in town last Dec. for a South By Southeast show and during an interview, I put the standard query to him, “So what’s ahead for you?”
The enthusiasm and intensity of his answer caught me by surprise. “I’ve just joined this band,” he told me, “Get on Facebook, check it out! This is big! Devon Allman, Cyril Neville, Miko Zito, Charlie Wooten … and me! We’re already working on a CD. We’ve got bookings lined up! This is big!”
Okay, this sounds big.
Guitarist Devon Allman is, after all, the son of legendary Southern rocker Gregg Allman and successful leader of his own Honey Tribe band. Percussionist Cyril Neville is from the first family of funk, the Neville Brothers (and the groundbreaking Meters) – and of course, some of the best vocalists around. Guitarist Mike Zito took home a Blues Foundation award last year for his tune Pearl River, which he co-wrote with Cyril Neville, and his newest recording, Greyhound is up for best blues album this year. Charlie Wooten, the group’s Louisiana-grown bass player, founder of Zydefunk and the Charlie Wooten Project, is into everything from R&B to funked up jazz and reggae. Drummer Yonrico Scott has his own band, is a 2011 Grammy winner (with the Derek Trucks Band) and has played with Col. Bruce Hampton and Ike Stubblefield.
So I started following their progress on Facebook. With Grammy-winning producer Jim Gaines they were recording at Dockside Studio near Lafayette, La.
Pretty soon they were posting snippets of tracks … harmonies for “New Horizons,” then guitar dubs … vocals for “Left My Heart In Memphis.”
They had me at the harmonies. I had to interview this band. And after talking to them, I’m more excited than ever about the music that’s in store for all of us.
Devon was my first phone call. We talked a little about his famous dad, but mostly focused on the new group and their debut 11-track self-titled CD, which will hit the streets on May 8.
“There’s a real blend of styles,” he tells me. “But it all comes from old school blues and rock.”
Devon is the founder and bandleader of Honey Tribe, a St. Louis, Mo. based blues-rock band known for their musicianship and jam band leanings.
“RSB is definitely more laid back than Honey Tribe,” he says. “But we’re stylistically similar. I’m really stoked that we came together.”
Are there any highlights of recording that you can share, I asked him.
“Any time Cyril stepped up to the mic,” he answered. “He really inspired me. There’s a tune that he sings,
“Moonlight Over Mississippi. It’s a standout. I honestly like the whole album, but this might be my favorite.”
Every one of the band members is excited about the new group. “We all came ready to work, said Cyril. “We wound up doing 12 tracks in two days, finished in five. We’re all putting 150% in.
“We needed a solid rhythm section and that’s what we have.
“What you hear on the recording, that’s performance on there, not all studio trickery and overdubs. It’s performance.
“Devon and Zito, they’re amazing guitarists. I like the blend between them. They never stepped on each other.
“And I’m very excited about the singing. Devon’s vocals are topnotch. Each song is different, but they all come together.
“All the elements of what I’ve been exposed to in my life are mixed up in this beautiful musical gumbo. Every member of this band has been involved in some of the seminal Southern musical ensembles.
“I’ve known Gregg Allman for over 35 years, so I don’t believe this is a coincidence or accident that I’m in a band now with his son.
“The music, to me, feels a lot like what Gregg’s brother – and Devon’s uncle– did and what I did with my brothers and my uncle.”
I really had considered Mike Zito a guitarist, but in reading about him, I found reference after reference to songwriting.
“I’ve been writing my own songs since high school, 20 something years,” he explained.
“I don’t ever write with intention for style. Usually just sit down and pick the guitar up and start singing. Or I’m driving.”
So how would you describe yourself, I asked, guitarist, vocalist or songwriter?
“Six years ago – would have been guitar, love guitar. I didn’t get it that singing and songwriting was where it’s at. These days, guitar isn’t my strength. Now I pay more attention to my voice.
“Used to be I wrote songs to play guitar. I found some songs off my old independent releases. I think they’re stronger than my guitar. Over the past five or six years, it’s come together.”
I knew Mike had some addiction problems in his past, which we spoke about briefly.
“I started playing in bars, six nights a week in bars … drinking a lot … drugs … too much partying,” he said. “I got in trouble with it, quit playing music. I was out on the streets.
“But I got into recovery. I had people helping me and eight years ago I started playing music again, different this time. Nothing came between me and the music. My newest album is Greyhound, produced by Anders Osborn.”
“Pearl River, the album before, was my first experience with Cyril, and my first ever collaboration.”
Cyril talked about it, too. “We had never met. I sent him lyrics. He asked what I felt about music. I had Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ ‘I’ve Got a Spell On You’ in my head and we went from there.”
The respect these guys have for each other is evident with every sentence.
“Charlie Wooten and Yonrico? First time playing with them, we hit it off instantly,” Zito said.
“The first night before anyone else got there, we recorded guitar, vocal, bass. They’re the backbone.”
Until Royal Southern Brotherhood rolls into your town, they’re as close as your computer. They have released their official video of “New Horizons.” It was uploaded to YouTube on Feb. 20. Check it out.The band’s website is: http://www.royalsouthernbrotherhood.com. And if you’re on Facebook, find them and “like” them. You’ll enjoy the exchange.
It’s become a wonderful tradition for South By Southeast concert goers in Myrtle Beach. Right about this time of year, the Randall Bramblett Band – and we’re talking the full band here – head to the Grand Strand for a fast-paced, high energy show at the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot. And when I tell you they blow the roof off the place, that Davis Causey’s guitar work defies description, that Michael Steele is a monster on bass, I’m not exaggerating.
Randall Bramblett has performed and recorded with Sea Level, the Allman Brothers, Steve Winwood,Traffic, Levon Helm, Bonnie Raitt, Widespread Panic, Gov’t Mule and more. His tunes have been covered by scores of others. In fact, Bonnie Raitt is covering his “Used to Rule the World” from Randall’s 2008 Now It’s Tomorrow CD on her next release. It’ll be the lead track and the second single to be released. Plus, they co-wrote another tune together that will be one of Starbucks’ free releases.
Randall Bramblett is a multi-talented icon in the music business. He’s more than proficient on guitar, saxophone and keyboards. His raspy vocals are passionate and soulful to the bone. But songwriting for this Jesup, Ga. native is akin to breathing, and that’s what I wanted to talk to him about during our telephone interview last week.
He was happy to oblige.
“I have a lot going on,” he tells me. “I’ve been writing, getting ready to put out another album. I’m in the process of demo-ing songs that I’ve written since The Meantime [his beautifully sparse 2010 recording that featured Randall on grand piano, Gerry Hansen on drums and percussion and Chris Enghauser on upright bass].
“I think I have enough for a record. I have to figure out a direction now.”
Did Randall write his songs as a concept album, I wanted to know.
“I’ve never done a concept album. They have a ‘feel’ after the fact, and I always like to think of it as an ‘album’ even with single downloads.
“The thing with me is I have so many different styles. My songs can be folkie or funky gospel or something else. But I don’t want the album to be too disjointed. A lot of it comes together from the players.
“But [for this next album] I’ve got a lot of strong bluesy R&B going on.”
It makes sense, when you consider that Randall grew up in the heart of soul country in southern Georgia, where he counted James Brown and Ray Charles among his musical heroes. Further influenced by artists such as James Taylor and Carole King, Randall began writing songs while still in high school.
In college at the University of North Carolina, he studied religion and psychology. But shortly after graduating, he moved to Athens, Ga., where he made contacts and honed his skills in the “Liverpool of the South.”
I’m always curious to learn how songwriters work at their craft … whether it starts as an idea or a line or a piano riff…
“I don’t write like Tin Pan Alley writers do,” Randall told me. “I don’t have an angle. Basically, I sit at my computer, two actually. One is for lyrics and one is for music.
“I’ll have sheets of paper with ideas from journaling written all over them.
“I usually write with a vignette or scene in mind. It’ll have some meaning, but I hardly ever write a story. I write more mood stuff.
“It’s similar to poetry, I think, hard to define … it has some openness to it.”
“Jason usually gets it started and I finish. He comes up with some great lines,” Randall laughs as he explains. “We still write together, on two acoustic guitars.”
“No More Mr. Lucky [released in 2001 and produced by John Keane of Widespread Panic] was my first record for New West Records,” he continues.
Another beautifully written album, it served notice that Randall Bramblett had achieved a new level of songwriting. Soulful blues, jazz, funked up rock and a Southern sensibility meld together in a standout recording.
The album’s opening track, “God Was In the Water,” feels dark and desperate, a spiritual longing or questioning, a feeling of being lost – recurring themes in Randall’s work. Written by Randall and Davis Causey, Bonnie Raitt covered the tune on her 2005 Souls Alike album.
Other notables include the uptempo “Get In, Get Out,” “Lost Energy” and Aching For a Dream, a tune about life choices, Neal Cassady and the Beat generation.
“I called Carolyn, Neal Cassady’s wife,” Randall says. “I found her on the Internet. She had a website devoted to Neal. She objected to my lyrics. She said he didn’t die counting the railroad ties in Mexico. She says Ken Kesey started all that.”
One thing all Randall Bramblett songs have in common is their emotion. I find it impossible to listen without feeling something.They push, they pull. They ask questions. They insinuate. They make me feel. Something.
The date for this year’s show is Saturday, March 10. The show starts at 8 p.m. And it will be SRO. If you don’t have a reservation yet, stop reading and shoot off an email with the number in your party to SouthxSoutheast@aol.com.
Music Feasts are $25 per person ($20 for SxSE annual concert series members).
Admission fees include a range of potluck meals and often homemade dessert (to which you are invited to contribute), wine, beer, soda and coffee. The Myrtle Beach Train Depot is located at 851 Broadway in Myrtle Beach. For more information, or to join the nonprofit group, log onto http://www.southbysoutheast.org.
Remember when I posted about Darden Smith and his songwriting camp for veterans that took place earlier this year in Colorado Springs? Well, his people sent me another press release and I thought I’d share it with you. Right now, he’s in Nashville working on a new album.
The new release is being produced by Jon Randall and Gary Paczosa and will feature some of his more recent music (written in the last five years). It includes “Love Calling,” which some of you may have heard on the Sirius Coffee House channel.
Also on the recording will be “Angel Flight,” which is a collaboration with Radney Foster. It was inspired by volunteer missions of military pilots who return the bodies of those wounded in combat. The song has been performed at memorial services, repatriation ceremonies.
Other co-writers include Gary Nicholson (Vince Gill,“One More Last Chance”), Patty Loveless (“The Trouble with the Truth”), and Montgomery Gentry (“She Couldn’t Change Me”); the late Harley Allen (Blake Shelton’s “The Baby,” Joe Nichols’ “I’ll Wait For You,” and Darryl Worley’s “Awful, Beautiful Life”), Jack Ingram (“Barbie Doll”; and Jay Clementi (“Sweet and Wild” by Dierks Bentley, Darius Rucker’s “Might Get Lucky”).
According to the press materials, “Smith has released a dozen critically acclaimed albums that have achieved broad appeal in both the American and British music scenes, including the most recent Marathon (2010). Praised by All Music Guide and Rolling Stone, his songs have climbed the charts in pip, country and rock genres. Hit singles include “Little Maggie” (Darden Smith, 1988), “Midnight Train” (Trouble No More, 1990), “Loving Arms” (Little Victories, 1993), and “After All This Time” (Sunflower, 2002).”
Darden will continue to record under his own Label, Darden Music. In addition, he has collaborated with photographer Kate Breakey in a 32-page book that pairs the lyrics from “Marathon” with her photography.
Kerry Michaels Band reunion show at Kono Lounge, 8 p.m. Feb. 17.
If you don’t have plans tonight (or even if you do), there’s a super show about to take place. The Kerry Michaels Band is getting back together for one night of gut-wrenching blues, searing guitar and an on-stage camaraderie that’s going to knock our socks off.
I’m especially excited because I’ve never seen the Kerry Michaels Band live. I recently watched a video, circa 1990 maybe, of them opening for Buddy Guy in Winston-Salem, N.C. and this band kicked butt! Michael Stallings, better known as “Pops” was putting out one sweet guitar lick after another. Kerry (still going by Kerry Martin then) was belting out the blues, her voice powerful and rich and heart-wrenching. I read somewhere, that when asked to describe their music, she said, “Baby, it’s white hot soul.” Now I get it. Yowza, that girl is making Etta proud!
The band hasn’t played together for years, but they’re coming back for a one-night, one-time reunion show (at least that’s what I’m told), and I’m excited! I talked to both Kerry and Michael about the reunion, and they’re even more excited, so we are in for a night of fantastic music!
Pops and Kerry first met in a little country bar in Greensboro, N.C. sometime in late 1987. She had moved there from Galveston, Tex. to be closer to Duke University Hospital where she was being treated for cancer (Yikes! And just 30-something). She was tending bar. He was gigging at the in a country band called Stampede.
“I got up and sang a few songs with the band, and the first words I spoke to Pops were ‘Someday you and I are going to be in a band together.’” She had that right. They started working together. In fact, it became a romantic thing, too, but that’s a story for another day.
“We were in Greensboro when we formed the band, “ says Stallings. “And we were playing a little bit of everything. On Friday night, we’d be at Rhino Club or Night Shades playing blues and the next night we’d be the country band at the Carousel Lounge.”
A popular band throughout the Piedmont from the start, KMB’s first big break came when they were sponsored by the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society after winning the area’s Piedmont Amateur Contest (now the regional IBC Challenge) in Greensboro, N.C. They went on to the National Blues Amateur Contest finals at the new Daisy Theatre in Memphis, Tenn.
“This was a great experience,” said Stallings. “I think we were the only Piedmont band to place at the national level. The night before our competition, we were across the river in Arkansas and met up with the great Albert King. We told him we were playing and he came to see us! What a night!”
The group didn’t win. They came in third, but the wheels were set it motion. They impressed Albert King and they were on their way.
At this time, band members of were Kerry Martin (lead vocals and keys); Michael Stallings (lead guitar and vocals); David Hutson (bass guitar and vocals); Ronnie Skidmore (keys and vocals) and Brandon Cardwell (drums).
“After Memphis, we started gigging all the time; we were playing so often, we had to bring in band members who wanted to play full time,” Michael told me.
Says Kerry, “That’s when we added Bryant Bowles on drums; Mike Stevens on bass; and then Jimmy “Grub” Thornberg on keyboards. This is the Kerry Michaels Band you’ll see with me and Pops at Kono Lounge.
“These were guys I’ve played with forever,” she continues, “I met Mike Stephens in 1979, playing an after-hours gig at Sockeye’s, a place out on 501 called Sock’s Lounge.
“Bryant Bowles is the kind of drummer you don’t even have to turn around and look at. He already knows what I’m thinking. Musically, Bryant is my soulmate.”
Kerry adds, “We had met Albert King, who came to see us play in Memphis. We started opening for Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Dr. John, even Charlie Daniels. We did shows with Valerie Wellington and Denise LaSalle. We were going strong.”
They became regulars at Dick’s Last Resort, playing not just the Barefoot Landing location in North Myrtle Beach, but nationally at clubs in Chicago and Dallas. Gigs also included regular Saturday night stint at Fat Harolds. “I remember seeing the plane flying up and down the beach with the banner ‘Kerry Michaels Band at Fat Harold’s tonight,’” Stallings recalls. “The shaggers loved Kerry,” Michael says. “They couldn’t get enough of her. And with good reason. No one can sing it like Kerry.”
There was talk of record deals, Hollywood opportunities. But instant fame isn’t always easy to manage. The band members had their share of drug and alcohol problems. Kerry cut a solo record that she admits was not successful. The band eventually folded, playing their last gig in the late 1990s. In Kerry’s own words, she “spiraled downward.”
“Because of some bad decisions I made, I lost my boys. We haven’t played together for 15 years or more. It was all my fault, but they’ve forgiven me. I still can’t forgive myself. But they’ve forgiven me. I’m tickled pink to be playing with them. I want to make this music one mo’ time.”
Tickets are $15 and include Kono Lounge is located at 1901 N. Kings Hwy. in Myrtle Beach, S.C. For more information, contact Nathan Stallings at 843-224-7748 or via email at BonoProductions@yahoo.com.
SxSE presents Barefoot Movement at the Myrtle Beach Train Depot, 8 p.m. Feb. 18.
The folks over at South By Southeast have planned another wonderful night of music for us. The Barefoot Movement is a group I haven’t seen live yet, but I’ve been listening to
their music and I’m looking forward to the show. They’re a quartet of accomplished acoustic musicians who seamlessly meld old-time Southern music with Americana, jazz and even modern rock.
Players are Noah Wall (lead vocals, songwriter, fiddle); Tommy Norris (mandolin and harmony); Quentin Acres (guitar, vocals, songwriter); and Hasee Ciaccdo (upright bass and harmony).
The group’s sweet energetic vocal harmonies are supported by topnotch instrumentation. I was tempted to label them as bluegrass or maybe “new grass,” but after talking to Noah on the phone earlier,I’ve changed my mind.
“In the world of bluegrass,” she explained, “people are very particular about what’s included. We like to experiement. We call ourselves an eight-legged bench with our feet going in different directions. We don’t want to close the door to any kind of sound we might make.”
Whatever you want to call them, this group is on the rise, one to watch. So, once again, Trust the Frog.
The opening act, which starts at 7 p.m., is folk duo Debbie Daniel and Jack McGregor from the Columbia, S.C. band, Slap Wore Out.
Music Feasts are $25 per person ($20 for SxSE annual concert series members). Admission fees include a range of potluck meals and often homemade dessert (to which you are invited to contribute), wine, beer, soda and coffee. Reserve your spot by sending an email to southxsoutheast @aol.com, with the number of tickets you need and your zip code. They’ll put you on their A list.
The Myrtle Beach Train Depot is located at 851 Broadway in Myrtle Beach. For more information,log onto http://www.southbysoutheast.org.
Blues hounds, get ready to howl. It’s almost time for the 2012 Lowcountry Blues Bash, now in its twenty-second year. This ten-day celebration of America’s oldest music form is being held in and around Charleston, S.C. from Wednesday, Feb. 8 through Tuesday, Feb. 21.
According organizer Gary Erwin aka Shrimp City Slim, this year’s Bash promises us “insanely eclectic programming.” Not just eclectic, insanely eclectic. Wow! At last count, there will be some 59 blues acts putting on 100 different shows and 25 different venues.
Gary filled me in on a little history about what has become a hugely popular blues club crawl, “Our first year, 1991, was one venue only with four acts. It was my decision in 1992 to take the Blues Bash out into the clubs and other venues around town. This was, in part, a response to complaints I had received from various venues, when I was writing for the Post & Courier [Charleston's daily], that the City never involved privately-operated small entertainment businesses during its several annual events. My reasoning was that, if we involve all these clubs and other venues in the Blues Bash, perhaps it would lead them to book blues on a more regular basis.”
For blues fans, it’s an opportunity to experience first hand, performers and musicians from not just the Carolinas, but also Chicago, Detroit, New York, Florida, the Mississippi hill country and then some.
For the most part, the shows are low-dough, as Gary calls them, $10 or less. And a good number are completely free.
Maurice John Vaughn’s show is going to be killer. The Chicago giant (sax/guitar/keyboards/vocals) has some special guests on the bill with him: trombonist B.J. Emery, Grammy winner Donald Ray Johnson, Holle Thee Maxwell (Remember “Only When You’re Lonely,” (1965)?
Nick Moss & the Flip Flops are going to be one of the most exciting shows of the whole festival. With the release of Privileged (Blue Bella Records/2010), Moss used his traditional roots blues background as a jumping off point to explore new waters. The result is searing blues-infused rock that ignites the atmosphere and the audience.
Also packing a big Chicago punch, from the Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon bands and Magic Slim & the Teardrops is guitarist John Primer. As the title of his Atlantic Recording says, he’s “The Real Deal.”
Eddie Shaw & the Wolf Gang. Gary Erwin reminds us that “. . . this is one of the last great Chicago blues bands. Eddie Shaw, Howlin’ Wolf’s bandleader, has kept the group together since Wolf’s passing in 1975.” This is a no-brainer.
From Fort Lauderdale, Joey Gilmore brings old school stylings and soulful vocals to the stage. I’ve never seen him before, so you can bet I’ll catch one of his shows.
A new twist for 2012 is the Take You Downtown Blues Series at the Mad River Bar & Grille, a great old brick church that’s a pub now. All shows are $10, cash only and seating is first come, first served. Shows include Bobby Radcliff, Rich DelGrosso & Jonn Del Toro Richardson; Eddie Shaw & the Wolf Gang; Shrimp City Slim & Swamp Pop Shelly; Jarekus Singleton Mississippi Blues Band; John Primer & Shrimp City Slim; Robert Lighthouse and the Blues Buckets; and Daddy Mack Blues Band.
My Gotta Go Picks
The headliners notwithstanding, here are my Gotta Go picks:
• J Edwards Band. Love this guy. He’s representing Lowcountry Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis.
• Sarah Cole & the Hawkes. I saw Sarah at a Women in Blues Festival in Wilmington, N.C. Who says girls can’t play guitar?
• Rickey Godfrey. Another act you have to catch live. Blind from birth, he burns up the keyboard and his Telecaster.
• Gail Storm. A true interpretor of classic blues and jazz, with a little boogie piano thrown in, just for fun.
• Juke Joint Johnny. The lowcountry’s own harmonica wizard. And Drew ain’t bad either!
• Scissormen. Over the top and outta the box! Raw and rockin’. Don’t miss these guys.
To really know which acts will get your mojo working, you want the complete schedule in front of you. So, for venues, times and acts, download your own flyer.