Friday Cheers Archives 2009
Melvin Seals and JGB with The Spaceheaters
Melvin Seals, whose musical roots seep deep into gospel soil, has always been seeking that point where music merges with spirit, what he calls “church vibe.” He found it with Jerry Garcia more than two decades ago, and he is finding it again in the new JGB. “Jerry Garcia Band was my absolute favorite band in the world and I’m honored to be able to carry on the torch and play homage to the heart and feel and tones,” said Seals.
Melvin Seals has established a reputation as a recording artist, producer and record company executive in the field of gospel music. He first took up piano at the age of eight, and his first public performances were playing gospel music in church, His first band, “Gideon and Power,” was a local San Francisco group. He has gone on to perform/record with Elvin Bishop, Charlie Daniels, Chuck Berry and, for 15 years, with Jerry Garcia. He was the featured organist in such Broadway hits as “Evolution of the Blues” with John Hendricks, ACT’s production of “American More Or Less,” the Joyce Carroll Thomas play “A Song in the Sky” and the hit “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope.” Melvin formed JGB one year after Jerry Garcia’s death on Aug. 8, 1995, and was originally joined by Gloria Jones and Jackie Labranch, who were Garcia’s background singers.
Dominion Riverrock featuring Rusted Root with Jesse Chong
This is a special tour for the Pittsburgh, Pa.-based band. In the process of recording their first studio album since 2002’s “Welcome to My Party,” Rusted Root is giving their faithful fans a chance to hear some of the new music they have been working on.
Rusted Root has sold more than 3 million albums worldwide. Formed in Pittsburgh by front man Glabicki in the early 1990s, Rusted Root’s polyrhythmic style quickly charmed fans of roots music and jam rock. But club goers weren’t the only ones left smitten by the sextet’s impressively diverse chops and soaring vocals. Veering into Eastern and African directions, Rusted Root features three of the Pittsburgh-born band’s original band members: Michael Glabicki (lead vocals, guitar), Liz Berlin (vocals, percussion) and Patrick Norman (bass, vocals, percussion). Joining them on the road are Jason Miller (drums, percussion), Colter Harper (vocals, guitar), Preach Freedom (percussion) and Dirk Miller (guitar).
After debuting in 1992 with “Cruel Sun,” Rusted Root signed with Mercury Records and bowed on the label with the 1994 platinum selling breakthrough “When I Woke,” which featured the light and lovable “Send Me on My Way,” as well as several other rerecorded tracks from “Cruel Sun.” Not long after, the band scored on tours with Toad the Wet Sprocket, Santana, The Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band, The Allman Brothers Band, HORDE Festival and, perhaps most notably, the highly coveted support role on the landmark Jimmy Page/Robert Plant reunion tour.
Playing a brand of rock rooted in the Woodstock generation, but often detouring into various types of world music, the hard-touring Rusted Root returned in 1996 with “Remember,” which was followed by 1998’s “Rusted Root.” After some time off, the band reemerged in 2002 with “Welcome to My Party.” The band’s sixth album, “Rusted Root Live,” is the second album on its Touchy Pegg label, following the re-release of “Cruel Sun” in 2003, after a long tenure with Mercury/Island Def Jam. Along the way, Rusted Root has also issued three EPs (“Evil Ways,” “Live,” and “Airplane”), a home video (“Rusted Root Live”) and miscellaneous film and TV soundtracks such as from “Twister,” “Mathilda,” “Home For the Holidays,” “Party of Five,” “Homicide” and “Ice Age.”
Zac Brown Band with David Shultz and The Skyline
Playing upwards of 200 dates a year, with more than 3,000 shows in their career and selling more than 30,000 CDs independently, Zac Brown Band has only begun its ascent. The band’s aggressive touring has helped it develop a fanatical grassroots following by winning over believers one person at a time. Driven by awe-inspiring musicianship, skillful songwriting and a dynamic live show that inspires word-of-mouth buzz, Zac Brown Band is already embraced by audiences who sing along with every word.
“The Foundation,” released in November 2008 on Atlantic Records, debuted at number 17 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart and number three on the Top Country Albums Chart. The first single, “Chicken Fried,” peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot Country Chart and maintained that position for two weeks — and also debuted as the second-most-downloaded country single on iTunes.
“It’s kind of crazy how we can go to a place where no one’s heard of us before and by the time we leave, people are singing the songs,” bandleader Zac Brown says. “We’ve got a great following.”
It’s not an easily pigeonholed crowd either; loyal country music fans, jam lovers and seemingly everyone in between are enjoying the shows. The Zac Brown Band has already landed support slots with artists such as Sugarland, ZZ Top, Travis Tritt, Etta James, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers Band, Willie Nelson and BB King.
Members of the band include bassist John Hopkins, fiddler Jimmy De Martini and more recent additions of guitarist/organist Coy Bowles and drummer Chris Fryar. In January 2009 multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Clay Cook joined the band. Perhaps best known for his co-writes with Grammy-winner John Mayer, Cook rounds out the ZBB sound on guitar, vocals, organ, mandolin and pedal steel.
The Lee Boys with DJ Williams Projekt
The Lee Boys are one of America’s finest African-American sacred steel ensembles. This family group consists of three brothers, Alvin Lee (guitar), Derrick Lee and Keith Lee (vocals), along with their three nephews, Roosevelt Collier (pedal steel guitar), Alvin Cordy Jr. (seven-string bass) and Earl Walker (drums). Each member began making music at the ages of seven and eight in the House of God church they attended in Perrine, Fla. Here they underwent a rigorous course of training in a variety of musical instruments, including lap and pedal steel guitars. Born and raised in Miami, each of The Lee Boys grew up in the church where their father and grandfather, Rev. Robert E. Lee, was the pastor and a steel player himself.
Sacred steel is a type of music described as an inspired, unique form of gospel music with a hard-driving, blues-based beat. The musical genre is rooted in gospel but infused with rhythm and blues, jazz, rock, funk, hip-hop, country and ideas from other nations. Influenced by the Hawaiian steel guitar fad of the 1930s, brothers Willie and Troman Eason brought the electric lap steel guitar into the worship services of the House of God church in Jacksonville, Fla. The Pentecostal congregation embraced the soulful sound, and over time this unique sound became the hallmark of the church. The pedal steel guitar was added to the mix and soon became the central instrument. The Lee Boys are part of the fourth generation of musicians in this faith.
Jerry Douglas with The Atkinsons
Jerry Douglas is widely renowned as perhaps the finest dobro player in contemporary acoustic music. His main foundation is bluegrass, but Douglas is an eclectic whose tastes run toward jazz, blues, folk, and straight-ahead country as well, and he’s equally capable of appealing to bluegrass aficionados or new agers with a taste for instrumental roots music. What’s more, his progressive sensibility as a composer has earned him comparisons to like-minded virtuosos Béla Fleck and David Grisman.
Douglas began playing the dobro at age eight with encouragement from his father, who was also a bluegrass musician. By his teen years, Douglas was already a member of his father’s band, and his playing was especially influenced by Josh Graves of Flatt and Scruggs’ Foggy Mountain Boys. Douglas was discovered at a festival by the Country Gentlemen, who took him on tour with them for the rest of the summer and later brought him into the recording studio. From there, Douglas established himself as a hugely in-demand session musician. During the latter half of the 1970s, he worked with the likes of J.D. Crowe and the New South, David Grisman, Ricky Skaggs, Doyle Lawson and Tony Rice. Additionally, Douglas released his debut album, “Fluxology,” on Rounder in 1979. He followed it three years later with “Fluxedo,” which like its predecessor stuck relatively close to traditional — albeit sometimes jazzy — bluegrass.
During the early 1980s, Douglas continued his session career with even greater success, adding Emmylou Harris, Béla Fleck, the Whites and Peter Rowan to his list of credits. He returned to his solo career in 1986 with “Under the Wire “on Sugar Hill, which reflected his interest in the progressive new-acoustic (or “newgrass”) movement. He subsequently signed with MCA, where he issued “Changing Channels” (1987) and the smoother, strongly jazz-influenced “Plant Early” (1989). More session work for increasingly prominent artists brought him into the 1990s, with names like Alison Krauss, Del McCoury, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Randy Travis, Clint Black, Patty Loveless, Suzy Bogguss, Reba McEntire, Kathy Mattea and Dolly Parton on his resume. In 1992, he returned to Sugar Hill for the more traditional bluegrass outing “Slide Rule,” which many critics ranked among his finest recordings.
The following year brought the all-instrumental “Skip, Hop and Wobble,” a trio recording with Russ Barenberg and Edgar Meyer. In 1994, Douglas contributed to the Grammy-winning compilation “Great Dobro Sessions,” and cut a duo album with Peter Rowan, “Yonder,” in 1996. “Restless on the Farm” (1998), true to its title, was a return to Douglas’ freewheeling eclecticism, which continued on 2002s “Lookout for Hope.” “Best Kept Secret” arrived in September of 2005.
Old School Freight Train with NO BS! Brass Band
Old School Freight Train from Charlottesville combines thought provoking lyrics with captivating melodies, soulful vocals, virtuosic instrumentals and imaginative arrangements. Blending folk, jazz, soul, pop, bluegrass, Latin and Celtic, OSFT offers a unique musical experience leading The Boston Globe to call them “the next big thing.” “After 40 years of recording acoustic music, it’s not very often that a new band catches, and keeps, my attention,” said David Grisman. “Old School Freight Train has done that and more.”
Lucero with Farm Vegas
Lucero is a punk/country-infused rock and roll band that is based in Memphis, Tenn. Their punk rock roots flavor their now “country-ish” music, while their Southern roots give them the twang that has become their trademark. The band played for the first time in spring of 1998. Since 2001, they have played between 150 and 200 shows a year across the U.S. and Canada. They have released six full-length albums to date, the latest entitled “Rebels, Rogues, and Sworn Brothers.” The members of Lucero are Roy Berry (drums), John C. Stubblefield (bass), Brian Venable (guitar), and Ben Nichols (guitar and vocals), with Rick Steff (piano, organ, accordion). Ben Nichols previous band was Red 40 in which he played alongside Colin Brooks and Steve Kooms.
Toubab Krewe with Crucial Elements
Blending American and West African influences into a sound all its own, Toubab Krewe has set “a new standard for fusions of rock ‘n’ roll and West African music” (Afropop Worldwide).
Since forming in 2005, the magnetic instrumental quintet has won a diverse and devoted following at performances everywhere from Bonnaroo to the legendary Festival of the Desert in Essakane, Mali, known as the most remote festival in the world. They developed their unique sound over the course of numerous extended trips to Mali, Guinea and Ivory Coast, where they immersed themselves in the local culture and studied and performed with luminaries.
But the group has its roots in Asheville, N.C., where many of its members were childhood friends and long-term musical collaborators. It was there, at home in the Appalachians, where the band chose to record their sophomore album, “Live at the Orange Peel.” The new album captures their outstanding 2008 New Year’s run at the Orange Peel in their hometown.
All of the songs are previously unreleased and continue to mix American rock ‘n’ roll with the West African musical traditions the band fell in love with on their travels. Along the way, they explore the worlds of surf and zydeco, fusing it all together into what The Village Voice describes as “a futuristic, psychedelic, neo-griot frenzy” and Honest Tune hails as “one of the most innovative voices in music today.”