Listening to the debut record from Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires, There is a Bomb in Gilead, you may be shocked to learn that Bains himself was a choir boy. And we're not talking about a figurative choir boy, here. We're talking a guy who regularly sang "Amazing Grace," "Holy Holy Holy," and the rest. For the Alabama native Bains, church and music were inseparable. And rightfully so. His grandmother was a choir director for 70 years, while his grandfather taught him that singing in church was just as much about putting on a performance as it was about singing the praises of the Almighty. "My granddaddy talked a lot about connecting to other people. You weren't singing for yourself. You were trying to give something to someone else," Bains says. And give he does. Lee Bains III and the Glory Fire's There is a Bomb in Gilead is a scorcher that mixes outlaw country, booze-soaked blues rock, and ample doses of Americana. A word of warning: Bains and company like to play loud. They want people to feel the music in their bones, much in the same way that the singer used to feel the choir music years and years ago. "Sometimes we'll play and we'll see people covering their ears," Bains says. "I know that for me I like that feeling." —Chris Haire THURSDAY
For the majority of his life, Lawrence Gordon was a mechanic who ran a shop in Ravenel. He'd never played a musical instrument and had never sang publicly, not even in a church choir. But all of that changed with the passing of his sister. "I asked the Lord to give me a song that had never been sung," Gordon says. The Good Lord provided and Gordon began singing the tune just as the Almighty had taught him. The only problem: He was stopped in traffic at a red light. "People were looking at me," he says. And it didn't stop with just one song. More soon followed. Today, Gordon, a.k.a. the Old School Gospel Singer, has an eight-song collection of all original gospel tunes, One Lane Highway. "Never in my mind did I think that I would be a gospel singer or any kind of singer," Gordon says. "He found me. I didn't find Him." This Saturday, Gordon will be signing copies of One Lane Highway at What-Cha-Like Gospel CDs and Boutique, 3910 Rivers Ave #B, North Charleston, (843) 744-0332. —Chris Haire SATURDAY
Indie rock's never produced many guitar heroes, which is probably a legacy of its roots in punk. Its most notable shredder is Built to Spill singer/guitarist Doug Martsch. The best thing about Martsch is that his incendiary talents are secondary to his quirky songcraft. Judging from his albums, he's happier crafting a pretty melody than a searing lead. This recalls Richard Thompson's understated manner, but the distinction disappears live, where Martsch sheds any sense of restraint. While based in Boise, Built to Spill evokes the cloudy Northwestern pop sway of acts like Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse, which dovetails with the often wistful tone of Martsch's lyrics. Unlike those acts, Martsch is drawn to art rock and demonstrates a gift for knotty textures and baroque structures that in lesser hands might seem convoluted or windy. But they're so tuneful and tastefully staged that you reach the climax before you know it. Though the band is a collection of awe-inspiring performers, their release pace has slowed considerably. Over the last 20 years, they've made seven LPs, but only two the last decade, the most recent being 2009's There Is No Enemy. For more information, visit musicfarm.com. —Chris Parker SATURDAY
The John King Band has found their voice, and they're ready to be heard. The five young men (including the King brothers) hail from Athens, Ga., but love performing at the Windjammer so much that they endearingly refer to it as "home." John King, lead vocalist and primary songwriter, says that they began playing for College of Charleston sorority/fraternity functions, and eventually developed a local following. They identify with both Southern rock and country roots, citing the twin-lead guitar attack of bandmates Parker Smith and Joe Higginse. Their first EP, Up North, is a solid reflection of their style, both lyrically and musically. Since his departure from the University of Georgia last year, King has been in Nashville working with songwriters and producers such as Doug Johnson and Ira Dean, and perfecting his craft as a writer. An upcoming album is in the works. For King, part of the fun in writing, he says, is the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes rather than drawing solely from personal experience. Although they enjoy the process of making an album, the John King Band revels in the performance aspect of making music and draws much of their energy from crowd participation. For more information, visit thejohnkingband.com and the-windjammer.com. —Katie Kimsey FRIDAY
Over the last 40 years, Al Jarreau has earned a devoted following among jazz fans in the U.S. and across the globe for his scat-inspired delivery, but even after all of those years, the 72-year-old musician's enthusiasm hasn't diminished a bit. In fact, Jarreau's voracious appetite for good music, regardless of genre, has been with him since childhood.
"I was inundated by great stuff from an early age, all the way to the top of my heart and soul," Jarreau says. "As a kid, I listened to Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, and Sarah Vaughan and all of that. I fell in love with that music, but I also became a big fan of R&B and rock 'n' roll. And then along came a vocal group from Paris called Les Double Six, and they stole my heart some more. Then music from Brazil, which just rolled me over backwards."
Best know for his smooth-groovin' hit "We're in This Love Together" and the theme to old Moonlighting television show, Jarreau's latest effort is Al Jarreau and the Metropole Orkest: Live. Jarreau partnered with acclaimed conductor and arranger Vince Mendoza and Holland's Metropol Orkest, a 53-piece orchestra, for a two-night engagement at the Theater aan de Parade in Den Bosch, Netherlands. While the Metropole Orkest normally performs classical works, this collaboration leaned more toward the swing that Jarreau loved as a youngster. The album features renditions of such standards as "Spain (I Can Recall)" and "Cold Duck" as well as a sophisticated reworking of "We're in This Love Together."
While the album features elaborate orchestral arrangements, Jarreau and his regular quintet keep the material tight and jazzy on stage. As part of the three-day Lowcountry Jazz Fest at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center this week, Jarreau will have musical director Joe Turano on keyboards and sax alongside guitarist John Calderon, drummer Mark Simmons, bassist Chris Walker, and pianist/flautist Larry Williams.
"My band and I have a great chemistry," he adds. "It's a great family to be a part of."
The Lowcountry Jazz Fest features a variety of modern jazz talent. Veteran alto sax player David Sanborn and multi-instrumentalist Brian Culbertson bring their collaborative, smooth-jazz "Dream Tour" to the PAC stage on Fri. Aug. 31 with an opening set from guitarist Matt Marshak. Guitarist Norman Brown, keyboardist Alex Bugnon, and sax players Gerald Albright and Ronnie Laws headline the fest on Sat. Sept. 1. Saxophonist Jessy J will perform a Sunday morning jazz brunch at the nearby Montague Terrace (adjacent to the Coliseum) at 11 a.m. on Sun. Sept. 2. Jarreau and his band headline the final event on Sunday evening.
"I fell in love with the improvisational attitude early on because that's the way you express what you're feeling right at that moment," Jarreau says. "I try to bring that to the table, no matter the event."
Flip-flop Rock | Donavon Frankenreiter
w/ Luke Cunningham.
Tues. Aug. 21.
Isle of Palms
Like Jack Johnson, Donavon Frankenreiter has followed a similar path from the surfing world to the land of beachy, feel-good flip-flop rock. And rightfully so. It was Johnson who produced Frankenreiter's first album, invited him along on tour, and convinced him it was possible to make a living in music. "That was the moment when I thought maybe this is something I could actually do," says Frankenreiter. "I learned a lot touring with Jack about being yourself and singing like you want to sing and not trying to be someone you're not." Frankenreiter was able to take advantage of his 20-year surfing career, using those beach-town crowds as a springboard. He's currently touring in support of his fifth studio album, Start Livin', a loose, live album that was recorded in seven days with Matt Grundy, who co-produced and played all the instruments. "[My last album] Glow was the most poppy record I ever made. This one's the most organic record," the former surfer says. Months short of his 40th birthday, Frankenreiter feels confident in himself and his sound. "My songs are pretty simple," he says. "Maybe people who come to my concert can escape for an hour and a half and hear what it is to enjoy the moment with the friends you're with right then and there." For more, visit the-windjammer.com. —Chris Parker
Country | Early Ray
w/ Hootie and the Blowfish, The Blue Dogs, Collective Soul, and Southwood
Fri. Aug. 17-Sat. Aug. 18
Family Circle Cup Stadium
Early Ray's Rayen Belcher is a musician with a heart for the guitar and a long-term relationship with country music, except this relationship isn't a smooth and easy one. Early Ray has been roughing and tumbling with the genre as they create the bastard love child of Kiss, Hank Williams Jr., and Johnny Cash. This weekend, the South Carolina native Belcher, along with band members Joanna Perry, Kerry Brooks, and Gary Greene, will take the stage at Hootie and Blowfish's annual Homegrown Concert. Last year, Hootie guitarist and songwriter Mark Bryan produced a song for Early Ray. At the time, Early Ray was looking for a drummer, and Bryan pointed the band to Greene. "It all started with Mark and the relationship grew from there," says Troy Perry, the band's manager. Later, Early Ray was asked to play at the Homegrown show. Not surprisingly, they accepted. And that's not all that's on the band's plate. The band is also working on the video for their new single "Where the Wild Things Are." For more information, visit earlyray.com. —DeAnna Kerley
Indie Rock Showcase | Stereofly Southeast Showcase
w/ Company, the Local Honeys, Mountains of Earth, Bully Pulpit, and more
Sun. Aug. 19
If Greg Slattery had his druthers, he'd prefer to listen to local music and nothing more. Which is a good thing since he's the man behind the Stereofly Collective, a group aiming to promote music and art throughout the Southeast. "I want bands and the public to think more locally," Slattery says, noting that the buy-local movement talks a good game when it comes to produce and the like, but they don't do jack for local music. "I think music and art gets neglected in that." This week Slattery and the crew are hosting a Stereofly Southeast Showcase in Charleston, one of a handful of mini-fests the collective is sponsoring in the, um, Southeast, featuring bands from the Southeast, duh. For Stereofly's Holy City stop, Charleston's Company will be on the bill, along with Manray (Athens), Shallow Palace (Columbia), Baby Baby (Atlanta), and handful of other bands. Slattery is particularly jazzed about catching Charleston's Bully Pulpit. "I actually haven't seen them," he says. For more information, visit stereoflycollective.com. —Chris Haire
Americana | The Bad Popes
Fri. Aug. 17
Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ
Sat. Aug. 18
The music of the Bad Popes wanders the entire Americana landscape and beyond. From haunting pedal steel-driven spaghetti-western swing to spy-movie surf rock to a little classic Buck Owens, the Popes are all over the Americana map. This Upstate act — featuring Greenville vets singer-guitarist Jef Chandler, singer-guitarist-mandolin player Charles Hedgepath, pedal steel-dobro player Mike Bagwell, and bassist Chris Garrett — is currently touring behind their sophomore disc, Town and Country, an album anchored by two standout tracks, "People With Money" and "Lord Will Giveth." The former is a soulful rootsy rocker that recalls the Band's "The Weight," while "Lord Will Giveth" moves in a slinky '40s pop gait, driven by its jazzy bassline. "It's basically a minor blues tune and a very standard progression that's probably a throwback, but I like things from that time period," Hedgepath says about the dark tune. "The idea is that no matter what you do or what you say, you're going to have good things happen to you and bad things happen — whether you're a good person or a bad person." The ability to play such a wide range of styles is one of the perks of getting older, if you ask Hedgepath."I'm 35 now. I just want to please myself and the people I play with," he says. "That's what's great with this group — we just laugh and have a good time. There's no drama." For more, visit badpopes.com. —Chris Parker
Bird has been touring the country this summer in support of his 12th studio album, Break it Yourself. He recorded the collection himself at his barn in western Illinois near the banks of the Mississippi River. A newly released documentary titled Here’s What Happened shows the making of the record.