POSTED ON APRIL 13, 2011:
Follow That Muse
Malford Milligan lets the music lead him with his latest project
hen Malford Milligan arrives in town this Friday for a show at All Souls Acoustic Coffeehouse, it will be under a different guise than before.
For years known as a world class blues singer, Milligan has toured with B.B. King, James Cotton, Double Trouble, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Edgar Winter and many more. He has also turned in session work on more than 30 albums with everyone ranging from Doyle Bramhall and Alejandro Escoveda to Toni Price, Eric Johnson and Hal Ketchum -- a diverse palette of artists, to be sure.
With the Malford Milligan Band, however, the musician is changing gears and going in a more soulful and funky R&B direction than he has in the past, not that it's a huge departure. Milligan may not be a household name, but his voice is one that you'll recognize almost instantly: a deep and rich baritone that can growl at one extreme and melt like butter at the other.
As the lead singer for Storyville, Milligan had his most widespread success, bridging the gap between blues and rock with Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon of Double Trouble and guitarist Dave Grissom (another Texas native who had previously played with Joe Ely, John Mellencamp and The Allman Brothers). After three albums, however, Storyville went its separate ways and Milligan continued to follow his muse down a soulful, bluesy path.
Malford Milligan may not be a household name, but his voice is one that you’ll recognize almost instantly: a deep and rich baritone that can growl at one extreme and melt like butter at the other.
When I caught up with Milligan in Austin last month during South by Southwest, he was every bit the gentleman and oversized teddy bear that his reputation suggests. The warm evening found him affable and reflective, willing to speak not only about his current project and history with Storyville, but life and music in general. Surely, if someone's life has been shaped and directed by music, Milligan is one of those souls.
When Milligan and his band play All Souls this Friday night, he assured me that although they will be playing a healthy portion of new material, he will also delve into some of his older cuts and a handful of the Storyville tracks that so many people are familiar with.
"We're still selling Storyville in Poland," he said with a laugh, "but I'm known in Europe because of that."
Now backed by a band that includes "Tiny" Watkins on drums, Phil Redman on keys, Jeff Plankenhorn on guitars and Yggie (pronounced Yogi) on bass, Milligan has spread his wings beyond just a blues repertoire and is exploring more soul and R&B.
After a couple of years of playing together, this lineup is really beginning to find its groove, according to Milligan.
"It was the same thing with Storyville," he said. "It looked great on paper, but it took about two years to really become a band, but we were a machine after that. This band is in its second year and we've been doing a lot of touring and playing more and its really starting to hit its stride."
Of the transition from a blues based sound to a more soul inspired direction, Milligan said "Yggie has played bass with me for a long time, seven years, and I've known him for 15 years. He's a great guys and the music director of this band."
It's a natural progression, Milligan said, one he has to follow.
Following the muse was an overriding theme when discussing Milligan's career.
"A lot of people have a romantic view of music and there's nothing wrong with that. I just do what I do," he said. "I've got to follow it wherever it takes me."
Milligan said the music has been leading him for years and has taken him in many different directions.
"I've got no house, no wife, no kids -- I wouldn't dare put them through this," he said. "Has it been worth it? What else am I going to do? The only other thing that I can think of that's creative and destructive at the same time is being a drug dealer, and that's hard work."
Friday's concert will feature a solid cross-section of blues material that he'll likely never fully stray from, but the Tulsa audience will also get to preview the new material that he and his band have worked up for his next album, which Milligan is currently working on raising the money to record.
"This band is tighter than a ticks butt," he said. "Especially because of Yggie. It's an old-school R&B-type band, so it's soulful and tight -- something I'm always shooting for."
Tickets are still are still available for this Friday night's show and are only $15. Doors open at 7pm and Tulsa's own Duosonics open the show at 7:30pm.
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