I’ve been following the career of Columbia, S.C. musician J Edwards for just over a year. I first heard him at a club in Columbia and was struck immediately by the soulful vocals he delivered. Then I got hold of a couple earlier CDs: Watcha Doin’ (2006), which is mainly acoustic blues; and Everything Changes (2008), electrified and less bluesy, with a full band. The musical arrangements along with the same raw, gut-sucking vocals convinced me to include Everything Changes in my CD Picks (February 11, 2010).
Long story short, when J Edwards told me he was hard at work on a new blues CD, I was giddy with anticipation and more anxious for it than a school girl shopping for her first brassiere.
I’m happy to report that LuLu’s House hits home in a big way. This ten-track recording overflows with goose-bumpin’ vocals, boot-stompin’ blues and heartstopping musicianship. LuLu’s House beckons us in to meet some good ole down home folks and share in the sumptuous buffet of Southern life. It’s all about eatin’ and leavin’, leavin’ and eatin’. LuLu sets the tone for a warm, if irreverent group of House dwellers. There’s not a loser in the bunch.
Track one, “Aint Gonna Be Your Dog” is a love song, but he suspects she’s leaving, so he sets some rules. And I bet LuLu approves.
Baby when you’re home, you walk away from me
And when you talk, you talk away from me
When you laugh, it ain’t with me
I’ll be your everything
But I ain’t gonna be your dog
Track two is also about leaving. “You Told Me You Loved Me” is a heartachy tune about life’s shortcomings and love’s disappointments. Between vocals by J Edwards and signature guitar work from Nashville artist Rickey Godfrey, you’ll be feeling this straight ahead blues tune.
You said you loved me
That you would never never never go
You said you love me
That you would never never go
Now you say you’re leaving
I say I told you told you so
Told your friends you would change me
Said you were gonna tie me down
Told your friends you would change me
Said you were gonna tie me down
There are nights I go out drinkin’
You don’t even stick around
I thought you said you loved me baby
At LuLu’s House, love is definitely a double-edged sword.
According to J, “New Shoes” is his take on Northern blues. The shoes are dapper, the coat is fancy and this boy is “whistlin’ while he’s walkin’.” Leavin’ again.
Edwards told me that most of these tunes have been around for years. He said, “I wrote them back when I was playing the Columbia blues clubs every weekend, so when I decided to do another CD, I came up with some different arrangements of blues ideas and songs I’d written. In fact, ‘I Got a Woman’ is one of those songs.”
“I Got a Woman” is the standout tune off the CD. It features plaintive vocals by J and more searing guitar licks from Rickey Godfrey.
J says response to the tune has been phenomenal. “It’s a solid blues song – simple progressions, simple lyrics … but every blues player I’ve jammed with falls in love with it. Someone will say, ‘Hey, if you’re going to do that song, I wanna play guitar on it.’ I was in Nashville earlier this year, at the Pro Blues Jam with Tim Gonzalez, the Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar in Printer’s Alley. Rickey Godfrey was on guitar. I think it was maybe the second or third time he played it and … whoa!”
There’s a video of that performance on YouTube. You can see it for yourself at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2E5cv25Zcs.
A side story to that, J told me he had really enjoyed the guys jamming with him that night. Back at the studio, he said the same to producer Mike O’neil , mentioning the bass player, in particular. O’neil knew the guy (Gere Hoffman) and worked with him often, so he wound up playing on the CD, too.
“Taste” is another “taste of somethin’ good,” with lusty, whisky-edged vocals and a performance by the backing band that is solid on its own, but never steps on the vocals.
Rickey Godfrey, a top drawer vocalist in his own right, explains it like this: “J’s vocals are so strong, so huge, I think we all just tried to stay out of his way, and let him put it out there. No one wanted to play over him, we wanted to support him. It’s not every day you have a vocalist like this to work with.”
Track eight, “Come On In the Bedroom,” is another of my favorites, for the pure lustfulness of it. And again, great band work.
But what about the CD title? I wanted to know where LuLu’s House came from.
“I remember, as a kid,” J Edwards says, “that everyone had songs about LuLu … and some of them were kinda dirty … so this is my song about LuLu: “Eatin’ About LuLu’s.”
“You know, you see people on the side of the road sometimes with signs ‘Will Work For Beer.’ They’re honest about it.
“Well, this guy, this street musician may drink some, but it’s really about the food.”
He can “eat down to LuLu’s for 65 cents …” He just wants some pancakes. When LuLu’s House turns out to be a cathouse, too, our boy’s not opposed to sharing her bed, but it’s still the “biscuits and hamhocks” he’s really lusting for.
And that’s where LuLu’s House came from. Check out the tuba. Makes you feel like you’re on the streets of New Orleans somewhere, ready to head on over to LuLu’s. For the food.
Players on LuLu’s House include: vocals, J Edwards; piano and organ, Larry Van Loon; drums and percussion, Mike O’neil; bass, Gere Hoffman; guitar, Kenne Cramer; harmonica, J Edwards; additional guitar on “I Got a Woman” and “You Said You Loved Me, Rickey Godfrey; additional bass on “Eatin’ at Lulu’s” and “Taste,” Kevin Grantt; saxophone, “Summer’s Waiting,” Dana Robbins; tuba on “Eatin’ at LuLu’s,” Matt Glassmeyer.
Recorded at Serenity Hill Studios, Nashville, Tenn; producer, Mike O’neil; engineer, Brian Tortoro; mix, Mark Polack; mastered at Serenity Hill by Mike O’neil and Mark Polack.
This is one dude who knows how to party. The eleventh annual J Edwards Birthday Bash is set for July 31 at the Jamil Temple in Columbia, S.C. from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m.
Singer/songwriter J Edwards has been throwing his own birthday party since the year 2000. One Saturday night, which happened to be his birthday, he had a gig booked at a joint called Sandra’s Corner Pocket.
“I invited some blues buddies to come and jam with me,” he remembers. “I couldn’t pay them, but I figured I could handle the bar tab. It was a lot of fun, and the tips covered the tab, so it was a great birthday.”
He did it again and by the third year out, he had so many bands wanting to play he had to make a schedule.
“I’ve had up to 15 bands, but cut back now because I’m actually paying them!” he told me in between finishing work on his new CD, finalizing band schedules, selling tickets and organizing raffles for the nonprofits involved and who knows what else.
The entertainment ranges from full on electric blues to funked up R&B, rockabilly, modern rock and smooth acoustic country.
This year’s line-up covers a lot of ground. Here are some of the players.
Rob Crosby (singer-songwriter/acoustic country)
This Sumpter, S.C. boy moved hisself to Nashville in the late eighties and has scored hits as both songwriter and artist. He has writing credits on “Concrete Angel” performed by Martina McBride, “She’s More” by Andy Griggs and “Holdin’ a Good Hand” by Lee Greenwood. His own top ten hits include “She’s a Natural,” “Love Will Bring Her Around” and “Burnin’ For You.”
Talking about Crosby, Edwards says, “Rob is just smooth .. that’s all I can say … the boy just drips with honey. His songwriting abilities weave a message that’s pretty phenomenal.” Showtime 5:45 p.m.
Rickey Godfrey (soul-blues guitarist/vocals)
Whether you’re talking vocals or instrumental, Nashville’s Rickey Godfrey is recognized not just in Music City and his home state of South Carolina, but all over the world. He’s toured and played with Sam Moore, Rufus Thomas, the Box Tops, Johnny Jones and Billy Preston. J Edwards said, “Rickey’s superb bluesmanship captures attention wherever he goes. He’s got such a cool groove. Folks are going to be blown away.” Godfrey, who is currently working on his own blues album for release later this year, also played on Lulu’s House, J Edwards CD on the Serenity Hill label, set for release at the Birthday Bash. I’ve heard a few of the tracks and can’t wait to hear the rest. Showtime 3:15 p.m.
Tommy Tutone (80s pop, rockabilly)
Best known for his hit “867-5309/Jenny” from his gold album Tutone 2, Tommy is working on a new CD called Soul Twang, bringing a new synthesis of rockabilly, soul and country to the table. Gonna be fun. Showtime 6:30 p.m.
Soul Mites (funk-rock)
This quartet has been together since college, and on the S.C. music scene for some 13 years. Lead singer Tim Davis’ raspy voice adds to their unique sound. Edwards said, “These guys are pure funk rock… their grooves are unbelievable.” Showtime 7:30 p.m.
Cravin’ Melon (Southern rock, folk rock, rockabilly)
This is one of those bands you just gotta see live. Their fans, who range from the fanatical Front Row Club to newbie melonheads are practically part of the show. The band mixes southern charm with tasty guitar licks, vocals and rhythm section to serve up a feast of musical morsels. Get yourself some. Showtime 9:45 p.m.
Midway Blue (Southern rock)
Out of Florence, S.C., these guys recently played the Charlotte Motor Speedway and won the semi finals round of the SPEED channel’s talent show, “Fast Track to Fame.” J Edwards is really enthusiastic about this group. “Midway Blue have a really cool take on Southern country rock … kind of a Beatles’ flair and it’s straight into Craig Morgan country sound with a little Lynyrd Skynyrd over the top.” Showtime 5:45 p.m.
Latin influences, funky phrasing and straight up rock are words that founders Gabriel Lopez and Charles Funk use to describe their unique musical sound. You’ll have to hear it for yourself. (If you’re already a J Edwards fan, you know Funk as his scorching guitarist.) Showtime 2 p.m.
General admission tickets for the Birthday Bash are $15 advance/$20 at the door. VIP tables for four cost $200. A portion of your ticket price will go to one of half a dozen charities. There will also be raffles and silent auctions going on all day.
For more information on the charities, schedules or tickets, visit www.jedwardsband.com or “J Edwards 11th Annual Birthday Bash” page on Facebook or call 803-315-1901. J Edwards Band showtime 8:45 p.m.