Interview by Harry Kaplan
I have been following Cris Jacob’s career for quite a while now. He and his band, The Bridge, have been rocking Baltimore and the mid Atlantic for years. Now Cris has branched out a bit and is no longer a Baltimore hidden gem. He is known. Very well deserved for a guy who is not only a superb musician and performer, he is also a gentleman. A true “good guy”. Cris speaks about his new album, Color Where You Are, touring, and his musical plans for the next year.
CJ: Cris Jacobs TL: TwangriLa
Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
This is home turf for me. I cut my teeth at the 8 x 10 in the late 80s/early 90s. There was a real buzz. This is before the renovation. It may not have been the most comfortable club, but it was ours. For a while, almost every national alternative up and coming act played the 8 x 10. That includes Green Day, The Meat Puppets, Supersuckers, and Firehose. Cris Jacobs has played there as much as anyone in the 2000s. There were so many more but it has been a few years and my memory isn’t as quite as sharp as it used to be.
That feeling of being in the right place at the right time came back to me in the very place that I felt it 30 years ago. That’s right, The Travers Brothership and Southern Avenue brought back the magic. The show started around 9 PM, which is perfect for a weeknight. The Travers Brothership hail from Ashville, NC and had been opening some dates for Southern Avenue.
My first impression was that these guys are really tight. They play an Allman Brothers type of set with long songs and lots of improvisation. The keyboardist later told me that the Allmans are one of their biggest influences. Well, these guys sure were able to take the best parts and put their own mark on this genre. Kyle Travers was shredding it on guitar, while his twin brother, Eric was pounding the skins and holding the beat. Josh Clark was holding down the bottom and slapping some funky ass bass. Ian McIsaac was the man on the keys.
Ian has an interesting style of playing where he seems to play lead a lot with his left hand. It really changes up the sound significantly. Ian seems to be the soul of the band and I was seriously digging his key and synth fills. So much feeling. All of the guys are pros. And Josh plays the bass like a jazz player. Their chemistry on stage is palpable. They played a 45 minute set, but I could have used a little more time. Hopefully, they will make their way through Charm City sometime soon.
There was the obligatory 30 minute set break and then Southern Avenue entered the stage. They had an announcement to make: the lead singer, Tierinii Jackson, announced that due to a sinus infection, she would be unable to sing in any capacity that night. But, they really made lemonade out of a pile of lemons. Tierinii was there in the front row, dancing with the audience and keeping the vibe positive.
The majority of the vocals were replaced with the keyboards and some guitar. The result was something spontaneous and completely awe inspiring. I felt like I was watching The Mighty Imperials, The Sugarman 3, or The Budos Brothers Band. It was truly incredible. Not only did the show go on, that is definitely an experience that could help the band evolve even further. It was also proof that they will not be deterred. Don’t get me wrong, we missed Tiernii’s voice. But in spite of her temporary malady, the band picked up another tool for their musical tool box. And that is always a good thing.
Next time I see Southern Avenue, I hope that Tieriini is all healed and belting out those high notes. Until that day comes, I have a fantastic memory of an evening of incredible music and electricity all because a band was faced with a mini crisis and chose to solve the problem by being incredibly open minded. They also displayed that experimental spirit.
Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
I just finished watching Tales From The Tour Bus Season 2: Funk, and I was a little down. I realized that other than Morris Day, everyone else featured in Season 2 is either retiring or deceased. For the retirement segment, we have George Clinton (farewell tour), Bootsie Collins (retired from performing), and Betty Davis (retired since 1979). For the deceased segment, we have James Brown, Rick James, and Prince (featured on the Rick James and Morris Day episodes). Now that I have the personnel down, the fact is that it looked pretty bleak for the funk.
Southern Avenue’s timing could not be better. They are carrying the funky torch forward to put their signature on a genre and art form that seemed to be in danger of extinction. Fear not young funk cadets because what I write next, I write with 100% confidence. Any fan of Funkadelic, Parliament, or any combination or permutation thereof, will be smitten with Southern Avenue. All is not lost, Southern Avenue is a serious funk contender. I don’t want to sell them short, they also do a pretty mean R&B also.
And then there is the singing and musicianship. Top notch doesn’t quite hit the mark. I need to think of something a little higher than top notch. Maybe top notch plus? Everyone in this band is a seriously solid contributor. The bass, lead guitar, drums, and lead and backing vocals are superlative. These talented folks are from Memphis, TN, birthplace of Johnny Ace, Junior Wells, and a whole host of people in the middle.
I think some band introductions are in order. On lead vocals, there is Tierinii Jackson. Her sister, Tikyra Jackson, is also the drummer and has backing vocals covered. Jeremy Powell is the man laying down all those funky keyboard licks. Lead guitar duties are performed by Ori Naftaly. On bass, there is Gage Markey. The horn section on Keep On is comprised of Art Edmaiston and Marc Franklin. All these folks are beyond talented on their respective instruments.
On to the music we go. Switchup (Track 4) is nothing short of a powerhouse. This number starts off with a sample of lead singer Tierinii. And it is funky as I don’t know what. Then we get this Meters-esue bass riff that is just groovy. Pepper in some funk organ riffs, vocals, and some seriously funky electric guitar and you have a winner. Switchup is a winner, no 2nd places for this one.
All the songs are winners. It is very difficult to pick just a few to showcase because there isn’t a clunker on this entire album. Whiskey Love (Track 2) is a track that I can’t ignore. Similar to the lyrics, “I can’t get enough”. Tierinii’s strong voice is the focal point of this number. She shows off those strong pipes and how much legitimate range she has. Very impressive.
There is one pure blues number on this album and it happens to be the closer, which is a perfect choice. I wrote it before and I have no problem repeating it: Tierinii has an amazing voice. This is one of those special voices and to be paired with her sister Tikyra, that’s triple 7s. We’re Gonna Make It (Track 12) exemplifies those talents to the fullest. Gorgeous.
Considering this is one of my longer and more enthusiastic reviews, I think it is clear what my recommendation is. The torch has officially been passed. Hey George and Bootsy, make a little room for Southern Avenue.
Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
The uber talented Emily Duff is at it again. She just released here follow up to “Maybe In The Morning” and it is a good one. From New York City by way of Muscle Shoals, this 12 song, 45 minute album will give you more shakes than Baskin Robbins. While “Maybe In The Morning” was a bit more on the rockabilly/honky tonk side of the tracks, “Hallelujah Hello” is pure southern gospel. And Emily nails it. Right down to the stellar backing vocals and the Hammond-esque organ licks all over da place.
Then there is the writing. All the songs seem to be very spiritual, with almost all the songs devoted to the man upstairs. You don’t have to listen very long in order to get a good heavy helping of spirituality. In fact, the first and title track pretty much says it all, Hallelujah Hello (Track 1). If you every need a pick me up, this is it. A very upbeat song that just makes me feel good. I ain’t gonna say more about it. This is a motivational powerhouse.
Let’s take a trip across to Track 11, Loved Blues. This is a song about redemption. This number is the one departure to the Gospel motif and really takes it down to the blues, hence the name. The slide guitar parts on this song are truly out of this world. It is the perfect set up for Emily’s vocals. Talking about being loved by a power greater than ourselves. Another song of immense power.
If you aren’t sure if you like Gospel, give Jesus Love This Tired Woman (Track 6). I am solidly convinced that if you were on the fence, this song will absolutely change your mind to the positive. Emily has such a persuasive and infectious voice that she will convert the masses. Maybe that was her goal? Not sure. Whatever her objective, this song definitely meets them, if not exceeds them.
Do I have to say it again? okay, I love local, independent artists. And Emily Duff is just that. Besides being indie as all get out, she is also a stone cold singer songwriter. Since conversion seems to be a central theme of this collection, let me just say you will be converted after one listen. Hallelujah!
Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
The title, “Blue With Lou” is referring to the Lou who is also at the top of the rock and roll food chain posthumously. That would be Lou Reed. This album contains six tracks that were co-written with Lou Reed way back in the late 70s. These six songs were what remained on the cutting room floor. After Reed’s death in 2013, Nils had seriously considered breathing life into the “lost tracks”. “They got left by the wayside. Years went by, and it kept nagging at me. I thought, look, Lou’s not here to deliver these lyrics. He was inspired when he did this. It would be a shame not to share it”, stated Lofgren in a Conqueroo press release about the upcoming album.
That press release also gives insight as to how the whole project was conceived to begin with:
“I kind of forgot about the idea,” Lofgren recalls. “About a month after that, I was sound asleep, the phone rang at 4:30 in the morning, and I answered it in the dark. ‘Hey, Nils, it’s Lou Reed.’ That woke me up. He said, ‘I’ve been listening to the tape you sent, and I love it. I’ve been up for three days and nights straight. I haven’t slept. I’ve been working on your tape. I’ve completed 13 sets of lyrics that I love.’ And I’m like, ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me.’ Then he said, ‘If you wanna get a pad and pencil, I’ll dictate them to you.’ We spent two more hours on the phone. You can imagine my excitement.”
Ultimately, the co-written songs “A Fool Like Me,” “I Found Her,” and “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” (the last co-written with guitarist Dick Wagner) appeared on Nils, while Reed claimed “City Lights,” “Stupid Man,” and “With You” for his own 1979 album The Bells. The pair’s “Life” appeared on Lofgren’s Damaged Goods (1995), while “Driftin’ Man” was recorded for his Breakaway Angel (2002).
Having two rock and roll heavyweights on a project of this caliber is enough to garner a lot of buzz. But the ultimate question remains: Does it sound good? The answer is a resounding yes. The writing on all of the songs is smart and makes me nod in agreement when the words unfold. The sound, mix, and production are as good as it gets. Hats off to Nils and his wife Amy who tackled all of the technical stuff in-house.
Blue With Lou (Track 7), the title track has moved out early to the front of the pack. This is not one of the songs that Nils and Lou penned together. This number was 100% conceived by Nils. He did a phenomenal job of crafting this song so it fits perfectly alongside the rest of the 11 passengers on this rock and roll bus. Of course the song is about Reed and the words describe Lou perfectly. Lou had the ability to really explore the under belly of society and apparently Nils does as well. The guitar work and backing vocals are the leaders in this very talented class.
The album starts out with the ballsy, protest ballad Attitude City (Track 1). This song was written by both parties and it is a perfect lead off number. It has the right amount of brashness and pace to set the tone for the rest of the songs. I don’t think enough can be said about Nils’ guitar work. The man knows his way around a fret board. But more than that, Nils shows on this number that not only is he technically proficient, the feeling part is what really shines through. The song seems to be about vanity and arrogance among the Hollywood and music jet set types. Not much has changed in 40 years, unfortunately.
This album is amazing just on the merits of the music and writing alone. If you throw in the Lou Reed collaboration, it makes this mountain even larger. Add the fact that both Reed and Lofgren are esteemed members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, makes it that much more desirable. Not only does it live up to the hype, it completely overshadows it.
Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
A mid tempo masterpiece. Don’t let the pace fool ya’, what “I Like It Down Here” lacks in speed is made up in spades with vibe. Yes, this album is a vibe machine and evokes a beautiful emotional shield that protects the listener. Beside the pace, every song is completely unique and stands alone quite nicely. This is Will’s first solo release in five years. That is a bit uncommon, since Will’s pattern used to be an album every two years or so. But it isn’t like Will was just relaxing. He is a very sought after producer in addition to his musical prowess. (more…)