DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Meet CWB – Again

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on October 30, 2008

We all remember when Craig Woolard formed the Craig Woolard Band. It was 2004. Craig had left his lead singer slot with the Embers after some internal strife and a dispute over contractual differences with Bluewater Recordings, with whom the Embers had just signed an exclusive recording contract. (How’s that for a long-winded, yet quick and understated synopsis?)

Craig, of course, was lead singer in the newly created Craig Woolard Band. Mark Roberts was on vocals and horn. J.K. Loftin handled guitar chores and vocals. Terry Nash played keyboard (and vocals). Frank Mills was on bass guitar (vocals, too), and Scott Harrell was the drummer. The group quickly became a mainstay in Beach Music World. They evolved into a dynamic, exciting beach band with a vocal powerhouse out front. CWB released Making Waves, which included the singles “I’ve Got a Feeling,” “One Drop of Love,” and Mark Roberts’ “Dixie Moon” and “Hey There Lonely Girl.”
“Till the Day After,” released during Fall SOS in 2004 climbed to No. 1 on the beach charts and stayed there. The fledgling CWB earned Group of the Year at the 2005 Carolina Beach Music Academy (CBMA) Awards. It was also during this year that Greg Watson stepped in when bass player Frank Mills left the band and Tony Mallard replaced Scott Harrell on skins.
The Craig Woolard Band was filling the clubs with fans who shagged and sang along with their favorite Craig Woolard tunes including “Love Don’t Come No Stronger,” Craig’s solo release (while he was still with the Embers) and “What Am I Gonna Do Without Your Love,” both which Craig had co-produced with Chris Biehler of Forevermore Records. In January 2007, talented hornplayer Keith Stone joined the group, adding even more depth to the CWB sound .”
A month later, drummer Sam Bryant surprised fans and many insiders by jumping from Coastline Band to CWB, filling the Tony Mallard spot. Sam brought his own distinctive sound and penchant for finding the pocket with him. CWB was tight and rockin’.
But something was stirring. Vocalist Mark Roberts wanted to step out of the role as a supporting vocalist, and decided in June 2007 to move to Coastline Band where he would play a more prominent role. That left CWB with a definite hole to fill. Craig immediately hired Andy King, who brought an entirely different energy to CWB.
The band released Come Get To This during Fall 2007. Charting singles include “I Can’t Dance,” “Money Honey,” “River of Love,” “What You Gave Me,” “Coast Is Clear,” “On the Beach,” Bet You’ll Never Be Sorry,” “Color Away” and the title track. The band thrived.
Until late 2007, that is, when Mark Roberts announced he was leaving Coastline to form his Mark Roberts & Breeze. And that J.K. Loftin and Terry Nash would be leaving Craig Woolard Band to join him.
By February 2008, they were gone and Craig was filling in with temporary players and trying out different musicians – all while he was trying to keep his obligations, and his fans.
Over the next several months, he downplayed the hit he had taken, and worked hard to find the right players … with the right fit. I kept nagging him to do an interview with me. I wanted to know what was going on, but he didn’t want to talk for the record just yet.
Finally about a month ago, Craig said to me, “I think I’m ready to talk to you. I’m feeling really good about this band.”
Craig Woolard (lead vocals, flute and saxophones, what am I forgetting?), Greg Watson (bass guitar and vocals), Andy King (trumpet and vocals), Keith Stone (horn and vocals) and Sam Bryant (drums) are now joined by Don Jordan (lead guitar and vocals) and Andy Swindell (keyboards and vocals).
Craig says,”These guys are tops. We can sit down and jam, but when we’re onstage and I need them to be consistent, they are just so tight …”
Andy Swindell, from Durham, North Carolina, spent almost ten years in the Embers with Craig. They share the same influences: Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack. “Andy’s got a great soulful voice,” says Craig. “He fills in the bottom on the harmony section. He can play boogie woogie or a screaming B3 and he’s got great chord knowledge … he’s a little too tall, though.”
Guitarist Don Jordan is from Pfaftown, North Carolina, just outside Winston-Salem. He also sang with the Embers, for about a year. “He’s got a great blues feel and is really adding something to the group … Robert Cray … and he has that new country thing nailed, said Craig. “We played a county fair recently and got a request for a number I wasn’t too familiar with, Don stepped right up and was great … this George Jones song, he went right into it, lick for lick.
“I had to wait for the right guys, but I feel good.”
He must feel good about the CBMA nominations for 2008, too. Craig’s been nominated for Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year. CWB is in the running for Group of the Year, and Come Get To This has been nominated for Group Album.
Just for the helluvit, take a looksee at how many CBMA awards Craig has collected over the years (and I’m not even counting what the Embers took home):
• Male Vocalist: 2006, 2005, 2004, 2002, 1997 and 1996;
• Entertainer: 2004;
Song of the Year: 2006, “I’ve Got a Feeling”; 2002, “Love Don’t Come No Stronger”;
• Group of the Year: 2005, Craig Woolard Band;
• Ballad/Smoothie: 2006, CWB Featuring Mark Roberts for “Hey There Lonely Girl”;
• Collaboration: 2004 for “Cruisin’” with Marsha Hancock; 2002 for “That’s Summertime To Me” with Gary Brown, Johnny Barker and JD Cash;
Duo Recording: 2002 for “That’s Summertime To Me” with Gary Brown, Johnny Barker and JD Cash (didn’t I just say this?); 1996 with Debbie Dobbins for “Bring It On Home To Me”;
• Producer: 1996 with Chris Biehler for “Love Don’t Come No Stronger”; and
• Group Vocalist: 1996.
No doubt about it, Craig Woolard is a mighty tall talent.
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