Tag Archives: Bob Adamek

JJ Grey & Mofro at the Jeff

web 001JJ Grey & Mofro released their seventh studio album Ol’ Glory last week and took to the road to celebrate. The band pulled into the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, VA on Wednesday, March 4, a night ahead of the East Coast’s most recent snow storm, to heat up the stately renovated old venue.

 
The nearly sold out Wednesday night crowd didn’t need much help getting into the show, but got a quick charge of adrenaline when the band opened with fan favorite “Brighter Days.” Playing such an anthem to start the night foretold that Grey had many things he needed to get to, most importantly his new material. Mofro played six of the twelve new songs from Ol’ Glory, demonstrating that Grey’s self-revealing and soulful song writing shows no indication of slowing down.

 
Highlights of the new material included “A Night to Remember,” a bouncy R&B song with a tasty horn track reminiscent of the best of the Stax label’s Memphis Horns. Then the album’s title track “Ol’ Glory” served as the final encore. From the opening Fender Rhodes keyboard sound and the infectious and fast horn line, the song settles on the back of the hard driving and funky bass line. This song whipped the crowd into a frenzy and left everybody wanting more.

 
The musical highlights of the night came on two trusted favorites. “Lochloosa” is a song that never disappoints live, and although the band plays this song regularly, the power of “Lochloosa” consistently brings out the best in Mofro. The second came during the song “Ho Cake,” which was extended to allow the band to stretch out. This was an electric twenty minutes of music showing what a group of road warrior musicians can do after playing together for years.

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The scene was set for this moment with a beautiful set design. A gigantic tapestry hanging across the back of the stage depicted the new album cover and gave the sense you were looking out a picture window onto an old tree in a meadow. The stage was adorned with lamps and end tables further giving the sense you were watching these guys in the comfort of their living room.

 

 
After the initial verse and chorus, the band took off on a ride, bringing the audience with them. Bassist Todd Smallie and drummer Anthony Cole play together like they were brothers brought up in the same house. They play web 024with joy, constantly adding little things and watching each other react. The rest of the band gets in on it as well and before long the musical conversation has gotten deep. As solos bounce around from one bandmate to the next, the supporting cast listens and reacts, displaying an understanding that was born out of hundreds and hundreds of nights playing together. Capping it off when the vocals return, Grey tries to stump the band with how he approaches the lyric’s rhythm. The band never misses a stop, leaving everyone laughing together like best friends.

 
JJ Grey is an honest and adept front man, building a band deserving of his heavyweight talent. This is a can’t miss tour and if you are a fan you need to get out and see it.

 

St. Paul and the Broken Bones stays close to the heartbeat

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St. Paul and the Broken Bones

Jefferson Theatre

Charlottesville, VA

10/23/14

 

 

 

 

St. Paul and the Broken Bones are born out of a southern soul tradition. Coming from Birmingham Alabama, where the sounds of Gospel, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Booker T. and the MG’s are the sound track to hot sweaty summer nights, St. Paul stays close to that heartbeat, writing music that pays homage to those essential musical roots. The band is touring currently and stopped in at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia to play to a sold out house on a Thursday night in late October.

 

web 020The night opened with a stirring set by the Detroit, Michigan band, Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas. Hernandez and company quickly won the crowd to their side with soulful vocals and a driving and tasty drum line that had gypsy flavored beats rolling constantly over the tom toms. The pounding beat got fans dancing early and screaming louder and louder as the band crushed an hour long set.

 

 

web 011The main course, St. Paul and the Broken Bones came out of the box looking polished, grinding a fabulous instrumental version of the funk classic “Sing a Simple Song” by Sly and the Family Stone. The crowd was loaded for this band whose star is rising quickly, and exploded by the end of the song when singer Paul Janeway confidently came to center stage. Janeway did not disappoint for a minute this night, delivering passionate performance after passionate performance. He spent the majority of time striding along the very front of stage, sometimes on his knees while connecting with anyone in reach of his gaze.

 

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The band cruised easily through all the songs from the recently released album Half the City. Sprinkled in were fresh takes on great covers like “Shake” by Sam Cooke, “99 1/2 Won’t Do” by Wilson Pickett and a very cool version of “Moonage Daydream” from David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The band closed the show with the Otis Redding classic “Try A Little Tenderness” complete with Janeway collapsing on the ground at the end of the song, exhausted and finished, only to get back and reprise the ending again and again, right out of Redding’s own playbook.

 

 

 

Billy Iuso: Dead Inspired Funk

     

Journeyman guitarist Billy Iuso is hitting his groove in the live-music scene by awakening the Dead.

 

Billy Iuso

“I’m a hippie,” Billy Iuso says in describing himself, his musical influences, and inspirations during a recent phone interview, as he speaks through a cold during the depths of winter.

 
Iuso’s Restless Natives opened the previous Saturday’s Anders Osborne’s Holiday Spectacular at Tipitina’s in New Orleans before Iuso supplied guitar-shredding support to Osborne’s set. The following Sunday, Iuso would perform downtown at The Maison with the Iko Iko All-Stars, a group of New Orleans-based, like-minded Deadheads in which he and former Restless Native C.R. Gruver (Outformation) slick the Grateful Dead’s wheels with a bit of Nola grease. From his home in Uptown New Orleans, Iuso, 44, explained he was looking forward to spending the holidays at home with this wife and family before taking off in January with Osborne to gig at Gov’t Mule’s Island Exodus IV in Jamaica in January.

 

While his serene summation of “feeling blessed” at this point in his life and career is the stuff of sage hippie wisdom, Iuso, a Port Chester, New York native of Italian heritage, applies the hippie label when discussing music. Iuso’s ascent in stature and gigs (such as being named Bear Creek Festival artist-in-residence in 2011) within groovy circles is obvious in the few last few years, particularly in his recently discovered kinship with the beastly, divine rock-and-soul stew that is Osborne’s sound. This ascent comes after decades of toil, triumphs and tribulations in various musical adventures, most notably to many in the Brides of Jesus, which Iuso formed just out of high school, earning fans and buzz in the early 1990s in New York City via weekly gigs at the Wetlands before moving to Athens, Georgia, where he moved the band to soak up “the hip little Southern music scene”.

Billy Iuso & Mickey Hart

Engagingly equal parts jaded musician and enthusiastic fan, buoyant boy and old soul, Iuso, a tattoo of Jerry Garcia’s famously four-fingered hand emblazoned on his right forearm, talks after sound-check/shrimp boil for the Holiday Spectacular on the sidewalk outside Tipitina’s.

 

He’s asked about the magic created last Jazz Fest, which found him in a late-night jam at an Osborne show that reached full-tilt guitar frenzy in a “Third Stone from the Sun” jam during the encore that featured Luther Dickinson, Warren Haynes, Osborne and himself. “In this genre, we have a respect that makes things easy,” Iuso says of how the aforementioned players worked harmoniously together, “because it’s really not work. Anders and I just click. Those others guys, they know when to play and when not to play. It’s a respect thing.”

 

Billy Iuso band2Iuso’s opening set with the Restless Natives — Thomas McDonald (bass), Michael Burkhart (keys), Eddie Christmas (drums), Jimmy Carpenter (saxophone) and the debut of vocalist Ginger Matthews — grooves with originals and covers including Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting Here in Limbo.” Iuso is the first guest in Osborne’s set, locking in for an extended “Black Eyed Galaxy,” the title track off Osborne’s acclaimed album from last year that announced the Swedish-born, now-sober guitarist/singer was a Dead Head and proud of it. Along with rock songstress Shannon McNally, Iuso sang and soared in “Sugaree,” a staple Grateful Dead cover.

“I’m kind of a closeted Deadhead,” Osborne said in a Relix magazine interview following his Holiday Spectacular and in advance of his latest EP, Three Free Amigos, of which Iuso played an integral role. “Lately, it’s just popped up more and more. One of my closest friends right now, Billy Iuso, is a huge, huge fan of the Grateful Dead and he keeps sending me a bunch of stuff.”

 

 

Iuso moved to his adopted home of New Orleans from Georgia in 1997 at a point when the Brides of Jesus “started falling apart,” he recalls, and after the guidance of Meters bassist George Porter, Jr., whom Iuso began working for as road manager. Iuso credits Porter and Russell Batiste for indoctrinating an Billy Iuso & George PorterItalian hippie from New York into New Orleans, immersing him in its culture, musical traditions and community. In addition to solo albums (such as 2011’s Trippin’ over Dragons) and works with the Restless Natives, Iuso played guitar for five years with the Wild Magnolias, the Mardi Gras Indian band initiated by Big Chief Bo Dollis, Sr., who received the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)’s National Heritage Fellowship in 2011. Countless miles, studio hours, sit-ins, and small-crowds at no-cover shows have schooled Iuso in the cruel realities of music as business. But those same lessons, amazingly, have not diminished his energy, a palpable draw to his infectious handling of the Fender Stratocaster driven with passion and intensity through his Mesa Boogie amp.

 

Reflecting on the attributes brought by band mates Iuso, Carl Dufrene (bass) and Eric Bolivar (drums) on Three Free Amigos in the aforementioned Relix interview, Osborne says: “Well, usually they bring who they are, which is why we play together. There is not a lot of pre-thinking on my part. I just throw it out there and then we design it together. The reason that we are a band is because we like to see how things turn out. They add a tremendous amount by just being themselves and playing the way they do.”Anders Osborne at Brooklyn Bowl June 2012 Honest Tune

 

Playing his way — a trippy-licks, white-boy guitarist in a funky, soulful city — has landed Iuso new audiences among familiar faces via uncompromised virtues of vibe and tone in a town he now calls home. “When I first got here with the buzz from Brides of Jesus still out there, I came across some haters,” Iuso remembers. “They thought I was a tool, like ‘Who’s this guy coming to our town?’ But I’ve been here long enough, played enough, that I’ve gained respect. And once you’re in this community, you’re in it for good.”