I didn’t say that to Kenny Harvey, bass player for Holey Miss Moley, but I confess I thought it. Come Back Alice had just finished their encore just past the midnight curfew at Skipper’s Smokehouse, and he and I turned to each other and, in stereo, said, “What a great night!”
What an understatement!
This night had its conception more than nine months ago, and it took full shape in the last several weeks. Come Back Alice and Holey Miss Moley have been talking, planning, collaborating, crosspollinating, and generally doing what great musicians do: working together to make great music.
Here was the plan: CBA would cover The Allman Brothers’ At Fillmore East (in its original two-LP format); HMM would perform a set of music by the Meters (also known as the Funky Meters, but that’s redundant!).
At the time, my only nagging thought was about how CBA would handle the two-guitars-and-Hammond-B3 set-up with just Tony Tyler and Dani Jaye. I assumed they would work it out. I just never imagined it would be so… wonderful.
I am lucky (and old). I got to see ABB in March of 1971 at Lehigh University with the original line-up, and since 2007 I’d seen the Warren-Derek-Oteil edition 16 times. [For you purists, you will note that the ’71 show in Bethlehem PA does not appear in any database. I assure the show happened; I was on the concert committee, I was sick as a dog that night, and Cowboy opened, with Tom Wynn on drums (father of Thomas and Olivia Wynn).]
I arrived mid-Meters to the sounds of one of jam-dom’s most-covered songs, “Cissy Strut” (you could look it up). From there, HMM were on “Fire On the Bayou,” plus several more tunes, including two more from my favorite Meters album (tied with Cabbage Alley), Rejuvenation: “Just Kissed My Baby” and the set-closing band favorite “It Ain’t No Use > Jajam” (that’s HMM’s original tag). They just tore it up. The Rev. Funky D had a great piano solo on this one, and Jacob Cox always destroys this on guitar. On some recent CBA dates, Kenny Harvey had sat in on bass for John Werner. This night, Yral Morris was returning the favor on drums. You’d never know he wasn’t the regular drummer. That’s how these bands roll.
It was a quick transition to the ABB set, and I saw Jacob Cox strapping on his axe. At once, everything came into focus. Cox loves ripping into the ABB catalog; this would be a perfect fit. And it had not occurred to me that there really should be two drummers. Wait! There IS another kit on stage, and here comes Miguel Elasmar, a longtime friend of Tony Tyler. Sextet. On stage. Ready to rock the house.
Covering an album that is arguably one of the greatest live records of all time is a daunting task. Even the Allman Brothers themselves found that out when they honored the 40th anniversary in 2011 at the Beacon. So this was an ambitious project, to be sure.
From the very first notes of “Statesboro Blues,” my only thought was: NAILED IT. It was on! Two drummers in perfect unison, twin guitars, bass and the Hammond B3 organ. There were so many aspects of this performance that were just so right, but I have to start with Tony Tyler’s voice. If you’ve seen him, you already know. He belongs in the Preachers’ Club, along with Gregg, JB, Warren, and JJ (just naming the chairmen of the board). And I don’t see or hear it as imitating Gregg; that is Tony, all the way. Second, we must discuss Tony on the Hammond B3 organ (with that marvelous swirling Leslie cabinet). The B3 just takes you to church (actually, that’s the C3, but whatevs…). Oh, right. Tony also plays a bit of guitar.
Dani Jaye is a superb guitar slinger, and I was pleased to hear her play more guitar than I’ve ever seen before. For “Done Somebody Wrong,” she switched to her enchanting violin, and it worked perfectly. Then Jacob and Dani tore up “Stormy Monday” on guitars as Tony led the way on B3. They started that format for “You Don’t Love Me,” such a delightful romp, but then Tony strapped on guitar to take a magical solo. They were firing on all six cylinders for certain.
“Hot ‘Lanta” slid into “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” with great anticipation from the crowd. Tony was on organ for “’Lanta” and the beginning of “Liz,” then joined the guitar army. And “Liz” is one of the songs Jacob loves to tear up most, so this was deluxe.
Shortly before Yral Morris and Miguel did their drum thing, it finally struck me that Big Bad John Werner was indeed very big and very bad. I have a thing for rhythm sections, you know, and this trio was just killing it. And Werner was huge all night. “Whipping Post” got the three-guitar treatment to close the set.
I am so glad I was there. I suspect all attendees felt the same way.
But the night had just begun! HMM jumped back on stage for a trio of songs, and I’d say they are three of my most favorites. How did they know?
“Devil Funk” is a tune from their eventually-to-be-released CD (you know how these things go); it is funky and fun, with Danny Clemmons interjecting “Devil Funk” and “Yep” at appropriate intervals. Then Clemmons really got to shine on the Galactic cover “There’s Something Wrong with This Picture.” That led into a new one for me, “Shake It with Me.” This was nuts on many levels. Yral took a turn, and Kenny Harvey was blasting on bass. The Rev. Funky D had another great piano solo.
But what of Christian “Awesome Sauce” Ryan? His alto sax was integral to the mix all night. On “Shake It with Me,” he switched to baritone (he had played it earlier). The song twisted itself up into an Afro-pop groove, and it was, well, awesome!
Then CBA rolled back on stage. Harvey stayed on bass for the first tune, with CopE’s Brad Elliot sitting in on drums for “Live It Up,” the first tune on the new CBA eponymous release. “Ugly Rumors” was a new song, and it was, to quote a phrase, “evil, wicked, mean and nasty.” WOW. That was followed by “Angelina” and another wickedly nasty song, “Whispers.” If memory serves beyond my scribbled notes, Cox was on stage for the bulk of this set with CBA.
Mr. Awesome Sauce was called up to add his baritone sax to crowd favorite “Coraline,” followed by a truly menacing and wonderful tune called “The Ride.”
At which point Harvey and I said, “What a great night!” We were both right!
Be sure to check out Come Back Alice and Holey Miss Moley at Downtown River Jam this weekend, Hometeam New Year’s Rally Dec. 26-28 at Maddox Ranch in Lakeland, and Gov-Fest Feb. 12-15 also at Maddox Ranch, in addition to numerous other appearances. Support live music!
Great to see Sulana, Nova, Ed and Ms. Ed, Paul, Tim, and my favorite bartender inside!
Once again my photos are decidedly mediocre.
[HMM as Meters: He Bite Me, Can You Do Without?, Handclapping Song, People Say, Hey Pocky A-way, Look-ka Py Py, Cissy Strut, Fire On the Bayou, Gossip, Give It What You Can, Just Kissed My Baby, Doodle-Oop, It Ain’t No Use > Jajam (HMM original)]
[CBA as ABB: Statesboro Blues, Must Have Done Somebody Wrong, Stormy Monday, You Don’t Love Me, Hot ‘Lanta, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, Whipping Post]
[HMM: Devil Funk, There’s Something Wrong with This Picture, Shake It With Me]
[CBA: Live It Up, Ugly Rumors, Angelina, Whispers, Coraline, The Ride]
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