Summer sounds courtesy of Lock 3 Park and several of the Northern hemisphere's No. 1, inter-regional, ultimate tribute bands
The first day of Summer 2019 is officially less than a month away and that means that music-related outside stuff is starting to get cranking.
Lock 3 opens its concert season with the first WONE sponsored “Rock The Lock” show of the year featuring Crush: A Tribute to Bon Jovi, with opening act Victory Highway.
This is usually about the time of year when someone calls or writes to complain about the Friday night lineups, and I get it. Hey, there’s tribute bands, whoop-to-the-pee! But it’s actually pretty smart and safe business, though obviously not the most creative booking.
Assuming you still listen to terrestrial radio, you know WONE is a classic rock station. So it’s thematically fitting that it would be inclined to book bands whose brands and set lists mesh with chunks of its own playlist. Also, both the tribute bands and the Lock 3 folks know exactly what each side is going to get from one another and at this point have a solid idea of how many fans they're likely to draw.
Again, it’s certainly not daring, innovative or particularly interesting if you’re not into ersatz versions of classic rock tunes you’ve heard many times. But it gets the park’s proverbial sausage made and folks like to consume it.
If you want to go downtown to Lock 3 on a Friday night to catch some original music, you must show up early. The opening acts are usually local and tend to be original. (OK, this week’s Victory Highway, is a cover band, but across the next few weeks are some groups with their own songs.)
• Veteran singer/songwriter Rachel Roberts will open for Satisfaction: The International Rolling Stones Show on May 31.
• June 7 will feature singer/songwriter/documentary subject Angie Haze, who will open for Hotel California, The Original Eagles Tribute Band.
• On June 14, the globetrottin’ Cajun/Americana group Mo Mojo will open for Fleetwood Mac Mania: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac. So, show up early and see some new stuff.
Wait. Can we talk a moment about these tribute band names? Some of these fall under the category of “TL;DR.”
If you’re called “Fleetwood Mac Mania” you really don’t need to add “A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac.”
Though I do enjoy the array of adjectives chosen to differentiate each band from the rest of the Tribute pack: “The Ultimate” or “The International” or “The World’s #1" or “East Lansing’s Top.”
How about, “The (RealBand) Experience” or the coveted “Officially Endorsed,” which must be the zenith of modifiers in the Tribute band community.
If I were to ever start a tribute band, I’d call it something that really dominates a marquee or gig post, like, “1983 … (A Merman I Should Turn to Be): The Multiverse’s Supreme, #1, Most-Bestest, Intra-mural, Officially Unendorsed 'Jimi Hendrix Experience' Experience.” That sounds pretty impressive and would surely get us some good summertime gigs.
Sorry, I wandered there, for a moment.
Last week I (again) opined about the state of mainstream R&B while previewing Anderson .Paak’s show in Cleveland. Well, here’s another contemporary soul artist worth checking out. Singer/songwriter/poet, arts educator Jamila Woods, performing at the Cambridge Room at the House of Blues Cleveland on Tuesday, is touring behind her second album, “Legacy! Legacy!,” released a few weeks ago.
The Chicago native’s vocals and melodies occasionally recall the floating, ethereal jazz-inflected phrasing of early Erykah Badu, but Woods, who has been featured on songs by Chance The Rapper and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, is no Badu sound-alike.
Each of the album’s 13 tracks are named for a black poet, writer, artist or activist that affected Woods — i.e., Zora (Neale Hurston), Sun Ra, Octavia (Butler). The production, by odd couple Peter Cottontale, and fellow Chicagoan Slot-A, is squarely contemporary with several tunes riding loping, head-nod-inducing hip-hop infused beats, or vaguely jazzy grooves such as the slinky “Basquiat.” And several are laced with old school sounds such as velvety Rhodes electric piano and actual, real guitars and drums. Opening for Woods is emcee Nitty Scott, who also appears on the album.
Jessy Wilson and Yola
Since we’re on the subject, if you’re looking for some new-fangled soul singers and don’t want to let an algorithm pick them all for you, here’s two more who coincidentally have Akron ties. Early this month, Jessy Wilson, veteran backup singer for Alicia Keys, released her album “Phase” produced by Patrick Carney.
The Brooklynite has a big, powerful bluesy voice but she deftly doles out the big notes and theatrics only when appropriate. Since it’s a Carney production, many of the tunes have thumping back beat-driven midtempo grooves over which Wilson displays why she should be at the front of the stage.
You get some funky dance-pop tunes such as “LOVE me,” the classic Southern soul of “Cool One,” and the sexy, string-laced lead single “Love & Sophistication.”
Meanwhile, back in February, the other Black Key, Dan Auerbach, produced “Walk Through The Fire,” the debut album by singer/songwriter Yola on his Easy Eye Sound label. The London-bred singer has a honeyed, alto voice she applies to the country-soul songs co-written with Auerbach and his growing cadre of professional songwriting buddies.
Since it’s an Auerbach production, there’s definitely a retro feel to the record with plenty of reverb, tremolo guitars, pedal steel, fiddle tasteful in-the-pocket playing from Nashville studio legends.
Songs such as the ballad “It Ain’t Easier” layers Yola’s soulful vocals with fairly straight-ahead country backing. And the title track quickly reminds us that the blues and country music aren’t nearly as far apart as we often like to pretend they are (can’t we all just musically get along?).
A cynic may assume I’m just publicly genuflecting for the reactivated hometown heroes' triumphant return to our local arena. But the dudes hooked up with talented singer-songwriters and helped make a couple of genuinely good and interesting records that are available on all our favorite streaming platforms.
Malcolm X Abram can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3758. Like him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml, and follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.