Soul Men

Well this week may be a case of almost, ALMOST too much of a good thing. We’ve got a six-act night just packed with renowned talent and legendary figures. It’s hard to know where to start, but it wasn’t hard to know where to finish. When you’ve got an eight-piece, horn-driven band from Memphis with veterans of shows and recordings by Isaac Hayes, B.B. King, Rufus Thomas and other soul greats, they’re gonna close the show.

I’m talking about the Bo-Keys, a band that’s been around and working since the late 90s but which has a new album and a big head of steam. They formed when young bass player and producer Scott Bomar met veteran Memphis guitarist Skip Pitts. Skip’s the guy who made the wah-wah funk guitar riff happen in the theme from Shaft, so no more questions about cred need be asked. That kind of background just suffuses the team they assembled, which consists of musicians who crafted the sound of the great Stax Records. Drummer Howard Grimes played with Rufus and Carla Thomas and appears on the masterpiece Ann Peebles hit “I Can’t Stand The Rain.” Baritone sax man Floyd Newman played on the Mar-Keys hit “Last Night,” which turned out to be the first big record featuring a guitarist named Steve Cropper. Trumpeter Ben Cauley was the only survivor of the plane crash that killed Otis Redding.

There are so many more stories. I encourage you to check out the Bo-Keys website for the full background. As a band, they’ve recorded three albums of their own, including the new and inspiring Got To Get Back! Plus they were the sound of the score behind the amazing Craig Brewer film Hustle & Flow, and they backed up Cyndi Lauper’s Grammy-winning blues album of 2010. This is gonna be great.

And consider if you will the two hours leading up to this. Guy Davis will open Roots this week. He’s been one of the leading voices in contemporary blues for nearly twenty years. His FIRST record was released by Folkways, which doesn’t happen to anybody. Well except for Lucinda Williams, who is actually Lucinda Williams. Guy grew up in New York, son of two famous actors, but he clearly worked hard to get in touch with his family’s deep South history and he’s been a golden voice and killer guitarist who’s been one of the best tickets in roots music.

From another frontier altogether, we’ll be hearing from Ryan Cavanaugh, who has picked up the mantle of Bela Fleck and Tony Trischka as today’s new jazz banjo visionary. He won all the big banjo competitions and was shown a place in the jazz world by guitar great John McLaughlin. Ryan has toured and recorded with the bluegrass-loving jazz sax player Bill Evans. And he’s got his own group No Man’s Land, which you’ll see this week.

And how does a scribe get this far in making a list of exciting acts for the week without singing the praises of Bobby Osborne? I mean good grief, this is an architect of modern bluegrass music. The trio harmonies pioneered by the Osborne Brothers is what you hear in bands like The Grascals and IIIrd Tyme Out today. Bobby’s also a master mandolinist and a veteran of the Grand Ole Opry who knows how to entertain.

So we’re also going to be treated to guitar heavy country from Dave Gleason and bluesy folk from Amy Black. It’s a festival-quality lineup in the cozy Loveless Barn.

Craig H

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