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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jennifer Kreisberg & Pura Fey (formerly of Ulali) at GVSU Nov 30

Jennifer Kreisberg, formerly of Ulali, took a moment to talk with TMGR the other day. We asked her what one might expect if they were to attend her Nov 30 show at Grand Valley State University's Pew Campus. She said that she along with slide guitar afficianado Pura Fey will be doing one or two songs with guitar but the show will mostly focus on their world class vocals and trademark harmonies.

TMGR found some background material that said Fey and Kreisberg were "one of the first Native American a capella women's groups to create their own sound from strong traditional roots and personal contemporary styles." We asked Ms. Kreisberg what this meant when we caught up with her by telephone. 

"Our traditional music and pre-Columbian (Columbus) contact music was very thick and full with harmonies,"  Kreisberg said. "The scale of it is what people today consider to be a blues scale; it's not a Western European music scale. People who think that all Native music is from the Plains are the ones who hear our music and try to put other labels on it."

What about the "traditional roots" part?
"We write songs that sound just like our traditional songs because no one should be allowed to use their ceremonial songs for general public consumption," Kreisberg stated."We use some stomp dance structures but we make the songs ourselves. We make them new. We don’t use the ones we use at home (in ceremony)."

"Music is either in you or not," she continued.

"Pura and I each have something in us. For her it’s about slide guitar. But Pura Fey can do anything. She likes jazz and blues," Kriesberg explained. "For me it’s more about reggae and hip-hop. What we both like in common is indigenous music from all over the planet. We both have extensive collections of African music and all kinds Native music, of course. But we enjoy music from all over the world basically: rain forest music, pygmy music, Celtic, and Mongolian. I don’t know if that necessarily influences our work but when that’s inside of you I’m sure it comes out somehow,"  she says.

"We just do music; a couple of Indian chicks,” says Kreisburg with a laugh.

Jennifer Kreisberg & Pura Fey (formerly of Ulali) at Grand Valley State University (Pew Campus) Loosemore Auditorium, tonight at 6 pm. Free and open to the public.

Monday, November 29, 2010

JJ Grey & MOFRO at the Intersection Nov 30

This much I know about JJ Grey: He likes his ice water icey cold, his Thai food spicy hot, sexy soul music, and the women even hotter. OK, I'm not exactly sure about the last one. Seems the only thing hotter than any of this is when JJ and company hit the stage running. You may have seen this action back in June when JJ Grey & MOFRO opened up for Buddy Guy at Meijer Gardens. Grey is a complete bandleader spinning around on his cowboy boots, pointing out band members for their solo, and otherwise letting the band do their thing. He told me afterwards that the reason he didn't do an encore was because he wasn't sure how much time he had left after forty minutes (he had about 5 minutes we figured later) and under no circumstances did he want to go a second over into Buddy's time slot. I found this not only smart but also extremely respectful.

Then come to find out JJ is a wiz at remotes and televisions. He single-handedly averted an uprising after that show when a tour bus full of basketball-crazed men couldn't get the NBA finals on the satellite TV. They said "don't worry, he'll get it; he always does." I'll admit I was skeptical (the thing was programmed in Florida). But sure enough he got it to work. In a snap it was game seven of the Celtics/Lakers championship matchup without missing a single inadvertent whistle.

Earlier that day we found a Thai restaurant for JJ to get take-out. During the afternoon we spent together riding in the car and getting his hair trimmed outside his bus in the hot sun, he talked about his grandmother's influence on his storytelling and in particular the time and care she took in sharing tales of the grasshopper known as the Georgia Warhorse. He seemed patient with the new-to-the-tour-that-day bass player (and with the radio guy hanging around) even going over some bass parts while still writing the set list for the evening.

JJ was a guest on my afternoon radio show that day at WYCE-FM. His publicity people told me he probably wouldn't be doing a live song on my shift. We went to pick him and after a quick stop at the local grocery store for protein bars, he surprised us by showing up at the studio with an acoustic guitar in hand.

I've interviewed on the radio and in-person (or at least sat-in) plenty of musicians and newsmakers: Ben Vereen, Bela Fleck, Tony Zamora (Tremoloco) and Cougar Estrada (Los Lobos), John Trudell, Donald Kinsey, Gary Primich, Robert Ward, and The Avett Brothers among others. But this one was special for one of my shows. First, I don't think anyone has ever debuted a soon-to-be-released single like JJ did this day. But we got to talking, and "The Sweetest Thing" off the forthcoming Georgia Warhorse was the one he wanted to do. Secondly I don't know if it was the Meijer's protein bars or what but he really nailed it. He sang like he was meant to live it and living the song like it was meant to be. This is a real person delivering worthwhile music the only way he knows how--with truth. If you go to see a JJ Grey concert (and you should) be ready to dance, sing, and otherwise feel human. Music like this doesn't come to town everyday.

JJ Grey & MOFRO at the Intersection tonight. Doors 6:30, show 7.

JJ Grey & MOFRO MySpace page

Friday, November 26, 2010

Raya & Mystic Dub: Have No Fear

On Have No Fear (Uncle Don’s Records) Raya & Mystic Dub manage to touch on all the important world music trends of the last thirty years. At times the disc sounds a little like dance-friendly Sly & Robbie, UB40, and Marcia Griffiths. Have No Fear features MD stalwarts John “Carlos” Ellsworth on drums along with Mickey McKenzie (clavinet). But Raya has also assembled some of the more credible players from West Michigan’s bustling blues and jazz scene: saxophonist John Gist (Steve Hilger Band) and bassist Jim Shaneberger (Greg Nagy). Raya reminds of Sade in a couple of ways. She shines bright as both songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (accordion, Hammond C-3 organ); all nine of the tracks are originals. The old school reggae sound is often characterized by a full horn complement which is found in abundance here. Rounding out the band is blues guitarist Donald Kinsey from the national touring act The Kinsey Report. Kinsey’s slicing lead work is unmistakable; warm blues tones permeate as famously heard on Mama Africa-era Peter Tosh. Producer Kinsey has credentials behind the board for legendary Jamaican artists as the aforementioned Tosh and Bob Marley. Singer Raya is able to give “Contagious” the sought after Middle Eastern flair. “Majesty Dub” sounds like it could have showed up on the Geffrey Morgan album it’s that good. There’s a lot to like on Have No Fear particularly if you’re not a big fan of the over-populated singer/songwriter scene. Positive vibes like this have been in short supply lately. Thankfully the one-love premise never goes out of style. Have No Fear is available locally at Vertigo Music and the Jumpin’ Java Coffeehouse in Grand Haven.

Raya & Mystic Dub, 10:30pm at The West Side Inn, Muskegon, tonight and tomorrow.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tab Benoit, Anders Osborne, & Big Chief Monk Boudreaux at the Livery Sunday 11/14

Louisiana soul singer Tab Benoit is set to play the Livery (pictured) in Benton Harbor on Sunday. TMGR has learned that Benoit will be accompanied by guitarist Anders Osborne and New Orleans music legend Big Chief Monk Boudreaux on percussion. Benoit sings like Otis Redding and plays guitar reminiscent of Albert Collins. Imagine that if you will. Sweden-native Osborne has seen his songs recorded by country music star Tim McGraw. Osborne's songwriting collaborators have included Keb' Mo' ("A Better Man"on Slow Down). Boudreaux is a well-known "Big Chief" of the Mardi Gras Indian tribe, the Golden Eagles. He is a former member of the Wild Magnolias. The Wild Magnolias played the first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1970. Like Benoit he records and tours as part of the Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars. Tab Benoit at the Livery continues their recent tradition of not to be missed shows.

For directions to the brewery and ticket information please visit The Livery website.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Lustre Kings at Billy's Lounge Nov 3

The Lustre Kings are just coming off a busy summer. From this point on they're looking at a decent autumn booking season. Along with their club dates are special events like a wedding in Alabama, the Elvis Festival in Green Bay WI, and for the tenth year in a row the Hell's Angels Halloween Party at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Rochester NY. What is it about the Greenville NY-based Lustre Kings that makes them so irresistible? Is it because too few bands even try to pull off an Elvis number in the flesh? Try to pin down guitarist Mark Gamsjager (above) on what genre his band plays and he says this. "I'd like to think of it as American music. That's the way I label it. Rockabilly vein, sure. But it's not straight-up rockabilly or straight-up country. It's hillbilly rock-n-roll. We just try to play good music." Within that Gamsjager still considers himself a fan of the Stray Cats. "When the Stray Cats hit in 1980 it was like the freshest thing. There are these neo-hipsters who think they know everything about late 50s music and who like to bash the Stray Cats," Gamsjager said from his home near Albany. "I say keep it positive. Everybody's doing their own thing. There's enough room for it all. It's not really cool to say you like them. But I like 'em." Gamsjager started out playing bluegrass music then became a fan of Commander Cody. You may have seen The Lustre Kings at the former Gibson's restaurant on Lake Drive. If you were missing the steel guitar at the Big Sandy show recently, the Lustre Kings quartet has that covered. The band for their show Nov 3 at Billy's Lounge will feature a steel guitar player. "There are so many great bands I listen to like Jack Baymoore and the Bandits out of Germany. They're so authentic it's scary. I can't sound that way; I've got to sound like what we sound like," Gamsjager said. "I've never really tried to cop any one particular sound. I never said we're going to try to sound like Elvis or Jerry Lee. We play a lot and it sounds like the Lustre Kings. We try to make every song our own. By putting that on it, it works."

The Lustre Kings (MySpace) wsg the Midnight Cattle Callers at Billy's Lounge tonight at 9 pm. (MCC on first)