’Twas the night after Christmas, and creatures were stirring — wall to wall — at The Dunedin Brewery, waiting with anticipation to dance like sugarplums, because Troy Youngblood & the Soulfish and shoeless soul were throwing a party. The calendar said December, but it felt like September outside.
For me, the only male vocalist in Florida who reaches me the way Youngblood does is J.J. Grey. Youngblood’s voice captivates you immediately, the deep rich tenor so strong, so clear, so emotive. He owned the room even during the soundcheck (which was one of the best numbers of the set: “Native Son”).
This band delivers a sound absolutely perfect to match Youngblood’s heartfelt lyrics. Matt Salvador and Sean C. Sinback on drums and bass drive the music with precision. Thee Eloquent Barbarian is an excellent keyboard player; he plays with it tilted forward so that people can see, which is truly great, since the keyboard is the one instrument usually not visible (the actual keyboards). He has an amazing baritone voice and also plays a mean harmonica.
Troy plays guitar, and he plays it well, but this night he handed the fancy stuff off to a superb young slinger who made a huge impression on the packed house, George Pennington III. I suspect most people share my desire to see him again, and soon! Thoughtful solos, some shredding and a wicked wah-wah pedal were all in evidence.
And there is Bob Feckner, who adds amazing colors and layers with his flugelhorn and his trumpet. They mesh so well with every song. This is indeed a complete band.
“New Orleans Blues” closed with a great “When the Saints…” coda. “Just Another Day” digs to the bottom of your soul: “Just another day… in my life,” and he followed that up with “What the Hell Am I Doing Here.” More evidence: “Blues in My Blood.” This man can write and sing, and this band just plain rocks.
“Molly’s Door” is Donna’s favorite: “Here comes that Chris Brown song!” And the band closed the set with “Devil Smells Like Bourbon when she wakes up in the morning, and she’s lying next to you.” Thee Eloquent Barbarian had another great piano solo, and Troy lit this one up with his wah-wah.
Now it was time for shoeless soul. This group has a diverse repertoire which always makes their shows a blast. This set started with a ska-ish tune, and that led into a fine blues song. Rene Schlegal’s singing is just right, and his guitar playing was great. On this night, tenor saxophone player Mike Ratza was joined by a trombone player who added greatly to the sound and really pumped up the ska-based songs.
WMNF 88.5 recently held a Frank Sinatra Tribute show (in honor of the icon’s 100th birthday). At the tribute, shoeless soul covered “All of Me.” They recreated that, and the country styling made it a very different but truly enjoyable song. They also dropped in a swing song along the way.
Sladjan Vidic on bass and Dave Gerulat on drums kept the beat steady and solid all evening. Austin Llewelyn (formerly with Currentz, now with Row Jomah and the Dunedin Brewery House Band) sat in for a couple of songs on keyboards.
“Get Love Tonight” was a solid tune, and again I had the thought: Got Trombone? Must Ska! They had people dancing and swaying.
You can catch shoeless soul at Hometeam New Year’s Rally December 31st at 5 p.m.
A special shout-out is due to Joe Roma, who filled in admirably for soundman Chris Fama. Roma, who fronts his band Row Jomah, has worked sound at the brewery before on events such as Oktobeerfest, but he had a great mix this night inside the pub.
[TROY: Native Son, Little Bit of Blues, Hotel Florida, New Orleans Blues > When the Saints Go Marching In, Just Another Day, What the Hell Am I Doing Here, River of Souls > Jump and Shout > River of Souls, Blues in My Blood, Molly’s Door, Devil Smells Like Bourbon]