Craig Mitchell describes his new R&B band, Craig Mitchell & Motor City, as “if Prince, Jamiroquai and the Black Keys had a baby.” Generally, I’m loathe to use the descriptions bands provide of themselves — especially when they rely on the tired “if so and so had a love child” thing. But I’ve always liked that one.
First, hyperbole aside, it’s pretty accurate. I’ve written about Mitchell on a number of occasions over the years. And regardless of the subject, whether it’s about DJing, house music, his anti-bullying work or just shooting the shit, the topic of Prince often pops up in the conversation. He’s probably Mitchell’s single biggest musical influence, and it shows.
Second, I just friggin’ love the Black Keys. Having caught Motor City a few times now, I can understand the comparison. The band’s sultry, at times bluesy neo-R&B evokes a similarly gritty — and somewhat seedy — sensuality.
As for Jamiroquai … OK, I’ve never been a fan. I liked him better when he was called Stevie Wonder. But, hey, two out of three ain’t bad, right?
Anyway, this Thursday, February 16, at Nectar’s, CM & MC take the stage for the first time in three months. And they’re packing heat.
Later this month, the band will release its debut EP, Hard Tellin’ Not Knowin’, on Mitchell’s label, Slanted Black Records. The five-song EP will be available through the usual online channels — iTunes and the like. But you can check out a prereleased track, “Another Lover,” at the band’s website, cmmcband.com. And I recommend that you do.
As dynamic and powerful a vocalist as Mitchell is live, he’s equally measured, engaging and technically impressive on record. And, given the full studio treatment by the Tank’s Ben Collette, Motor City is up to some seriously cool sonic shenanigans. I gotta say, if the rest of the EP sounds anything like “Another Lover,” we might have an early candidate for local album of the year — you know, if such an award existed.
Bonus points if you can tell me which “Saturday Night Live” sketch that headline comes from. (Hint, it involved Mike Myers and Scottish accents.)
This Friday, February 17, local all-star folk collective the Wee Folkestra celebrates its one-year anniversary with a gig at Radio Bean dubbed the Red & Black Ball — the band has a penchant for red and black attire. While a birthday is always cause for celebration, this show is notable, as it marks the last time you’ll be able to see the band in its current form.
WF’s Eric Segalstad writes that the Folkestra is about to undergo some significant changes. Guitarist Matt Harpster, who also plays with the Bohemian Blues Quartet and the Amida Bourbon Project — the latter with fellow Wee Folker Aya Inoue — is leaving the band. The Folkestra has been pretty busy of late and gigging frequently. Already having two other working bands to think about, he decided to step aside.
The other departure is Greg Alexander, who recently returned from Los Angeles and his gig with musical comedian Nice Peter — check out his Epic Rap Battles online. Funny stuff. Anyway, Peter — who, apparently, is nice — offered Alexander a permanent gig. So he’ll be heading off to La La Land to seek his fame and fortune and maybe chill with Snoop Dogg.
In the meantime, all nine — count ’em! — original members of the Wee Folkestra will take the stage one last time this Friday.
Congratulations to Dave Keller. The local blues man scored a recent win for “Best Self-Produced CD” at the 2012 Blues Foundation Awards for his latest effort, Where I’m Coming From. The record, released in 2011, was a striking collection of relatively obscure soul and R&B songs that, according to Keller, “should have been classics, but somehow slipped through the cracks.” In addition to a small cash prize, Keller gets a healthy PR boost with guaranteed airplay on Sirius XM Radio and a coveted “Blues Breaker” spotlight on the House of Blues Radio Show with Elwood Blues. If you wanna see what all the fuss is about, catch Keller on his home turf this Saturday, February 18, at the Black Door in Montpelier. You can also check him out on a pair of local radio programs: Friday, February 17, on WDEV 96.7 FM at 2 p.m., and Sunday, February 19, at 9 a.m. on WIZN 106.7 FM.
Welcome back, Paper Thick Walls. This Chicago-based alt-country outfit has an interesting local connection — bassist Roger Sherman grew up in Montpelier — which probably explains why they’ve been back three times in the last six months or so. They’ll be at the Monkey House this Saturday, February 18.
New band alert! Shelly Shredder was recently added to the bill with Yellowbirds at the Monkey House this Thursday, February 16. (See the interview with Yellowbirds’ Sam Cohen here.) Shredder is something of a local supergroup, featuring Tristan Baribeau (Villanelles) on guitar and vocals, Jake Brennan (Buzz Jar) on guitar and vocals, Rob Voland (Dangerbird) on bass and vocals, Corey Wilhelm (Bearquarium) on drums and Johanna Hiller (the Marigolds) on acoustic guitar and vocals. Hiller describes their sound as something like “Neil Young meets the Jayhawks, with four-part harmonies and sweet guitar work.” Since the Monkey House gig is the band’s debut, I can neither confirm nor deny that assessment. I will say that my inner alt-country fan is pretty excited about that description, though, especially given the band’s collective pedigree.
Speaking of the Monkey House, there’s an interesting comedy show at the Winooski hotspot this Sunday, February 19. Hosted by Colin Ryan and Pat Lynch, Crowd Control pits four local comedians — Will Betts, Kit Rivers, Nathan Hartswick and 2012 Higher Ground Comedy Battle champ Kyle Gagnon — against one another in a mix of standup and improv. The audience decides the order in which the comedians will perform, which is interesting. But they also decide the topics the comedians must address during their sets, meaning that the contestants must have enough material to cover virtually every topic imaginable, or they’ll just have to wing it and make up jokes on the spot. I’m intrigued.
Last but not least, neither of Vermont’s Grammy nominees, Grace Potter or Al Conti, wound up taking home statuettes from the Grammy Awards last Sunday. Still, it’s an honor just to be nominated, right? And, as a consolation for Potter fans, Grace and Co. recently announced they are nearing completion on a new record, dubbed The Lion and the Beat, due out this summer. The album is being produced by noted knob tweaker Jim Scott and will feature collaborations with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. In other Potter news, Gibson Guitar is reportedly working with her on a new axe, the Grace Potter Signature Flying V. That’s pretty cool on its own. Even cooler? The only other woman for whom Gibson has ever commissioned a signature guitar is Joan Jett.
Once again, this week’s totally self-indulgent column segment, in which I share a random sampling of what was on my iPod, turntable, CD player, 8-track player, etc., this week.
John Talabot, fIN
Tennis, Young & Old
Sharon Van Etten, Tramp (Yup. Still. So good.)
Fucked Up, Year of the Tiger
Charles Bradley, No Time For Dreaming