This has to be quick. I just wanted to remind you that Verlon Thompson will be on the Grand Strand tonight, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, at the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot, courtesy of the folks at South By Southeast. Verlon is the walking definition of the term singer/songwriter, a first rate troubadour.
I talked to him for a while earlier in the week. He was in between road trips and happy to talk a little about the upcoming show and Works, his 18-track 2011 album that ranges from solo recordings to a full band.
“Starting out, I wanted to keep it simple,” he says. “So some tunes are just me and Mike Dub on upright bass. But others have the complete band. It’s mostly pretty recent tunes.
“The song, “Oklahomagain” is about my home. It means a lot to me, and every time I sing it, I picture myself at home.”
For “Mike and Betty’s Daughter,” it’s a waltz, I added a big string section … I was just feeling so passionate about that song!” [Verlon met his wife, Demetria Kalodimos in 2000. Neither had expected to find “this love thing” again, but they did and Verlon calls her his “dream come true.” Demetria is a journalist and TV news anchor in Nashville and well as a filmmaker and documentarian.]
“The Guitar: I had made a little video for Guild Guitar company when they gave me an endorsement. The song was part of a songwriter class Guy Clark and I were teaching – [Jorma Kaukonen’s]Fur Peace Ranch, it’s like camp for pickers. We’d sit there and basically write taking input from the members. They all inspire me. To see the passion, the beliefs that some young person has … They don’t know – or care – how hard it is and how hard it is to get it produced. They just have to do it … They inspire me.”
“’Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle’ was a true story. Guy and I had talked about writing it. The story had all the ingredients for an old time murder ballad, but we were concerned about the families, so we kept putting it off. One day, Sam Bush came by and said his dad had saved newspaper articles about the murder. The three of us started jotting down facts and by the end of the day, we had a song.”
Verlon’s had some pretty heavy co-songwriters during his 30-something-year career, so I wanted to know how collaborating stacks up against writing solo.
“I get the most satisfaction when I write a song myself because every word is mine. Collaboration is great, but it’s always a compromise (even if it’s better). The ones that are all yours are the ones you hold closest.
“The ones I write myself, I can’t tell you how these happen. I try to catch them. If I let myself be open, sometimes I can get them. I write down what comes to me.
“As a songwriter, it’s your job to be open to what comes to you. I’ve just grown to see it that way … Now when I see a leaf fall from a tree, it’s a metaphor. Or sometimes, what’s literal to me might be a metaphor to you. That’s the beauty of songs; they mean different things to everyone.”
Click here to read my full interview with Verlon the last time he came to town. If you can make it out tonight, reserve your spot by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You won’t be sorry. Storytelling doesn’t get any better than Verlon Thompson.
Works track list with notes: “The Show We Call the Business” – the story of Verlon’s arrival in Music City. Accompanied by Mike Bub, Shawn Camp, John Gardner; “Oklamomagain” – Scenes from Verlon’s home town Binger, Okla. And a special shout out to fellow Binger boy, Hall of Famer Johnny Bench; “Caddo County” – More vivid images of home; “Dinnerbell” – …”you can’t lose what you never had”…; “Where the Bottom Is”; “Backup and Turnaround” – Perseverance. Verlong and Bub with harmonies by Larry Marrs and Diana DeWitt; “Adalee” – Not enough perseverance in this case. Featuring the “Works” band, Bub on Bass, Gardner on hand drums, Shawn Camp on fiddle and Larry and Diana harmonizing; “Gone But Not Forgotten”; “Big Bad John” – Just Verlon and a mando doing Jimmy Dean’s classic; “I Need More Time” – Don’t we all? With special guest Paul Franklin on steel guitar; “Joe Walker’s Mare” – Joe Walker was an early American explorer … he always had a nice ride; “The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle” – Sad, but true. “The Get To You Waltz” – I’ve never been a dancer … or so I thought. A beautiful string arrangement by Kristin Wilkinson; “Mike and Betty’s Daughter” – In honor of three of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known; “El Toro” – Inspired by a trip to Spain. V., Shawn and Bub handle the manly harmonies; “Don’t Take Me Back” – Classic country music … I hope; “The Guitar” – The last line is the payoff; “Barnegie Hall” – Practice. Practice. Practice.
On Jan. 31, 2010 drummer Yonrico Scott was onstage at the L.A. Convention Center for the pre-telecast award ceremony of the GRAMMYs accepting the award for Best Contemporary Blues Album for the Derek Trucks Band. On Dec. 3, he and his own Yonrico Scott Band will hit the stage right here at the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot for the final South By Southeast Music Feast of the year.
This is why I “Trust the Frog.” The folks at SxSE spend their time scouring the road not taken by the mainstream bandwagon to bring us some of the country’s most respected singer/songwriters and musicians, most of whom aren’t household names to the public, but are well-known to other musicians.
Yonrico Scott is one of this talented community of musicians. He played with the Derek Trucks Band from about 1993, he guesses, until the band went on hiatus late last year so Derek could form a new band with wife Susan Tedeschi. He has toured with Peabo Bryson and Earl Klugh and played with greats like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Freddie Hubbard and the Allman Brothers Band.
In a telephone interview earlier this week, we talked about his GRAMMY experience, his career and his passion for art.
As a child, Scott was greatly influenced and encouraged by his mother Ruth Naomi Scott, a gospel singer who grew up in Detroit. She was a member of the Detroit Harmonettes and it sounds like she cherished her son’s budding talent.
“She was truly an angel,” says Scott, “always encouraging me. I started playing drums at about five years old.”
By age 14, he was studying with Motown drummer George Hamilton. At 15, he recorded “Message From the Ghetto” with The Sons of Truth for the Stax gospel subsidiary.
He went to college in Kentucky, studying drums and percussion with Chicago Symphony classical percussionist Patrick Arnold and classical timpanist Dave Davenport. Scott says his classical study is the reason that he is the drummer he is today.
Upon moving to Atlanta, Ga. in the late seventies, he immediately met guitarist George Greer, who turned him on to the neighborhood arts center. Connections made there helped get his foot in the door of the jingle business, and he started doing work for Atlanta mogul Ted Turner.
Sometime in 1992 or 1993, he had a call from Col. Bruce Hampton (Gov’t Mule) with the news that then 14-year-old Derek Truck was looking for a drummer.
“The first time I heard him play, I knew this was big,” Scott tells me. “The first year we played 320 dates. We did all the small cities.
“A lot of people don’t know, but when I started with DTB, we were doing bebop … all sorts of stuff.”
Because DTB took a regular hiatus, Scott was able to play with his own Yonrico Scott Band, which includes Kofi Burbridge, keys/flute; Todd Smallie, bass; Mace Hibbard, sax; Nick Johnson, guitar; Laura Reed, special guest vocalist; and many other players on different occasion. YSB’s debut release, Turning the Corner, a 12-track disc of mainly jazz instrumentals, was released in January, 2004.
His first touring job was with Peabo Bryson and Patti LaBelle. Through Bryson, he connected with Broadway and spent several years working in productions such as The Wiz, Dream Girls, Les Misérables and Five Guys Named Mo, which featured the music of Louis Jordan.
What was it like getting a GRAMMY, I wanted to know.
“I loved it. I walked the red carpet with Ringo Starr on my right and Mick Fleetwood on my left.”
He continues, “Derek had been really cool with it, said he wasn’t going to go, so I said that I was thinking of going and Derek asked me to represent the band, so then it was official. I was going!”
Scott kept a GRAMMY journal about the experience that’s posted on the Derek Trucks Band site. It’s a great read. I love how much fun he’s having with it. Here’s just a snippet:
“I get the award and I’m trying to stay composed on stage but in my mind, I’m freaking out! A lot of the other winners seemed so relaxed when we won, but for me it was just such a huge deal. I had this Grammy in my hand and I was just blown over! Right now I still think it’s a dream and I just wonder when the dream will be over.”
Throughout all Scott’s stories (and he has many), I was impressed by just how jaded he is not. He is embracing every experience that comes along.
“After I got the Grammy, I decided I wanted to do another album. I started in March of 2010, and I finished about three months ago.”
Scott is very excited about the new recording, Be In My World, which he expects will be released in early 2012. Players include his sister Ronda Scott (they sing a duet); vocalist Laura Reed from South Africa; Derek Trucks; DTB bass player Todd Smallie; DTB vocalist Mike Matteson, jazz guitarist Grant Green Jr.; virtuoso bassist Joseph Patrick Moore; singer/songwriter Diane Durrett and more. Three of the tracks are written by funk keyboardist Reverend Oliver Wells. Scott himself wrote several tracks.
“There are 15 original songs and a cover of Buddy Miles’ “‘dem Changes,’” Scott says, “and this is the first recording with me as a lead vocal. So that’s me on vibes, percussion, singing and drums. The album, titled Be In My World is a tribute to Buddy Miles.”
Art is another passion for Yonrico Scott. “I was always drawing and making stuff, as a kid.”
Once again, his mother was at his side, encouraging him.
“‘You can have the upstairs. Do whatever you want,’ my mother told me,’ Scott laughs.
“Then, when I started with Derek, we were making up set lists and I started drawing on them. We would make color copies for the band, and then for some of the fans. And now they’re collected all over the place.”
Scott is a prolific artist, painting drum heads for his many gigs along with paintings.
“I’m not a trained artist,” he continues. “I’m making a statement . . . One of my biggest idols was Howard Finster [legendary Atlanta folk artist known for his 1980s album designs for groups like R.E.M. and Talking Heads]. He told me to keep doing my own stuff. Don’t take lessons. So that’s what I do.”
This past October, when visionary artists Alex and Allison Gray, known for their psychodelic album covers, came to Atlanta’s inaugural Visionary Arts Fair, Yonrico was part of it.
“I was playing drums, wearing a crazy suit. I loved it.”
So much is happening for Yonrico Scott these days, it’s hard to keep up.
“The biggest thing for me right now is a new band. I’ve been invited to join the Royal Southern Brotherhood with Cyril Neville, Devon Allman and MIke Zito with Charlie Wooton on bass. The band will debut at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, and we have bookings through Dec. 2012.”
Joining Scott at the SxSE gig will be jazz keyboardist Buzz Amatto, guitarist Randy Honea, and Ted Peccio on bass. Something tells me this is going to be a genre-jumping adventure, and I can’t wait.
Music Feasts are $25 per person ($20 for SxSE annual concert series members). Reservations are suggested. Send an email to email@example.com, with the number of tickets 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 about the SxSE event,log onto http://www.southbysoutheast.org.
Note: I loved talking with Yonrico Scott, and there’s a lot more to the interview, so I plan to organize my notes and add some of them to this blog post soon.
Randy McQuay Wins Solo/Duo Category, Lawyers Guns & Money Take Band Competition
I was fortunate enough to be one of the judges for the Cape Fear Blues Challenge this year. It was a lot of fun and I got to hear some great music. If you ever get a chance to attend or be a part of one of these, jump at the chance. This particular event (and there were hundreds going on all over the country) was held on Saturday, Nov. 5 at one of my favorite little blues joints, the Rusty Nail in Wilmington, N.C.
We judged two categories: solo artist or duo act and band (three or more players). Each act played a 20-minute set.
There were several different judging criteria. First, and most heavily weighted was blues content, which I found strange because it’s so subjective. Everyone has his or her own interpretation of what is and isn’t blues ( never mind what is and isn’t good), so this can really vary. Vocals were the next criteria. How did the act’s vocals tell the story; did they evoke emotion? And did the background vocals reinforce the message?
Third criteria was talent. In the case of a group or duo, did the instrumental skills of each musician combine well and contribute to the act’s “sound”? Was the band tight? Was the tempo steady. Did the instruments complement the vocals or drown them out? It’s not enough to lay down searing riffs during your solo.
Also important for the competition was originality. Although the Cape Fear Blues Society allows cover tunes in the contest, players are not rewarded for exact renditions. Instead we looked for the act that could take a well-known blues tune and make it their own. To give you an example, during the course of the evening, three of the nine acts we were judging performed Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads Blues,” so you can understand the significance of originality as it extends beyond songwriting to arrangement and performance, as well.
The fifth and final criteria was stage presence. Did the performers connect with the audience? Were they playing music or putting on a show? Musicianship has to come first, but musicians can’t perform in a vacuum. They have to sell themselves – and their music – to the audience.
Six acts competed in the solo/duo category and three sought the title in the full band category, which was defined as having three or more players. Solo acts were Jim Ashley, Lakota John, Jim Nelson, Reverend Sam, Spider Mike Bochey and Randy McQuay. The competing bands were The Treblemakers, Lawyers Guns & Money and Chicken Head Blues Band.
Randy McQuay and Lawyers Guns & Money took the wins so they’re headed to Memphis for the 2012 IBC. Yeah!
Born and raised in Charlotte, N.C., Randy McQuay told me he started playing drums in middle school. He joined the school jazz band and later the marching band. He has been a full time musician since the age of 17. After attending UNCW and studying drums and percussion, he now plays keyboard, guitar, harmonica and handles vocals, too. “I paid my way through college singing, so that’s what I’ve done,” he told me in a telephone interview this week.
McQuay is the talented front man for the Wilmington, N.C. group, RootSoul Project. He’s working on his sixth album now, and has recorded in Nashville, Tenn. as well as locally at Audio Genesis in Wilmington.
His group has a standing gig at the Duck & Dive in downtown Wilmington every Tuesday night and then travels around the region Thursday through Sunday. They’ve been building quite a fan base in Myrtle Beach and Murrells Inlet.
At the Blues Challenge, Randy was hugely engaging on harp and acoustic guitar. Until he played, it seemed the young Lakota John might score the most with his electric guitar, but in the end, he came in second.
Winning the band category, Lawyers Guns & Money is a Greensboro-based four-piece band with Terry VunCannon on guitar and lap steel, Stan Atwell on bass and vocals, Mike Thomas on drums and vocals and Rob Slater on guitar. The band was founded by VunCannon about three years ago. As for the band name, yes they’re fans of Warren Zevon, but there’s more.
“Stan the bass player is a lawyer, I have the guns, and Mike is an engingeer, so he’s the money,” laughs VunCannon
“These are guys I’d played with in pickup bands around Greensboro. We worked up a cover show first,” Terry tells me a few days after the Blues Challenge.
The band likes playing blues, but also performs R&B, classic rock and some Motown tunes. They have a new CD titled Make Up Another Lie (Sept. 2011) and a single, “Hook Line & Sinker” on the Cashbox Roadhouse Blues Top 40 chart. The CD includes a bonus track with blues legend Bob Margolin.
Terry says, “Bob Margolin has been so good to us; we do a cover of his “She and the Devil” on the CD. We switched it up, did it fast … different tempo. Bob says he’d rather see a band do an original version and not just a cover.
“On the CD cut, I played acoustic dobro and Bob played acoustic guitar and sang. It meant a lot to me and the band.”
Lawyers Guns & Money has opened or shared the stage with Margolin three times. They’ve also opened for Candye Kane.
“I had a chance to sit down with Candye’s amazing guitarist Laura Chavez,” Terry tells me. “Our road guitars, Strats, are the same year, and we both use the Fender Tex Mex pickups.”
I can hear him grinning. This is a guy who definitely likes what he does.
Vuncannon pens the band’s original tunes, often with girlfriend Janice Gatton Hamby. He’s been writing songs and doing session work since about 1980.
Lawyers Guns & Money is a big hit with dance crowds, playing venues like Sixth & Vine in Winston-Salem, Churchills in Greensboro, Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse in Durham and the Zion Caribbean Bar & Grille in Greensboro and the Opra House Saloon in Asheboro. Thursday nights, Terry tells me, they run the open blues jam at Zion.
From the first moment this band started performing “Make Up Another Lie,” they captured my undivided attention. Vocals by bassist Stan Atwell are anything but off-the-shelf, and throughout the set, the band was tight and polished.
I have to say, all three of the bands delivered topnotch performances. The Treblemakers put on a super rockin’ blues show, and Rick Tobey’s Chickenhead Blues Band brings puts out a great vibe.
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!
She D’Ambrosio is a talent scout, booking agent and all around lover of blues music. It’s been on her bucket list for quite some time now to put together a blues festival for the Upstate of South Carolina, and this month it’s finally come to pass.
On Saturday, Sept. 17, the inaugural Summer’s Last Blast & Blues Festival will take place at the Pavilion at Acadia in Piedmont, S.C. (a suburb of Greenville). The lineup is extraordinary, especially for the ultra-reasonable ticket price of $15 per person (free for kids under 12).
Headlining is the incredible Beverly “Guitar” Watkins and her band; then there’s Cee Cee James featuring the inimitable Rickey Godfrey on guitar; the Matt Walsh Blues Band; Freddie Vanderford with Brandon Turner and the Shades; singer songwriter J Edwards and his kick-ass band; and the King Bees. YEAH!
Beverly “Guitar” Watkins was born in Atlanta, Ga. in 1939, and she can play the pants off musicians half her age. She says, “My style is real Lightnin’’ Hopkins lowdown blues. I call it hard classic blues, stompin’ blues, railroad smokin’ blues.”
D’Ambrosio can’t wait to bring her to the Upstate. ‘Beverly is a national treasure,” she tells me. “She’s got a style all her own and she’s so charismatic. Wait till people see her with that guitar over her head.”
Watkins was a junior in high school when she joined Piano red and the Meter-tones. Later she played with Eddie Tigner and the Ink Spots and other groups, becoming a fixture at the Underground Atlanta.
She would go on to work with James Brown, B.B. King and Ray Charles, becoming well-known throughout the blues community. But like so many other roots musicians, she had little airplay, and wouldn’t achieve success until the advent of the Internet. Re-discovered by Tim Duffy, founder of the nonprofit Music Maker Relief Foundation, she joined Koko Taylor on the women of Blues “Hot Mamas” tour in 1998. Her debut CD, Back In Business (1999), earned her a W.C. Handy Award nomination in 2000, and she was on her way. A bout with cancer a few years later couldn’t keep her down, and she’s back touring and getting the kudos she deserves.
Originally from Portland, Ore., Cee Cee James was 12 when she put together her first band. She discovered blues early, but went on to explore R&B and her native cherokee roots. “Hiking in the mountains outside San Diego,” she says, “I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan whispering to me from the Heavens… “Go back to your roots girl. go back to what you do best,” which I intuitively knew was blues, low-down roots and soul.”
Her current blues band includes songwriting partner and husband Rob “Slideboy” Andrews and Nashville’s hot rockin’ bluesman Rickey Godfrey wailing on his Telecaster. This act is going to blow the sky open.
“Cee Cee James is a vocal volcano,” says D’Ambrosio. “There’s this gut-wrenching quality … Her originals come from walking through fire … and there’s just not enough to say about Rickey Godfrey. It’s an honor for us to have him here.”
J Edwards Band is going to shock a lot of people at this show. A popular Columbia, S.C. musician, he just isn’t well-known outside the area. But this boy can sing. His raw, rough, heart-wrenching vocals will stop you in your tracks.
In a matter-of-fact style that I’ve come to expect from She D’Ambrosio, she says bluntly, “J’s voice is my crack cocaine. He’s got a voice like no other. Once you’ve heard ‘I’ve Got a Woman,’ you know what I mean.”
Matt Walsh’s sound is rooted in the old-school blues of south-side Chicago in the fifties. He first gained national notoriety in 2006 when former guitarist for Muddy Waters Bob Margolin interviewed him for Blues Revue magazine. Since then Matt shared the stage or opened for Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Pinetop Perkins and others. This guy’s on his way up! Catch him while you can!
The King Bees out of N.C were formed by guitarist/organist Hound Dog Baskerville and singer/song-writer/bassist, Queen Bee Penny Zamagni. They have a musical pedigree I can’t even imagine. They have sat in with or backed up so many blues giants:Bo Diddley, Tinsley Ellis, Billy Branch, Mojo Buford, Big Jack Johnson, Sam Carr, Frank Frost, Lazy Lester, Ronnie Earl … the list goes on.
“When you hear that voice come out of Penny, who stands all of five feet … you wonder where it comes from,” says D’Ambrosio as she talks about the King Bees.
Harpman Freddie Vanderford is doing his part to keep the blues alive. In 2010 he received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award for sharing the tradition of Piedmont blues harp. For the Summer’s Last Blast festival, he’s playing with iconic guitarist Brandon Turner and the Shades.
“Brandon Turner is one of the most underrated guitarists in the U.S. I can’t wait for this show,” She tells me.
“We have people coming fro Atlanta, Charlotte, Virginia, the Carolina beaches,” she goes on. “We’re hoping to have a lot of locals, too. We have a lot of talent in this area, but we wanted to bring in acts from out of the area, too … give people a chance to see someone that maybe they haven’t been able to see before.”
This is a family-friendly festival. Food vendors will be selling homemade ice cream, funnel cakes, hot dogs, barbecue, beer, wine, soda, tea, lemonade and more.
Vendor spots are still available for $25. As a further incentive, this year’s vendors will be able to return next year for the same price.
The Pavilion at Acadia is located at 102 Fathers Way in Piedmont, S.C. For more information, log onto the website at http://www.summerslastbluesfest.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit them on Facebook.
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 .
Curtis Richardson was old school Myrtle Beach. He played drums with the Chainsaws, who love to tell you that they’re tuned and lubed for your listening pleasure, so right there you can get a sense of the guy.
According to his pal, Charlie Newell – bass player for the Chainsaws – he and Curtis were friends for decades.
“Curtis was a mouthy little kid who used to follow us around a lot,” Charlie laughs, although a bit sadly.
“He’d follow us into bars and clubs when he was maybe 14 … He wound up being just a phenomenal drummer … I used to call him The Human Metronome … He was just unreal … loved the odd timing, which made it especially challenging for a bass player!
“A lot of local musicians came through his little jam room. It was a great gathering place.”
Last December, Curtis sat in for a set with Nashville’s Mike Farris at the Myrtle Beach Train Depot during a South By Southeast Music Feast. It was a lot of fun.
Unknown to everyone, even himself, Curtis was having heart problems. And shortly after that, in January, he died unexpectedly, leaving his family in a precarious financial situation. Some of Curtis’ buddies have come together to honor him and help the family at the same time.
Old friend and extreme bassist Steve Bailey will be there. Soulful songwriter Chuck Cannon will be there, too, all the way from Nashville. Also on the roster are Keith & Ann Thompson, the Mullets, Phyllis Tanner & Steve Russell, Tom Yoder, Kid Drew & Lynwood Salvo and Regime (Anthony Zincone).
The May 22 benefit takes place at Inlet Affairs, 4012 Business 17 in Murrells Inlets, S.C. It starts at 5 p.m. Donations are $25. There’s a cash bar and food. (Remember, it’s a benefit for Curtis’ family). This is going to be a great night of music. We gonna lay down a groove for Curtis.