DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

SxSE Brings Randall Bramblett To Train Depot March 6

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on February 26, 2010

Randall Bramblett, 2010 (Photo Jeff Jeffares)

If you missed Randall Bramblett opening for Bonnie Raitt  this past October at the House of Blues or his headline act at the historic Train Depot in Myrtle Beach last spring, you’re in luck.

South By Southeast is bringing the uber-talented multi-instrumentalist and his legendary  five-piece band back to the beach for another rockin’ party at the Depot on March 6.

Don’t tell me … you’ve never heard of him.

Randall Bramblett has become famous for being unknown – except among industry insiders.

He may not be a staple on your AM radio dial, or even your favorite FM show, but he is acclaimed throughout the music industry as an accomplished singer/songwriter, a talented keyboard player, guitarist and saxophonist.

During the early part of his career, he played with Cowboy, Allman Brothers and Sea Level. More recently, he’s toured with Widespread Panic, Traffic and Steve Winwood. He’s had songs recorded by  the likes of Rick Nelson, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Bonnie Raitt, Delbert McClinton and Chuck Leavell.

His praises have been sung loudly by some of rock’s finest. “Randall is the most talented and prolific songwriter I have the privilege of knowing,” said R.E.M.’s Bill Berry.  Dave Schools with Widespread Panic calls him “one of Georgia’s musical treasures…” Chuck Leavell (Rolling Stones/Allman Brothers) goes even further: “Randall is, in my opinion, one of the most gifted and talented southern singer-songwriter musicians of the past several decades.”

These days, Bramblett tours with his own Randall Bramblett Band. Whenever Bonnie Raitt plays the south, she calls Randall to come and play some dates with her.

Growing up  in Jesup, Ga., he’s got soul music in his genes, R&B  under his skin and a hero in James Brown, so he’s a perfect fit for Raitt’s soulful, swamp-lickin’ rockin’ blues.

Release date for The Meantime by Randall Bramblett is March 9, 2010.

Bramblett is about to release his eighth solo CD, The Meantime (Blue Ceiling Records 2010).  The new recording is something of a departure for the rocker, although he’s quick to tell me it doesn’t represent a whole new direction for him; it was “just a way to get these songs out there.”

In a telephone interview last week, Bramblett said, “The new record is with the trio, not the full band. It’s quiet … spacy … not a party thing. It came to me working in the studio on a grand piano. All these songs came to me and I realized I could record songs that I couldn’t really do with the band. There’s a romantic quietness, a subtlety not possible with the band … not romantic in the love sense, but in a classical sense.

“It turned out to be very difficult because you’re so vulnerable … you hear everything … if one little piece is out of tune, you hear it.

“It’s sparse, lots of space. I’m very pleased.”

On the CD, Randall is accompanied by his drummer and producer for his last album, Gerry Hansen,  and on upright bass, Chris Enghauser, known for his work with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Roy “Futureman” Wooten’s “Roy-El Phi-Harmonics Orchestra” and Nashville’s Badabing Badaboom.

So, I wanted to know, is the SxSE show at the Depot going to be mellow or blow the roof off the place?

“This is a full-band thing. We’re going to rock!” promises Bramblett.

The five-piece band includes Bramblett (guitar, keyboard, saxophone); Bramblett’s longtime collaborator Davis Causey (guitar); Gerry Henson (drums); Mike Hines (guitar); and Michael C. Steele (bass guitar).

If you’re not already signed up, you’ll want to shoot an email off right now to southbysoutheast@aol.com and ask them to put you on the reservations list. I promise you, this show by the man no one’s ever heard of, is going to be sold out before performance day.

The opening act is national Americana artist Stoll Vaughan, who is so interesting that I have to write another story about him. But if you loved the early days of Springsteen, you’ll love Stoll Vaughan.

Vaughan goes on at 7 p.m. Randall Bramblett Band will take the stage at 8 p.m. The Music Feast   starts at 6 p.m. Dinner, desserts, wine, brews, Pepsi and bottled water are free. It’s potluck, so bring something if you’re so inclined.

Tickets are $20 for members and $25 if you haven’t joined yet. Visit http://www.sxsemusic.com for more information.  (This would be a great time to make a donation or join SxSE in honor of former director Jeff Roberts, who passed away on Jan. 11. Just sayin’.)

D.J. Throwdown at Ocean Drive

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on February 26, 2010

Fans of Carolina R&B love this event. The 19th Annual DJ Throwdown in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. is bringing 60-plus deejays to Ocean Drive along with three of the hottest beach bands around: Band of Oz, Legends of Beach and the Fantastic Shakers.

The fun takes place March 4 – 6 at Duck’s Beach Club on Main Street and the O.D. Beach Club where Main Street meets the beach.

Doors open at Ducks on Thursday night at 7:30 for a night of classic beach music. Tickets are $10 (Thursday night only). Band of Oz starts at 8 p.m., followed by Legends of Beach and ending with the Fantastic Shakers.

Although Band of Oz has been around in one form or another since  the sixties, the current lineup showcases Scott Fine on vocals and trombone, Tim Morris on vocals and trumpet, and Daniel Morris on saxophone and vocals. They tour throughout the Carolinas, Va. and Ala. to sell-out crowds, and Ocean Drive will be no exception.

Typically, organizers bring in a national blues act for the middle slot. One year it was guitar whiz Debbie Davies. Last year harp man Mitch Kashmir came to town. For DJ Throwdown 2010, though, things have changed and I contacted deejay/organizer Butch Metcalf to find out why, but I haven’t heard back yet, and a deadline is a deadline is a deadline …

Legends of Beach bass player Gerald Davis (Photo Frank Hall)

So, next up will be Legends of Beach, a topnotch beach band consisting mainly of former members of the Embers band. These guys are some of the best vocalists and musicians in beach music today. Jackie Gore is the personification of beach music. He wrote and sang the original classic “I Love Beach Music” with the Embers in 1979. R. Mark Black, another former Ember, brings soulful vocals and sax to the stage.  Gerald Davis (bass), Jeff Grimes (guitar, sax) and Johnny Barker (keyboards) all include the Embers band on their resumes. You can expect an exciting set of classic R&B from this group.

Closing out Thursday night at Ducks are the Fantastic Shakers, who will keep the crowd movin’ and shakin’ into the wee hours. These guys are party animals and talented musicians to boot. Tunes like “Myrtle Beach Days” and “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore” keep audiences singing along. I have yet to experience a Fantastic Shakers show when they weren’t “on.”

Of course, that’s just Thursday. For Friday and Saturday, deejays rule. They’ll be playing the old stuff, the new stuff, the sleepers, the breakout tunes, what’s hot, what’s obscure and everything in between. O.D. Beach Club will have deejays starting at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The club has announced it will be non-smoking for the weekend.

For more information, visit http://www.abscdj.com and click on the Ducks logo to download a flyer.

CD Picks: Carolina Grown

Posted in CD Picks by darielb on February 11, 2010

CD Picks: Carolina Grown

Cagle & Nash

Soul Complete

2009

Churchill-Nash Records

Genre: R&B

cagleandnash.com

If you’re not located in  the Carolinas, you may not yet know about this Charlotte, N.C. duo, but Cagle & Nash are one of the best R&B acts around. Greg Cagle plays saxophone, guitar and sings lead vocals. Rick Nash plays a mean trumpet. Both are talented composers.

This soulful recording consists of 11 tracks and for my money, any one of them could be released as a single. Presentation throughout is solidly polished. This is pop meets old school and the result is spectacular. All songs on Soul Complete were written by Greg Cagle and Rick Nash.

The first song into it, I knew I was in for a treat. “Pick Up the Phone” is a jazzy piece that shows off the vocal talents of Greg  Cagle, and  Rick Nash – what a horn player!

The second track, “December,” boasts some equally rich horns. Also of note are the disc’s harmonies by Cagle and backup singers Robyn Springer and Jarrett Gillis.

Musicians on Soul Complete include: Greg Cagle (drum programming, saxophone, lead vocals, background vocals, guitar, bass, vibraphone), Rick Nash (trumpet), David Rhyne (percussion), Joe Miers (bass), Bobby Aycock (piano), Larry Gianneschi, Zach Wheeler, Greg Mitchell (alto sax), David Floyd (string arrangement, strings), Robyn Springer (lead and background vocals), Jarrett Gillis (background vocals), Tovaris Matthews (drums), Kenneth Leonard Jr. (piano), Steve McGuirt (drums), Bill Baucom (piano), Di Yonna Mitchell (lead vocal).

If you’re a fan of R&B, soul or pop, you’ll want to give this album a listen.

C&N is releasing another CD titled Loungevity later this month. I haven’t hear any of it yet, but I’m expecting big things.

Jeff Norwood

Awendaw

2008

Awendaw Green Records

Genre: Blues

jeffnorwoodblues.com

I love the simplicity and authenticity of this CD. There’s virtually no digital manipulation. It’s just one lone acoustic bluesman singing, picking and stomping his own version of backwoods Delta blues.

Jeff Norwood is a superb storyteller. He doesn’t judge. He just tells it like it is – whether he’s singing about sex, race, religion, love, money or catfish, he just has a story to tell.

“Bad Ass Boogie” is “the way music was made, back in the woods, back in the day, everybody got high, everybody got laid, that was the tune that always got played, the bad ass boogie.”

“Walking Catfish Blues” really is about a big ole catfish walking around looking for love and something to eat.

“Horny Road” is the back country counterpart to suburbia’s Lover’s Lane, only the couples don’t stop.

In the same vein, “Shake” will transplant you to a street corner or a front porch on a sticky summer evening when temperatures and hormones are on the move.

Our faithful bard wrote all but one of Awendaw’s  ten tracks. “Kokomo Blues” was written by North Mississippi blues guitarist/singer Fred McDowell (1904 – 1972).

Norwood, who grew up working on a S.C. farm, has paid his dues working some rough roadhouses and juke joints. Maybe that’s why he’s so matter of fact about his subject matter.

Awendaw, which is named for the small S.C. town where Norwood records, should be part of any serious blues collection.

J Edwards

Everything Changes

2008

Self-produced

Blues/Rock

jedwardsband.com

I first heard this phenomenal performer at a club in Columbia, S.C. He was playing to a packed room – folks who knew the lyrics to every tune and the story behind it. It didn’t take me long to appreciate Edwards’ considerable vocal talent and songwriting skill. His voice is whiskey-edged velvet, tender and tough at the same time.

His latest CD, Everything Changes delivers the same kind of live energy and raw vocals that keep his fans coming back for more. As a songwriter, J Edwards ( and yes, his first name is J) wears his heart on his sleeve, and while his tunes aren’t necessarily autobiographical, he makes us believe they are.

The 11-track disc opens with a rockin’ Delbertesque number called “Junkyard of Love,” a song about a guy talking about a girl who’s maybe worked her way through most of the guys at the bar, and by the end of the tune, he’s going to get himself a “mechanic to start working out the kinks in his heart.” He’s ready to move on.

“Carole Ann” is a hauntingly sweet tune of life on the road. Edwards then picks up the pace for “Can’t Get Over You.”

“Lover’s Moon Over South Carolina,”  is a road trip anthem with a special yen for heading home to South Carolina. It was voted in the top three at the Songwriter’s and Musician’s Guild of South Carolina songwriting competition.

Let yourself give in to “Skye.” Crank it up and go. It’s just plain fun.

Track seven, “Baby,” is going to take your breath away and fill you full of longing and sweetness until you just ache all over. This is that whiskey velvet I was talking about. Add to that, guitar work by Charles Funk … well, just wait for the goose bumps. They  comin’.

Without even giving you time to recover, “If I Had To” is up next and it’s another tune that strips away the layers as you listen to it. Good stuff. Also called “Conner’s Song,”  J was inspired by Columbia’s Chris Conner, lead singer for Sourwood Honey and  later The South, who passed away in late 2007 of lung cancer.

“Use Me” takes the emotion from the previous two ballads and channels it into a rockin’ romp for the whole band.

Edwards’ songwriting ability is evident on “Catch Me,” a song of love and leaving and lamenting the contradiction of it all.  The road warrior longs to stay but feels the constant pull toward the highway. As with most all J Edwards’ songs, powerful vocals combine with solid band performances.

All songs were written and performed by J Edwards (acoustic guitar). Other players include Charles Funk (acoustic, rhythm, lead guitars); Hesham Mostafa (bass guitar); Greg Bickley (keys on “Catch Me” and “Lover’s Moon;” Buddy Parker (keys on “Junkyard of Love;” Evan Simons (drums); Mike Marchbanks (drums on “If I Had To” and “Can’t Get Over You;” Erin Bates (background vocals on “Junkyard of Love”).

At this writing, the J Edwards Band has begun work on a new blues CD. They expect to be back in the studio by early March and hope for a summer release.