DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Traveling Troubadour Verlon Thompson At SxSE Aug. 8

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on July 29, 2009
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Image courtesy of Keith Case & Associates

“In the end, it’s about what you feel more than what you hear.”

As we talk, writer-picker-singer Verlon Thompson is at home just west of Nashville, Tenn. and I’m parked in my car outside a waterfront joint on the Intracoastal in Little River, S. C. where two of my favorite blues guitarists are tearing it up inside. Only the chance to speak with a songwriter of this quality can pull me away.

The Oklahoma-born musician is bringing his intimate one-man show to Myrtle Beach for a much awaited South By Southeast performance at the city’s landmark Train Depot.

“I’m looking forward to the SxSE show,” Thompson says in his gently twangy, disarming voice. Laughing, he continues, “This is my first time with these folks, and I think it’ll be what they call a ‘cultivated crowd.’”

This is in response to our discussion of “listening rooms,” where the music is front and center while booze and a pub atmosphere play a distant secondary role.

“I have played Myrtle Beach … Surfside really … once before,” he tells me,” It was a house concert. I love the idea that a group of people get together and pool their resources for a private event.

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“In fact, my latest CD, Live At the Iveys [2008], was recorded during a house concert in Fort Mill, S.C. It was in this big old home and I was performing without a sound system. At the last minute, Randy Ivey ran out and bought a laptop and mic and recorded it. He gave me a copy and about a year later I popped it into the player and it just made me smile. You can hear the crowd breathing, sighing, laughing. With this CD, you hear exactly what the people there heard.”

Thompson is the quintessential troubadour, although he’s known as much for his association with country legend Guy Clark as for his own stellar songwriting talents.

“I’ve been playing with Guy Clark since 1988 or ‘89. I worked with him on his Old Friends album (1993/Sugar Hill Records), and when we were finished he said,

“Now you need to come out on the road and recreate it with me. So I did. And now I pretty much do every date with him.”
Thompson has been with Guy Clark on every recording since Old Friends. He’s also racked up producer credits on Cold Dog Soup (1992/Sugar Hill Records), The Dark (2002/Sugar Hill Records), Workbench Songs (2006/Dualtone Music Group) and the upcoming Some Days the Song Writes You (Sept. 22, 2009/Dualtone Music Group).

In addition to Live At the Iveys, Thompson has also cut a few albums on his own label, VNS Music – Out At the Barn and Everywhere … Yet; and Verlon Thompson (1990/Capitol). His compositions have been recorded by Jimmy Buffett, Alan Jackson, Sam Bush, Trisha Yearwood, Anne Murray, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the list goes on.

In fact, when we spoke, the main subject was songwriting. “There are many ways to write a song,” he tells me. “There are many formulas. But it seems like I get the best result when I relax and say what I truly feel, whether it’s a commentary on something or a story … not that I don’t resort to clever wordplay, but I hope not at the expense of the story.

“Sometimes a lick will inspire a word. then that word will inspire a thought … I’ll have a piece of a song that I don’t think is any good and six months later I’ll have the perfect resolution Sometimes you have to wait to be open to it.

“I teach occasionally at songwriting workshop and my advice is ‘Try to reach out; forget the formulas.’

“If you’re writing, here’s what you need to do:
1. Your song needs to bring a lump to the throat;
2. Your song needs to bring a smile to a face (that can’t be stopped);
3. You need to be tapping your foot and just can’t stop.”

Verlon Thompson isn’t a household name. He’s not played on Top 40 radio stations. But he’s building a massive street team of music lovers. This sampling from his website should give you an idea:

Verlon Thompson is best known as Guy Clark’s second guitarist, but he’s cut three albums on his own VNS Records. Out At the Barn is Thompson’s latest celebration of simple, down home music recorded, as the title suggests, at this refurbished barn in the countryside near Nashville … If you dig Thompson’s work with Clark, this disc should grace your collection as well.
– Thirsty Ear, a NonTuxedo Music and Culture Joint

It’s high time everyone heard more of that humble troubadour Verlon Thompson. He is a fantastic guitar picker and songwriter whose only career shortcoming is that he performs in Guy Clark’s enormous shadow.
– Lonely Goat Magazine

This little album [Everywhere … Yet], only 37 minutes long, is an example of real home-made music. All instruments and vocals by Verlon Thompson. I can hear bass, mandolin, and guitars. It’s marvelous in it’s simplicity. Recorded “out at the barn” in a studio he built for his last album, the sound is as cozy as an Indian blanket in front of a log fire….It’s almost as if Thompson was singing for you in your living room. And he is one fine guitar player!
– David Kidney, “Green Man Review” greenmanreview.com

Verlon Thompson’s musical career spans two decades of many facets of the industry as a songwriter, solo artist, sideman and collaborator (many of these roles with country hero Guy Clark). His latest solo project is a chronicle of his vast career, pooling his experiences and paying tribute to influences.

Calling this a solo album is an understatement. Thompson played every instrument, sang every harmony and recorded the album “out at the barn” in the studio that he built. All this creates the organic, engaging and tangible character of the album.
-Performing Songwriter

Verlon Thompson comes to the Myrtle Beach Train Depot at 851 Broadway on August 8. Opener George Marshall takes the stage at 7 p.m. and Thompson goes on at eight o’clock. For tickets, call jeff Roberts at Sounds Better Records (
Here’s some things to remember. South By Southeast is a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving, protection and promotion of the independent music we love that so often is overlooked or ignored by mainstream radio and retailers. The group also awards scholarships and donates instruments to local youths and schools. These are the good guys, folks.

For an incredible $25 a year, you can support their noble efforts and – while you’re at it – gain admittance to most of their shows at the special member’s price ($20).

Your ticket, by the way, includes not just the music, but a range of free pot luck dinners, free brews, wine, soft drinks and bottled water. And since sponsors always get listed at the bottom of press releases (and then deleted from the news stories), here are the music lovers who support SxSE: Pepsi, New South Brewery, Sea Note Recording, Sounds Better Records, Star Music, Ready Rock Recording, the Anderson Property Group and QROCK Radio. I hope you’ll support them in return.

To order tickets for any event, send an email to southxsoutheast@aol.com. For more information about memberships or tickets for any SxSE event,log visit the website or contact Jeff Roberts at 843-497-3643 or Seth Funderburk at 843-455-6499or send an email.

© 2009. Dariel Bendin. All rights reserved.

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Quick! King Tyrone’s Heading To Papa’s Pizza!

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on July 15, 2009

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Woooo-ey! Lock up your silver and hide all the women and children and good-lookin’ dogs. Lord of the swamp, King Tyrone and his randy Graveyard Ramblers are blowing into town on July 22 for a romp through Papa’s Pizza Wings & Things.

Dickie and Dianne Spencer, owners of the otherwise reputable restaurant on the road to Calabash, are already gearing up for the assault. They’ve moved the dining booths out of the back room and added more chairs and standing room for the rowdy group that’s expected to show up for the spectacle.

For the uninitiated, this bawdy blues driven group is  rooted in rockabilly and laced with Southern soul, but other than that they defy  description except to say that their outrageousness is only exceeded by their dead-on lyrical lampoons and musical muscle.
Leaving the alliteration behind, head swampmeister, King Tyrone aka Jim Quick, is one of the best songwriters around these parts and he’s put together a strong group of players made up of Quick on lead vocals and keys, Casey Meyer playing guitar, Albert Rogers on bass guitar and vocals and Sam Bryant on the drumkit.

Jim Quick aka King Tyrone

Jim Quick aka King Tyrone

Quick says he named the Wilmington, N.C.-based group, which he formed in 2006, after King Floyd,  one of his mother’s favorite soul singers and Tyrone Davis, his daddy’s favorite “I thought King Tyrone sounded cooler than Floyd Davis … ha!” he tells me. “The Ramblers part came from Delbert’s [McClinton] constant reference to the late model AMC car where the front seats lay back to meet the back to make a bed. The Graveyard part came from our first gig at Halloween of 2006, just to add a spooky flavor!

“We caught on very quickly locally and then we started having requests for the band’s CDs at shows. We were mostly improv, ad libs and jams with the exception of some very rare covers like “Little Head” from John Hiatt and “Same Kinda Crazy As Me” from Delbert Mclinton and stuff like “The Bug” from Dire Staits. So it was off to the back of my brain to start writing originals. Lo and behold I came up with a collection of hybrid tunes.  Cultivated from numerous southern genres like jazz, blues, soul, country and southern rock I created the debut offering on KHP [record label] from the self titled CD.”

The ten-track recording, which was released in April 2008, features tight sophisticated song writing throughout. Jim Quick is a high-power entertainer who consistently leaves his audience lusting for more, but for my money, his greatest talent lies in his song writing, which ranges from soulful to clever to heart-wrenching. He’s a master storyteller.

In talking about the CD, he credits his band members for bringing a range of musical tastes and style to the project.

“We travel together and we each bring different musical tastes to the van.  It’s really a potpourri of artists like Delbert McClinton, John Hiatt, Jerry Reed, John Prine, Government Mule, Brad Paisley, Chet Atkins, Sam Bush, Keb Mo’, BB King, and so many more that have helped us stay awake and content on the road.

“I would find myself really inundated by different sounds from all these artists flying in my head.  Whenever I was alone I would take those inspirations and let them flow almost naturally musically.  However, lyrically, I constantly challenged myself to be more creative and clever without seeming cliche or passé and at the same time very easy to comprehend.

“That was the hardest part of the project, however it was a very self-induced learning experience.  I have to thank the band for taking mundane simple chord progressions that have been beaten to death through modern music and making them unique and fun to listen to … without losing that familiar edge that forces one to reminisce [about] a different time in music or one’s life.”
As talented as Quick is, he isn’t solely responsible for the success of King Tyrone & the Graveyard Ramblers.

“I really wanted sparse instrumentation, scarce harmonies, and open spaces not only in the songs but in the layers of the over all mix.  George Clinton once said funk is the absence of music and my music theory teacher always emphasized that silence was truly golden.

“I really got everything from everyone that I wanted throughout the project.  It was hands on for all the musicians when it came to the arrangements.  I really wanted a straightforward but laid back pocket on all the rhythm parts from Sam and got that.
Drummer Sam Bryant is known in the music industry as a first-rate blues drummer. Blues Review magazine singled him out as a drummer to watch, “an up and coming drummer.”

According to Jim Quick, “Sam Bryant is simply brilliant … He played with many great international touring artists like Kenny Wayne Shepherd.  He’s ridiculously entertaining to watch and brings the musical presentation to another level by making the foundation so very high in technique.

“Albert is so colorful.  His voice is unbelievable and his sarcastic sense of humor exudes from this stage setting to create a very personable atmosphere. His bass playing is second to none. It’s a very traditional style. His very simple but unexpected grooves make it so easy to build upon as a unit of musicians. I wanted poppy, upbeat walking bass lines and slinky movements on the longer form back beat jams from Albert.
Quick refers to guitarist Casey Meyer as “the hook.”

Casey is amazing in tune with the sound I am trying to create.  I refer to him as “the hook”! He has solely created the calling melody via guitar riff on every single King Tyrone tune.  It’s not only amazing because he is so creative, tasteful, and tonality perfect; but he is so young and has so much time to improve on his already great beginnings.”
“As for [Casey’s guitarwork on the CD], it was just rippin’ all the way through.  I kinda just let him go. He hears what I want without explanation.”

The folks at Papa’s Pizza in Little River, S.C. are in for a rockin’ stompin’ night of King Tyrone & the Graveyard Ramblers. Dickie and Dianne plan to start the fun early with a  “porch party” outside  from 5 to 8 p.m. with deejay Joey Warren and special prices on beer and pizza slices. King Tyrone & the Graveyard Ramblers will storm the place beginning at 8 p.m.

I promise you, Papa’s won’t be taking reservations or even call-aheads on this night. So get there when you can, and get ready for a night of swamp funk, courtesy of the King himself.

Papa’s Pizza, Wings & Things is located in the Lowe’s Food shopping plaza on the road to Calabash. For more information, visit the website at http://www.papaspizzawingsandthings.com or call 843-249-3663 in S.C. and 910-575-7900 in N.C.

Note: Yes, this is Jim Quick as in Jim Quick & Coastline, a Wilmington, N.C. rock & soul band with a strong following throughout the South.
This will also be published in Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine in Myrtle Beach, issue July 16 -30, 2009, p. 24.

©2009. Dariel Bendin.

Sweet Explosion: Greenville, S.C.’s Chocolate Thunder

Posted in CD Picks by darielb on July 1, 2009

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Linda Rodney is Chocolate Thunder.

Linda Rodney is Chocolate Thunder.

Linda Rodney, better known to her  fans as Chocolate Thunder, is a powerhouse and her latest recording is sure to satisfy your craving for tasty grooves and funk-laced  R&B.

Ear Candy, released on June 25, is a sensory explosion of musical morsels. All 12 tracks were written by Rodney except track  six, “Love Caused It,”for which she wrote the lyrics and Franklin Wilkie, the CD’s producer, wrote the music.

Wilkie, by the way, is the bass player who replaced Marshall Tucker Band’s Tommy Caldwell after his untimely death in 1980. Wilkie also played with another  legendary S.C. southern rock band, Garfeel Ruff. Fans will be happy to discover that bandmates Rickey Godfrey (guitar and keyboard), Ronnie Godfrey (keyboard) and Buddy Strong (engineer) have joined him on the Chocolate Thunder CD.

“I met Frank a couple years ago,” says Rodney. “When I was ready to do the CD, I called him because I knew he could pull the right people together.”

The opening track, “Love Thang,” is the artist’s favorite, a woman’s song of love to her man. The groove is deceptively simple and the opening vibes and cello patch are unexpected treats.Rodney’s strong vocals are just a hint of what’s to come. Her voice is a wonderfully contradictory mix of sweetness and raw energy; softness and strength.

“Power of a Lady,” track two, had its beginnings in the kitchen. “I was standing there cooking and I started singing this melody and then ‘Never underestimate the power of a lady, Hey lady, do you know just who you are?’ I grabbed a pencil and just started writing the song. The lyrics have changed some, but that’s how the song started.” Aggressive double lead guitar work by Rickey Godfrey supports the lyrics beautifully.

Up next is “Got My Act Together,” a tune with a solid groove and strong vocals. Sweet sax playing by Tony Kennedy and sparse pads from keyboard player Steve Keeter add to its appeal.

The soul song, “Other Side of Memphis,” track four, has been released as the album’s first single and is already seeing some airplay. “I was in Memphis for a blues challenge in 2002,” Linda tells me. “I took this tour of the area and I was sitting in W.C. Handy’s home, this memorial home and the melody came. Maybe I was inspired by traveling there. It was electrifying to be in the same place as one of the fathers of the blues.”

“It’s All Good” is a rally to keep your spirits up, even when times turn sour.

I know times are tough

and things are tight

cause a whole lotta people

did things that just weren’t right.

Vocal work by husband and wife, Kim Morrison and Ronnie Godfrey, together with a first verse utilizing only Wilkie’s bass and drums by Tez Sherard behind Rodney’s lead vocals are indicative of Wilkie’s skill as a producer.

Producer, Franklin Wilkie.

Producer, Franklin Wilkie.

Track six is “Love Caused It,” pure funk with powerful vocals.When the producer is also the bass player, you know there will be at least one tune that showcases the bass, and this is it.Listen for the fusion guitar solo by Rickey Godfrey. It’s just one example of the great musicianship on this recording. When I spoke with Frank Wilkie about this project, he said, “Linda Rodney had so many songs … good songs … that we approached it as that ‘box of chocolates.’ You don’t know what you’re going to get until you take a bite.”

The next tune on the CD, “Ever New (I Love You),” is a melt-in-your-mouth ballad with a great melody line and honest lyrics that somehow pulled me in the first time I heard it. Nice saxophone solo from Tony Kennedy here. “My Georgia Pine” is track nine, and certainly the bluesiest tune of the collection. It’s a tribute to husband Ron, who Linda laughingly refers to as, “my reluctant manager!” Linda’s voice on this track is smooth and smiling. You can hear the attraction. Guitar work by Kym Mckinnon and muted trumpet solos by Craig Sorrells add to the stylish feel of this piece.

“Bring It On”is a lot of fun. Sassy and confident, Linda’s tells her man

You’ve been bragging

You’re a real, real big man

But here’s something

I want you to understand

I’m pretty bad all by myself

So save your chump talk for someone else

She softens a little bit, but still challenges him:

You bring the lightning

I’ll bring the thunder

You’ll see why they call me the Southern Wonder

Instrumentally, the song features the horn section, while the rhythm section is playing a funky four-bar groove and Steve Keeter is keepin’ cool on keyboards.

Rodney’s old school soul song is up next: “I Just Gotta Tell Ya.” It’s sweet and a little raw around the edges, with a notable piano solo by Steve Keeter.

Guitarist, Rickey Godfrey.

Guitarist, Rickey Godfrey.

“Ain’t Gonna Cry,” track 11, is one of the CD’s strongest. And funkiest. Everything comes together … Linda’s lead vocals are dead on. The guitar solo by Rickey Godfrey was – remarkably – done on the first take and has the energy of a live performance.

The final track, and another big winner is “555-HELP.”This song is just rockin’ fun and a great way to close out the CD. Speaking for myself, I’ll be a full-on chocoholic if I keep listening to this gal!

Ear Candy is Linda Rodney’s second CD. Her first, You’re Barking up the Wrong Tree (2002) featured more blues tunes. Frank Wilkie tells me two more CDs are already in the planning stages – another blues album and a gospel recording.

Additional musicians on the disc include: background vocals: Lori Guthrie, David Guthrie; drums: Creig Harber on “Power of a Lady,” “Other Side of Memphis,” “Ever New (I love You)” and “My Georgia Pine;” percussion, Jeff Holland; trumpet, Greg Day, Rich Parlier; and trombone, Wesley Day. Other liner credits include: Engineers: Buddy Strong, South Eastern Sound Studio; Aaron Whisnant, Dorcia Studio; Rick Sandidge, Mark V Studio. Mastering: Dave Harris, Studio B.Graphics: Lee Wilkie.

As we go to press, Chocolate Thunder and these guys are readying for a trip to the Montreal Jazz Festival on July 4. Watch out Canada. A Chocolate Thunder storm is coming your way!

For more information about Chocolate Thunder, visit MySpace.com/ChocolateThunder1.

This will also be published in the July 2, 2009 (p. 24) issue of Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, the independent papers in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Odell Mickens: From Trammp To Wallstreet

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews, Music Stories by darielb on June 23, 2009
R&B group Wallstreet. Second from right is founder Odell Mickens.

R&B group Wallstreet. Second from right is founder Odell Mickens.

When Odell Mickens calls me, he’s on the turnpike returning from Philadelphia, where he’s just played organ at the funeral of his friend’s sister. His friend is Earl Young, legendary drummer and owner of the Trammps, known around the world for their 80s hit “Disco Inferno.”

Mickens has played bass guitar for the renowned disco and soul  group for the past 23 years. Once working 300 nights out of the year, the Trammps now play – by choice – fewer than 40 gigs per year, mostly benefit concerts and disco events like the Disco Explosion Tour featuring the likes of KC & the Sunshine Band, the Village People, Gloria Gaynor, Evelyn Champagne King and Sister Sledge. They pack the house wherever they go.

Mickens wants to work more often, however, so five years ago he formed R&B  group Wallstreet. The five-man band plays the New York City area, New Jersey, Delaware and the Carolinas whenever the Trammps aren’t on tour. Derrick Dupree (“Body Work” from the  dance flick, Breakin’) handles lead vocals; Rich Nichols is on guitar; Pat Smith is the drummer; Rob McCoy plays bass; and Mickens is the group’s keyboard player.

“I’ve made my living playing bass,” says Odell, “But the organ is my first love. Put a Hammond B Three in front of me and I’m happy.”
Mickens first became interested in music as a teenager, “When I was about 15, I had a buddy whose dad was a jazz bass player. I learned how to play Wilson Pickett and I got into some James Brown grooves.

Still in high school, Odell and his buddy formed a band that played school events. “We didn’t go to any of our proms,” says Mickens, “because we were playing at them.

“I came up through the sixties during Motown and soul, but I gravitated toward the Beatles, Cream and the Stones because they were playing instruments. I remember seeing George Clinton & the Parliament Funkadelic. They had crazy outfits and guitars. They weren’t just standing there!

“I thought, “I want to do that! That was a big moment for me. That’s when I started taking it seriously.”

Odell’s high school band evolved into Exit Nine, an eight-piece  horn band with  a substantial following in Jersey.

“This was the eighties. We were the regular house band at this club in New Brunswick called The Cave. We’d pack about 2,000 people in there. The band would travel upstate New York or Scranton, Pa. for three weeks and then we’d play The Cave for the fourth week.
Performing at The Cave, Exit Nine opened for many big name bands including Cool & the Gang, Patti Labelle, the Commodores, BP Express and the Trammps.

“When we opened for the Trammps in the very early eighties, I became friendly with Earl Young, the band’s drummer and owner. He invited me to play bass with his band. In 1983, I went to Boston and I’ve been with the Trammps ever since. We’ve toured Europe, Canada, the Caribbean. Through the Trammps I also got to know Bunny Sigler, who wrote many of the big soul songs, some of them back as a staff writer at Gamble & Huff [which became Philadelphia International Records ca. 1970].He went on to say, “Working with Earl Young and Bunny Sigler has been invaluable.”

Young, considered by many to have invented disco drumming (using the Hi-Hat cymbal throughout the recording, which deejays liked because it helped them cue up the  music), got into music publishing early in his career. Both Young and Grammy-nominated Walter “Bunny” Sigler are savvy musicians, writing and producing for themselves and other artists. Bunny Sigler was a co-writer for “Somebody Loves You Baby,” Patti Labelle’s million seller and he also wrote Instant Funk’s “I Got My Mind Made Up.”A true R&B pioneer, Sigler’s work has been sampled by Mary Kay Blige and other pop and R&B stars of today.

As Odell talks about playing with the Trammps, he laughs, “It’s funny to me that the Trammps recorded tunes like ‘Zing Went the Strings’ and ‘Sixty Minute Man,’ both big R&B hits, but it’s ‘Hold Back the Night’ that’s had the biggest impact in the Carolina beach music market.”

Mickens first played Myrtle Beach during the Trammps 2002 tour at nightclub 2001. He had already cut his single, “Finally Friday,” so he gave a copy to the deejay, who played it, liked it and sent it over to  94.9 The Surf in North Myrtle Beach.The song was then included on 120inc’s Soul Street compilation CD (2002). This was the beginning of a whole new fan base for Wallstreet.

Subsequent Wallstreet singles, all written by Odell Mickens, have also made it on various beach compilations. “The Little Things” was released on More Soul 4 (2004); “Closing Time”is on KHP’s Locals Too (2005).
Performing for the first time at the Charleston Beach Music & Shag Festival in 2007, the group was a runaway hit with beach music fans who loved the band’s “classic” beach sound and old R&B stylings.

Wallstreet’s next singles, “I’ve Got a Feeling and “Such a Beautiful Girl” were both included on KHP label’s Thinking About You (2008).

What’s next for Odell Mickens?

“Wallstreet is really looking forward to this year’s Festival in Charleston,” says Odell, “Harriett [Grady-Thomas] has been a blessing . . . a real treasure to us.” The band takes the stage in Charleston at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 29 right after New York soul singer Angel Rissoff.
Mickens is also talking to Rissoff about working together in the New York-New Jersey area.  “I hope we can make that happen,” Odell says, “We’re going to see what we can work out. There may be  another Trammp tour coming up, too.

Wallstreet is currently in the studio working on their upcoming singles, “He and She” and “Something You Got,” with some production help from Bunny Sigler.  Wallstreet Live In Concert is also in the works. Recordings for it will include some from the Myrtle Beach area.
If you’re into sizzling soul, order up some Odell Mickens and Wallstreet. They deliver.

This piece is also being published in the Beach Newz music column of Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, issue June 18 – July 2, 2009, p. 24.

Par-Tay With East Coast Party Band

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on June 23, 2009
East Coast Party Band

East Coast Party Band

This Charleston band has been partying for  years. Their main job is to have fun … and when they have fun everyone has fun. The popular dance band includes six sing-from-the-gut vocalists and the horn section is nothing to sneeze about either.

Bass player Jack Tankersley and Mike Shuler (guitar/vocals) founded the group in 1991. Both had been with the Rivieras. Jack  was co-leader with Jimmy Hendricks, but left after a difference over which direction the band should take. Shuler followed shortly afterward and the two formed East Coast Party Band (ECPB).  Jack serves as the day-to-day operations guy, handling bookings, costumes, song selection, etc. and Mike   is his business partner, making decisions about the band.

Joel Reese (vocals/trumpet) and Mark Black (musical director/vocals/saxophone) make up the horn section. Jerry Polk (vocals/drums) was invited to join the band by his dad, the late Gerald Polk, who passed away in 2004.Prior to working with ECPB, The senior Polk had also been a member of the Swingin’ Medallions and  the Melody Makers. Jason Moore (saxophone/keyboards) eventually replaced him.  Rounding out the group are David Fuller (vocals/keyboards), James Moore (guitar/vocals),  and Jack’s wife of 25 years, vocalist Beverly Tankersley.

Polk, who started playing drums professionally at age five, has  performed with Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose. David Fuller began playing the downtown nightclubs of his hometown, Mount Pleasant, when he was still a teenager. In Columbia, S.C. he joined Lion a band managed by deejay Woody Windham. The group was signed by Mainstream Records and enjoyed some regional success.

Originally from Clover, S.C.Mark Black grew up with music. The Black Brothers, his father’s family (including his aunt) performed locally and practiced in the basement. By age ten, Mark had decided that he would play the saxophone.  After graduating from Appalachian State University, Mark joined the Fabulous Kays. He was a member of the Embers from 1996 to 2004, and signed on with ECPB as their musical director. For the past two years, he has also played with The Legends of Beach, made up of former Embers bandmates. A very successful studio musician, Mark is also known for producing two full-length documentaries that have aired on the Discovery Channel and the History Channel.

Joel Reese has played trumpet with some of the best – Marvin Stamm, Rich Mattison, Bill Watrous and Roger Pemberton. And despite  undergoing surgery for throat cancer in 1998, he’s still playing … and partying.

East Coast Party Band has recently been named as official ambassadors of Mount Pleasant, where they play on a regular basis.  These ambassadors of fun will be at the Charleston Beach & Shag Music Festival at 3 p.m. on Sunday, August 30. You won’t want to miss the party.

This piece is also being published in the Beach Newz music column of Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, issue June 18 – July 2, 2009, p. 24.

Musicians – Don’t Make These Ten Common Mistakes With the Media

Posted in Music Marketing by darielb on June 8, 2009


1. When a reporter or editor asks for an image or a bio, don’t just send them to your website.
Reporters are almost always working on a deadline. So make a point of having your biography and a current photo on your computer ready to go. You can always say, “I have additional information and images on the website, so feel free to download whatever you need.” If you have someone handling your PR, by all means give the reporter their contact info, but take the initiative here, too:  “John Smith handles all that for me, but I’ll call him and tell him to email you what you need right away.”  This is sometimes the difference between getting a story about you published and not.

Think about it from the reporter’s point of view: if one guitarist answers his email promptly and sends you a photo and a quote, while another takes his time getting back to you and then tells you to go somewhere else for the pic, which, by the way, he doesn’t know if it’s high resolution or not, and your deadline gets closer every minute … which story are you going to write?


2. Don’t lie to reporters or mislead them
. I understand that this can be tricky if you’re not ready to talk about something yet. Working sometimes on the marketing side and other times in editorial, I’m well aware that we often have different priorities. But you put the media in a bad situation if you allow them to go public with facts that you know aren’t true. It can come back to bite you.

I was interviewing a bandleader once and asked him about an upcoming change to the band. He looked me in the eye and told me nothing was changing. No one was leaving.

Well I already knew it for a fact. But if I hadn’t heard it firsthand from one of the departing musicians, I might have accepted the bandleader’s word and “put the rumors to rest.”  Of course, I would have looked pretty foolish a short time later when the move was announced.

End result? I didn’t run the interview at all. He lost out on free publicity for his band. And now I take anything this guy tells me with a grain of salt.


3.  If you tell a writer you’re going to do something, don’t forget about it. Make sure you do it
. This is tough because a musician’s job is not just playing music. Often, you’re booking your own gigs and then loading in and tearing down, too. On top of that, you’ve got fans that want your attention; rehearsals, songwriting and maybe you want to see your family sometime.

Somehow though, you’ve got to come to terms with this.  So if you say you’re going to send a CD, send it. If you commit to a telephone call, make the call. If you plan a lunch date, follow through with it. Media people play an important part in your success; and if you’ve found a reporter whose work you respect and who gets your music, this is a relationship you want to nurture.

4.  Don’t assume a music editor knows about or remembers every show. I’m not suggesting that you inundate the media with reminders about every gig. But, once you’ve met an editor (or reporter or deejay), in particular one with whom you feel a connection, it’s a good idea to send a quick personal email inviting them to the show.  If press passes won’t suffice (and they don’t always for bloggers and other Web-based media outlets), leave tickets or names at the door so there’s no charge for admission.

5. Don’t be shy. If you have something newsworthy, don’t hesitate to contact the writer and talk about it
. It could be a change to your band; you’re in the studio working on a new CD; you’re writing a song with a new partner; you’re opening for a well known band; or you’d like the music writer to cover your just released CD … Your call might come at just the right moment for a writer who hasn’t figured out his next column yet or a local TV reporter who’s been thinking about highlighting the local music industry or a deejay who’s happy to do an on-air interview with you. If it doesn’t work out this time, your call may have paved the way for something else in the future.

6. Don’t assume that a reporter has kept your information on file unless he or she tells you so
. It’s not always a perfect world, and just because you were on the afternoon news once or a music columnist interviewed you during a local festival, your bio and other data may have been deleted.  So if you’re fortunate enough to have another story planned about you, just update and resend your information. In fact, even if there isn’t a story about you in the works, send another press kit after a few months. Sometimes it’s enough to jumpstart another interview.

7. Don’t get snarky because an editor hasn’t made time for your interview yet.
Just because an editor has agreed to do a story about your music, you can’t always assume it’s going to happen on your schedule. Other time-sensitive stories and last minute assignments can move your story to the back burner. Your interview won’t always be top of mind. Here’s where you need to perfect the art of staying in touch without browbeating them.  If you haven’t given them a press kit yet, email your EPK (Electronic Press Kit), send it in the mail or use the excuse to drop it by the office. If you’ve just gotten a new photo, email it with a short note. Remain patient and pleasant and resist the urge to send off a curt email about it.

8.  Don’t misrepresent yourself when answering questions or making statements to the media via email
.  Without tone of voice and facial expression, it’s easy to sound glib or uninterested or even rude . Always include a greeting and sign-off. It’s important that you sound friendly, cooperative and interested in the exchange. Before you hit the send button, reread your email. Is it sarcastic? Could it be interpreted as uninterested or impolite? Consider rewording or adding emoticons. ☺ (Wow, MS Word just made that a smiley face.  Okay, you’ll have to decide how you feel about emoticons.)

9. Don’t read a writer’s blog or watch a show only when it’s about you.
If you respect the person’s work, make it a point to follow his or her work. You’ll get a big return for a small investment of time.

10. Don’t put media people on your catchall email blast list. Think about it. Do you really think it’s helpful for a writer or broadcast reporter to receive an email that says Thanks to our fans who came out Saturday in Raleigh. We had a blast. And happy day to the Parkers, who just had their 18th anniversary. Kudos, you two! Now multiply that by 25 bands and you know what a music reporter’s inbox looks like on any afternoon. I guarantee emails with  messages of substance will be much appreciated!

Press Release 101 – Especially For Musicians

Posted in Music Marketing by darielb on June 7, 2009

Why Musicians Should Send Out Press Releases

1. A press release helps to remind the local media that you exist. (Media: newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazine, radio, Internet radio, television and cable)
2. A press release tells the media AND their listeners/readers/viewers what you want them to know about your band or your music.
3. If you can interest an editor in your story, he or she is more apt to not only run the release but also maybe assign a writer and photographer to your story.
4. Sending out press releases can help you develop relationships with the media.
5. Editors and writers are almost always on deadline. When you provide them with a well-written press release about your gig, you’re making their job easier. They appreciate that, and if they don’t pick up your release this time, they may next time.
6. By promoting your public gigs, you show the club owners and media that you’re professionals. It also helps to fill the house.

How to write an informative press release:
First paragraph. This is your basic information: Who is your band and what is the event? Is it concert, a club date, a festival, a street fair? If it’s a charity event, who or what group does it benefit? When is it? Time, date, how long it lasts; where is the venue? Include an address (and a city). Not all readers know the local landmarks and intersections. Note: remember to write this in the third person, as though you were writing a news story. Try to avoid words that exaggerate. Don’t say you’re the premier blues band or the hottest dance band. Don’t say you’re the best, the strongest, the most talented … let other people come to that conclusion and say it for you.

Middle paragraph/s. Here’s where you give us the details about your band. Who are you? What sort of music do you play?  If you’ve received awards or other honors, this is a good place to talk about them. If you have a single that’s climbing the charts or a CD being touted on Internet radio, talk about that here as well.

You might want to say something about the venue here: the ambience, the food, the acoustics, and the sound system. If you’re playing an event, this is where you describe it.

Closing paragraph. Is there a cover charge? How can people pay for/obtain tickets? At a box office? Advance sales? Telephone sales? Through TicketMaster? If there’s a number or website for folks to contact for more information, add that here as well. Don’t forget the area code. With cell phones and more area codes being added in many cities, you shouldn’t assume everyone knows this one.

Some final suggestions.

•Although good manners are to be admired, the word PLEASE does not belong within your press release. It should read like a news story, not a personal note.
•Unless an editor requests that you write a commentary or personal experience story, do not write in the first person; use the third person. Do not use I, WE and OUR in your release. Remember it’s a news story.
•Don’t forget to run Spell Check before you submit your release. Editors hate typos in press releases.
• At the end of your release, indicate the end with three number signs (###) and below that, tell the editor how to contact you if he or she has any questions about your release. Include your name, phone number and email address. Remember, you need to be accessible, so if you list your cell number, don’t leave your cell phone on the bus.
• Regarding photos: Don’t overload the editors with pics, but it’s a good idea to email an image of your band or band leader along with the release. They’ll contact you if they want more or if the resolution isn’t high enough.
• If you have a press kit, try calling individual editors, news department or radio personalities to see if you can drop off your Electronic Press Kit (EPK). If you’re out of town, obviously you’ll need to mail it, but you still might benefit from a phone call, too.

Does Your Band Need a Press Kit?

Posted in Music Marketing by darielb on June 6, 2009

In a word, yes.

If you want paying gigs, if you want radio play if you want to get noticed by industry players, if you want to generate word of mouth, if you want to play local or regional festivals, club dates, concerts, special events, parties, weddings, chamber of commerce events, corporate sales meetings or in-home concerts, you need a press kit.

Okay what’s a press kit?

A press kit is the packet or electronic folder of information you give to media people and promoters to help them  “sell” you. You’ll also want to give it directly to club owners  and anyone else who may hire you.

EPK stands for Electronic Press Kit. This is what you’ll use most often, although publicists still use printed versions, often including the printed information when they send out a CD for review.

Press kit components.

• Band biography/history. Keep this to one or two pages (approx 400-750 words). Write in the third person (he, she, they). Treat it like a news story. If you do a good job, you may find a publication or blog will pick it up almost verbatim. Be sure to include band members /instruments played, particular strengths, awards and high-profile gigs and the type of music you play. If you have limited experience, stress your strengths and add a human interest angle, if you can. i.e. your band recently worked at a Habitat For Humanity build or performed for a local charity.

• Band leader bio. Again, write in third person. Share your musical background, talents. You can include where you studied, where you grew up, family mentions, musical and personal influences. Try to keep it to a singe page (approx. 400 – 500 words).

• Band members bio sheet. One or two pages total (approx. 50 – 300 words for each player, depending on  the experience of your band members). If you’ve got a ten-piece band, don’t worry if it’s longer! Some bands use a pool of backup musicians. You may choose to include these, or not.

• Press clippings. If you’ve had press coverage, chances are the editor or writer can supply you with an electronic file of the article. Ask for a .pdf file. Or, if the publication archives its articles, online, you can copy it yourself and save it as a .pdf.
Another option is to scan the printed article and save it as a .pdf file.

• Fact sheet. This is something not often included in musicians’ press kits, but it’s a great opportunity to add something that didn’t fit easily into your bio. Do it with bullet points. Make it simple. It’s a good place to list home towns and pertinent family information; tidbits about the band, i.e. Together the five-piece band plays 27 instruments or The lead guitarist often has as many as six guitars on stage at once or John Doe’s mother taught him to play slide guitar with a butter knife. A musician I know once taught Brandon Lee to play guitar – for  his final film as it turned out. This is the sort of item you want to include here.

Discography. Use your judgment. If  you’re at the beginning of your career and have just produced your first homemade CD, include it in your band bio instead. Once you have a few recordings, you may want to include a discography sheet with title, year and label, maybe an image of the cover. If you have a long list, the image may not be practical.

• Technical requirements/capabilities
. Depending on where you are in your career, most of you will bring your own equipment. It’s a good idea to have a sheet that lists your equipment along with your technical requirements. Club owners will appreciate the heads up.

• Professional band photo. This is something that bands seem to resist, but you need a current, professional-quality photograph of your band. Bite the bullet and do it. Have the photographer give you color, black & white, high resolution ( 8 x 10, 300 dpi, .tif) and low resolution (5 x7, 72 dpi, .tif). If you find yourself emailing a photo to an editor, you’ll probably have to adjust the size and format, but these sizes are fine for download from your site and for a CD. If your photographer wants a photo credit, be sure to include it with the photo. The photographer may embed it in the corner of the image so editors are sure to see it.  NOTE: If your photo includes a band member who’s no longer with the group, it’s not current anymore. You need a new one!

• Band leader photo. Same as above. (If your group doesn’t have a specific leader, you’re off the hook for this one  and the band leader bio!)
• Performance photo/s. This/These can be color, both high and low resolution. This image should be dramatic, can be one or more players. Use just one or two shots in your press kit.

• Band logo file. High and low resolution. .tif or .jpg.

• MP3. A representative tune or two, so they can hear how you sound. Choose this carefully. If you play mostly originals, but your press kit tune is a cover, that’s what folks will expect. Maybe you should have one of each.

Note that these written items are all separate documents, not one long piece. Be consistent with your headline fonts and type sizes. They should be the same for each one. Don’t make the type smaller just because the document is longer. You want them the same from one to the next.

Another tip, the paragraph is your friend. Don’t write one long block of copy. It’s too hard to read like that!

And finally, be sure you have included your contact information: contact person; phone number; email address; website, if you have one;  MySpace address (you should be on MySpace); Twitter (you should be on Twitter, too!)

Now you have a press kit. What do you do with it?
• Burn it to a CD. Keep a couple safe and marked Master Copy/EPK with the date. Then burn ten or 20 more so you have them ready. Create labels for them There are templates at avery.com. You just fill in the copy (i.e. Press Kit, band name, contact name, telephone number and email address), upload a photo or logo if you want and choose a background color or design.

• Have your Webmaster put it in a downloadable zip file on your website in a section marked Media or Press or News. You or your Webmaster may have to adjust the sizes of your images.

If you don’t have a website, consider setting up a blog. Look into WordPress.com or Blogger.com. You may have to post your press kit items as separate elements. In that case, you could name a category Press Kit and post the components as individual blog posts within your Press Kit category. You would post the photos in an application such as Flickr (Some WordPress themes offer Flickr as a plugin) and your tunes in a music player. A drawback to using a blog is that your photos will not be large high resolution images. You’ll wind up emailing them (which, you’ll do when you send out press releases and notices about your gig. But that’s a blog post for another day!)

• Be generous with your EPKs. They won’t do you any good sitting on the dashboard of your car.

CD Pick: Daddy/For a Second Time

Posted in CD Picks by darielb on June 3, 2009

cdDaddy2WEB

Daddy
For a Second Time
(June 16, 2009)
Label: Cedar Creek Music
www.myspace.com/daddytheband
Genre: Americana/Alt-country

Well, today’s convoluted music news is that Daddy’s gonna be a daddy for a second time with For a Second Time, and if you understand what I’m talking about, then God love ya and log onto ReverbNation.com/DaddyTheBand PDQ because time’s running out to get your copy of this baby with the name-your-own-price option.

That’s right, the CD hits the streets on June 16 and Daddy’s letting you set the price (plus S&H) until June 6, all in time for Father’s Day.

I first heard about Daddy from Jeff Roberts, owner of the very independent Sounds Better Records in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “You need to know about Daddy,” he told me, “You start out with two solid singer/songwriters who are at different ends of the playing field and the place where they meet is  completely different… it’s like two and two equal five … and they rock!”

He was right, so I did a story about their live Myrtle Beach performance courtesy of South By Southeast [Alternatives NewsMagazine, vol. XXV, No. 2, issue Aug. 28-Sept. 11, 2008] and  later blogged about their first CD, a live recording titled Daddy At the Women’s Club.

For the uninitiated, Daddy, which made its official debut at this year’s SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas,  is made up of five super talented players. Founders and touring duo Tommy Womack and Will Kimbrough deliver rockin’ guitar licks and write some of the wildest songs around. They first worked together in the bis-quits on John Prine’s Oh-Boy! label.We’re talking early 90s. Will was the 2005 Americana Music Association Instrumentalist of the year and Tommy has twice received the Nashville Scene Best Song award.

The rest of Daddy includes monster talents Dave Jacques on bass (John Prine, Emmylou Harris), John Deaderick playing keys (Dixie Chicks, Michael McDonald, Patty Griffin), and Paul Griffith on percussion (John Prine, Todd Snider).

After listening to this bluesy-country group for the last three days, I’m happy to report that the band’s latest offering has been worth the wait. For a Second Time is a ten-track recording that’s classic Daddy – schizophrenic rants that morph into crystal clear observations of life. This little slice of roots-rock Americana with its gospel overtones and rockabilly undertones  gets better with each listen.

Here’s how Tommy describes the opening track, “Nobody From Nowhere:” Will and I wrote this one together with acoustic guitars in my house. I love how the tunes came from that and flowed to a place that sounds like the bayou coastline looks, with flashes of Memphis. You can dance to it. It fuses and Motown and the Allman Brothers like probably never before.”

“Early To Bed, Early To Rise,” is another written and performed by Womack. He says, “It’s a tough song for tough times. I play the part of the curmudgeon commencement speaker who needs to put the fear of God into the young, fresh hearts and minds of this country. Warren Zevon meets Crazy Horse.”

Next up (and the only track not written by one or both) is folk classic, “The Ballad of Martin Luther King,” which comes from singer/songwriter Mike Millius, who reportedly wrote it the same night Dr. King was assassinated.

Track four is “Wash & Fold,” written by Will Kimbrough. Tommy calls it “Will’s tune of love in a laundromat.” The backstory is that it was inspired after bringing some gamey “tour-filthy” laundry to a city laundry and being subjected to utter rudeness after choosing wash-and-fold instead of springing for wash-and-press.

“He Ain’t Right,” track seven features Tommy’s lyrics, Will’s music. Basically, it’s Kimbrough singing Womack’s story.

The melancholy album closer, “Redemption Is a Mother’s Only Son,” was written by Kimbrough and Jeff Finlin, another talented American singer/songwriter traveling under the radar.

For more information, visit the band’s ReverbNation page; go to MySpace.com/DaddyTheBand; or check out YouTube.com/DaddyTheBand.

South By Southeast Features The Bad Popes June 6

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on June 2, 2009
Greenville, S.C. band The Bad Popes

Greenville, S.C. band The Bad Popes

For June, South By Southeast is bringing us a roots-rock group that’s not quite a household name yet, except maybe throughout the upstate of South Carolina and North Carolina.

The Bad Popes are a popular five-piece group  known for their own brand of Texas swing, their country leanings, their rockin’ roots and their folksy bluegrass.

At one show, you can expect to experience a combination of all that and more. Guitarists Jef Chandler and Charles Hedgepath handle the group’s lead vocals and the lion’s share of the songwriting.   Hedgepath has also been known to  pull out the mandolin. On bass is Greenville’s Chris Garrett. Kevin Heuer, who  has been teaching all levels of drumset for 24 years is on the kit. Mike Bagwell is on pedal steel and dobro.

Right off the bat, I had to know: where did that name come from?

“Well,” Charles Hedgepath laughed, “I had borrowed this book from my mother-in-law. It was about these popes who weren’t exactly good … they were bad. It was strange and we like it … and now we’re The Bad Popes.

Both Hedgepath and Chandler are prolific writers. Charles said, “I started when I was 16. I went through a phase in my early 20s when all I wrote was instrumentals, but then I started listening to Hank Williams … what good songwriting. Now I take that energy … I try not to pigeonhole songs right away; I don’t set out to write any type of song. It’s never like ‘Oh, we need another ballad.’ I just write what comes.

“I’ve written, I think, about 30 songs with Jef. I like throwing ideas off someone else … and working together, it’s a good check-and-balance. We both work on lyrics and melody.

“If there’s a theme that runs through all our songs, I’d say it’s strong melody.

“Sometimes one of us needs help with a bridge. Or I hear something of Jef’s and I add a chord … or we add lines for each other. Sometimes we work from scratch and other times we help each other finish something already begun… We try to let the songs breathe … kind of cultivate. This lets us play whatever’s right for the song.”

Chandler agrees, “I write based on how I feel. I grew up listening to the Beatles, Tom Petty, Steve Earle, Bob Dylan. Lyrics and music have always been important to me.

He laughs as he talks about his introduction to music. “I started playing guitar at 12. I was also playing piano, but I dropped it for guitar because I thought the guitar was cooler.

“I’ve been writing songs since I was a kid, I think, when I was taking lessons.

“For me, the songwriting comes as I’m trying to pick out another writer’s song.”

A serious student, Jef was an English major at Furman University and then took classes James Dickey, who was a poet-in-residence at the University of South Carolina at Columbia.

How does it work with two guitarists, I asked. “We both play rhythm or lead, says Charles. It depends on the song. We look at what the musical situation calls for.”

The band members are also known for their work in other bands including the Jef Chandler Band, the Work, Vigilantes of Love, Matthew Nights Williams Band, William F. Gibbs, Danielle Howle and Seconds Flat.

The June 6 smoke-free performance of The Bad Popes for South By Southeast will take place at the landmark Myrtle Beach Train Depot. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for those under 21 if you’re a member, $25 if you’re not.  Don’t forget, your price of admission includes not only the show, but also a pot luck dinner along with free wine, soda and beer  Dinner starts at 6 p.m., music at 7 p.m.

If you’d like to support this wonderful grassroots nonprofit organization, membership in SXSE costs just $25 a year. This all-volunteer group is dedicated to preserving and promoting all sorts of American music that mainstream America sometimes forgets. For more information, log onto http://www.sxsemusic.com and download an application form.

Sponsors include New South Brewery, QROCK Radio, Sea Note Recording, Pepsi, Sounds Better Records and the Anderson Property Group.
For more information call Jeff Roberts, owner of Sounds Better Records at 843-497-3643 or Seth Funderburk, Sea Note Recording, at 843-455-6499.