With a burgeoning indie rock scene and a number of solid pop/rock albums coming out over the past year and a half, occasionally we forget that Tulsa's music history is rooted in down and dirty blues and country rock. After all, while bands like Callupsie, Ceceda, Black Swan and GHOSTS are blowing up and Tulsa is landing on the pages of Paste and Blender magazines with praises for our local scene and venues like the Cain's Ballroom, that's where our focus naturally goes.
Part of what makes our musical landscape so colorful, however, is the fact that Tulsa really does have a good amount of talent in all genres, especially in the jazz and blues communities. And although acts like JFJO, Harmonious Monk and Grady Nichols have made sure local jazz acts still get some attention, many of our bluesier acts have been toiling away in the figurative shadows. With that in mind, I've come across a couple of new discs that have gone relatively unnoticed, but shouldn't be overlooked.
Tulsa's latest blues phenomenon in waiting, Rollin' Phattys, describes itself as "Southern fried blues, rock and soul steeped in the Tulsa tradition." While that may be a good start, there's even more to the package, however. The fact that the boys in the band have worked with a who's who of Stillwater's Red Dirt scene (i.e. Tom Skinner and Farmboy, Bob Childers, Medicine Show, Red Dirt Rangers, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Great Divide, Jason Boland) hints at the band's pedigree, but there's also a swampy, Cajun tone bubbling underneath that adds a little extra joy and lust to the band's musical growl.
The group recently released its debut CD Red Hot Joe in early May and it should be a "must have" for local blues fans. While there are hints of the Allman Brothers, Radiators, Leon Russell and Storyville all brewing in the mix, the band delivers it all with a fresh sound and energy.
The disc opens with "Plantation Girl," the obvious single, and immediately sets the tone for the rest of the album. While vocalist Ken "Cooter" Helton's voice isn't quite as deep as Malford Milligan, he definitely shares an earthy, soulful quality with what I've always considered one of the richest voices in modern blues rock. As a result, Elton's voice, combined with Jeff "Jeffreaux" Parker's guitar adds a sultry quality to the song's slow burn.
Speaking of Parker, the fact that he's referred to as "Jeffreaux" should have been the first clue as to the band's swampy, Louisiana based leanings. While title track "Red Hot Joe" bounces with a playful Cajun swagger amidst its blues, "Cachon De Lait (Down on the Bayou)" cuts loose as a full on Zydeco party.
Although the band does break down into some standard blues formations on cuts like "Sugar Babe," "Cherry Street Blues" and "Kim's Cowtown Shuffle" they all carry enough color and swagger to hold their own identity. Arguably, the only misstep of the disc is "Paradise Street," which comes off as fairly pedestrian, but also screams of all the characteristics that neophyte, generic blues fans clamor for.
Far stronger are the smoldering "My Heart is on Fire" (my personal vote for the next single); "Greta," which showcases the band's Allman-esque southern rock leanings; and "Black Bear River" for turning up Parker's already scorching guitar lines to maximum-blues-shred level.
Although the band has been hammering a way and struggling to attract local some media attention, don't expect the group to be stuck on the local scene for long. If the live show is anywhere near as good as the debut disc, Rollin' Phattys will be playing the regional and national blues festival circuit in short order. Expect to hear more about these guys in the near future.
Although the songs from Travis Kidd's latest CD, Mid America, have been floating around in one form or another for over a year, the disc finally got its proper release in May via the Smith Music Group (largely responsible for launching acts like Cross Canadian Ragweed, Pat Green and Randy Rogers band, among others). Ultimately finished out with a higher quality remix and top shelf mastering job, the final version of the disc shows Kidd ready to tackle a much bigger audience.
Kidd has been a staple on the local music scene playing both solo acoustic and band gigs with a blend of covers and original tunes, but all too often his songwriting and guitar skills are overlooked.
To that effect, "Anticipation" and title cut "Mid America" should be a revelation for listeners who haven't paid attention previously, as both sport some spectacular guitar work with "Anticipation" matching it up with appropriately urgent lyrics.
For many fans, the treasure of the disc is "Oklahoma Sunset," which was widely used for the state's centennial celebration last year. Those who've been patient are rewarded here with classy full band and acoustic versions of the song to effectively book end the set with a particularly vivid portrait of a hot summer evening in our home state.
While Kidd has quit worrying about classifications and gone with what he knows and loves (check out the 70's/80's guitar crunch of "Towman" and "Maxine's Tap Room Boogie"), the only disappointment of the disc is that it isn't longer. A rocking cover of Warren Zevon's "Lawyers, Guns and Money" and a lilting version of Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey" undoubtedly shed light on Kidd's direction and influences, but a total of only nine tracks leaves listeners wanting more -- especially from Kidd's personal songbook.
Fortunately, the quality of the songs makes up for the lack in quantity. With any luck, the benefit of national distribution for Kidd's best tunes and recordings to date should not only open doors for Kidd to step out beyond his current audience, but also inspire the songwriting floodgates to open as well.
Whatever happens, don't expect Kidd to fall into the standard country or Texas/Red Dirt trappings. The album title tells you all you need to know -- Kidd is tapping the heart of Mid America with his songs.
Although it was nice to skip town and take a break for a couple of weeks, a quote from The Wizard of Oz still says it all: "There's no place like home." While the schedule may seem a little tame at the moment as we all gear up for DFest next weekend, rest assured that the local calendar is still plenty full and as has become tradition, I've got the a few of the highlights to get you pointed out the door and in the right direction.
There's no need to wait for the calendar to tell you when to start your weekend when Thursday evenings have as many cool shows to check out as we have this week. Get a head start this week by stopping in for Happy Hour on July 17 at the Tulsa Press Club with UTW and the SoundProof concert series to check out Whiskey, Stills & Mash for a mix of country, rock and blues with a twist with this local acoustic trio.
Afterwards, if you're just getting warmed up and looking for a Red Dirt or country/rock fix, Wade Bowen will be playing Bob's (Cain's side stage) with Sean McConnell opening. The show starts at 9pm and tickets are $12 at the door. If you're looking for something a little more laid back with more of a local flavor, Acoustic Ross unveils a new disc with his CD release show at Under the Mooch.
On Friday night, July 18, the downtown area is busy as Stevedore, Straight Lines, Balthazar, Cracker Wagon and Dance Robots Dance keep the indie rock vibe alive at the Continental. A trip across the tracks will also see The Soundpony in fine form that evening with Roadside Graves and Dustin & Jesse's Higher Education keeping the tunes flowing all evening long.
Saturday, July 18, is definitely the spotlight of the week with local favorites from all genres coming out to play. For starters, Violence to Vegas headlines Bob's ($9) for a hard rock show with Swamp Fox, First Lady Assassins at 8pm. Just down the sidewalk, local indie-rock darlings Callupsie stop in at the Soundpony with The Dactyls as the band's summer tour continues on across the Midwest.
Meanwhile, pop fans will do well to venture south to Jenks to catch Admiral Twin at Elm Street Pub, where the A/T boys should be free to play more of their original material.
Finally, Plan B hosts an all day event on Saturday, July 18, with the Summer Soul Fest. Music starts at noon on the outdoor stage (where it's an all-ages event) where Kawnar, Mas Rudie (Adam Lopez's current project), Hiphopotamus, Jirhaff and Sam & the Stylees keep thing hopping until 2am. The party starts inside (where it's strictly 21 and up) with DJs Andrew B, Platinum and Moody spinning downstairs while Kids at the Bar (from OKC), Just John and DJ Chron take over the upstairs level and DJ Verse (Jimmy Handtrix Experience) runs the turntable showcase. Cover is only $10 for the biggest party of the weekend, so stop in and check it out.
Looking into next week, Monday sees Power of Two and Guardant play the Soundpony while The Otherside hosts Oh, Sleeper!, Spoken, Once Nothing (one of my left-field surprises form Cornerstone), Bell Epoque and Versa Emerge. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door for the Otherside show and Soundpony is free, as always.
Tuesday night is punk night at The Pinkeye with Time Again, Street Light Fight, HotrodboB, JFK Reload and Awkward Sex splitting the bill and an $8 cover on July 22.
Finally, The Black Crowes wrap up the cycle with a sold out show at the Cain's Ballroom on Wednesday, July 23. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals open the show at 8p, so arrive early to check the box office for any released tickets or to try your hand at with the scalpers.
Of course, if you're in a retro '80s kind of mood, you can always make a road-trip to the OKC Zoo next Wednesday as well to check out Cheap Trick, Heart and Journey. Be sure to pack blanket for the lawn and don't forget your lighter--after all, you know it's going to be a night full of power ballads.
Whatever you decide to do, be safe and have fun. Next weekend we've not only got DFest, but also the "Green Dirt Festival" at CJ Moloney's with Jason Boland, Travis Kidd and Brandon Clark Band to look forward to.
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