On most nights, Fassler Hall is known as Tulsaís premier German beer hall and the locale for some of Tulsaís best music. Although the calendar brings in plenty of rock and a regular assortment of Tulsaís best from the ìNew Tulsa Soundî scene, it all takes a new twist this Thursday evening, Dec. 8, as The Greyhounds and Daryl Hance take Barrelhouse Blues and juke joint with full night of blues and funk infected rock.
This isn't the first time these two acts have paired up and it likely won't be the last. This is just a different variation of how they have normally played together, as all have been members of perennial jam and blues act JJ Grey and Mofro. Daryl Hance was a founding member of Mofro, growing as a songwriter as he collaborated with and learned from his experience with Grey for over a decade.
Andrew Trube and Anthony Farrell started The Greyhounds in 1999 and built the band organically, recording and touring independently until 2008, when Farrell was diagnosed with cancer. The duo then scaled back the touring as Farrell addressed his condition, but returned to the road when Grey called on them to fill positions in Mofro as other members were departing nearly three years ago.
With a shared history, the two acts have much in common, but they also have much to say on their own, making Thursday a special night to see both artists shine outside of their identities in Mofro.
When discussing Hance's departure from Mofro to set out on a solo career, he shared that it wasn't originally his intention to separate himself from his original band.
"I wanted to do both but it takes too much time to get things going when you're basically starting from scratch. I can see that now," he said.
"JJ really encouraged me to go out on my own," he continued. "He told me 'No, man -- you need to do this.' I'd always played him my demos and stuff and once it was time to start recording them, he was really supportive."
As a result, Hance departed Mofro in December of 2010 and released his solo debut, Hallowed Ground in early 2011. After spending twenty years playing with Mofro, there are obviously some similarities, but when asked how his material differs, he reflected that "JJ is more influenced by Otis Redding and soul music. He's more soulful and a natural born singer. Being a guitar player, mine is obviously more guitar oriented. I picture it like something funky with a bluesy back beat. It's not quite a funk band, but maybe what Stevie Wonder would sound like if he played guitar instead of piano."
In some instances, Hallowed Ground is just that -- a funky romp. In others, Hance is more grounded and solemn, building to a slow burn. Curtis Mayfield soul intermingles with Hendrix bluesy fire and the gutbucket stop of Muddy Waters for a mix that wears Hance's Southern roots and blues inflected background on a sleeve. At the same time, Hance is successful in establishing his own voice outside of his prior successes with Grey.
On the flip side of the coin, The Greyhounds are establishing an identity away from Mofro, but merely revisiting what they brought to the band. The duo recently released a digital EP, Spring Training, via bandcamp.com and the four tracks are just as eclectic as the duo of Truber and Farrell are.
As Truber explained, The Greyhounds have always been an independent act, doing everything from the recording and CD releases to booking tours on their own. That independent spirit rings through loud and clear and the duo makes it clear that they continue to do things their own way.
Opening track "What's On Your Mind" delves into funky, classic soul, while "Yours to Steal" turns into a gritty, deconstructed blues stomp. "Soul Navigator" may actually be the best representation of where the band resides, however, with a danceable funk that recalls Muscle Shoals and classic Stax/Volt R&B and blues.
When discussing the disc, however, Trube was possibly most excited about the inclusion of "H-E-L-L-O", which sets off in a quirky, more experimental direction. Hinged around a spongy dance beat, the song was originally written for a children's record, but the sheer fun and funky direction led the duo to include it on the EP.
The track even includes Bruce Hampton (of Aquarium Rescue Unit) in a segment that they actually recorded over the phone and integrated into the track. An old friend of the band, Trube laughs when discussing Hampton stating simply "He's just out there -- but that's why he's so awesome!"
The quirky nature of the final track may be the best indicator of where The Greyhounds are mentally right now: comfortable with who they are and willing to try something new in the name of fun and keeping things fresh.
When discussing the Greyhounds' sound, Trube explained that "I bring the janky, bluesy rock side to the band and Andrew has the west coast soul thing. It's an interesting hybrid, but it works."
Although Trube and Farrell joined Mofro a little over three years ago, The Greyhounds never ceased to exist, they just didn't tour. "We're still The Greyhounds," Trube explained. "We just mostly played in Austin. We even have a weekly gig at The Continental Club. We had the month of December off, though, and decided why not? We've always done everything by ourselves anyway, so we started making a few calls to see if there was any interest and put together a tour."
When asked how the pairing with Daryl Hance came about, Trube was candid in sharing that they had shared a gig recently in Austin, and Hance mentioned that he'd love to play with them again if they had some open shows. After a brief discussion and a few phone calls to the venues, it turned into a small handful of shows as the two acts cross paths while touring through the Midwest.
As luck would have it we get one of the few pairings that sees the old friends and band mates come together under a different guise for what will surely be a special night when they arrive in Tulsa for a show at Fassler Hall this Thursday night, Dec. 8. Cover is only $5 and the show starts at 10pm, so don't miss it if you're a fans of blues and soul.
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