In the new Stax Records group, Southern Avenue, one can hear a variety of blues, gospel and soul influences on their self-titled debut recording. Southern Avenue is comprised of Memphis-born, church-bred sisters Tierinii and Tikyra Jackson, respectively a soulful, charismatic singer and a subtle, powerful drummer; guitarist Ori Naftaly, an Israeli-born blues disciple who first came to America as an acclaimed solo artist; versatile jazz-inspired bassist Daniel McKee; and the band's newest addition, keyboardist Jeremy Powell, an early alumnus of Stax's legendary music academy. Guesting on the group's self-named 10-song album are Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and trumpeter Marc Franklin of the Bo-Keys.
One hears echoes of the Staples Singers with the opening message song "Don't Give Up," with Tierinii's fervent vocal with supporting vocals and Naftaly's atmospheric searing slide. It is followed by a the funky groove of "What Did I Do" introduced by a guitar riff before the heartfelt song of giving her man her best and need to make things right. And like the rest of the recording, the simple, strong groove anchors powerful vocals with horns embellishing the performance and help the tension build. Then there is a lovely soulful ballad "Love Me Right." "80 Miles From Memphis" is a peppy rocker where Tierinii sings about crying her blues away because she is away from home as she has stones in her passage and only ten dollars in her pocket as Naftaly throws in with a rockabilly-tinged solo an additional delight. Tierinii's vocals remind me of Shemekia Copeland sharing similar tonal qualities and poise.
The one cover, Ann Pebbles' "Slipped Tripped And Fell In Love" seamlessly fits in with the band's originals, and has a nice piano break from Jeremy Powell. "Peace Will Come," another Staples Singers' styled message song closes this excellent debut recording, by a group that you can certainly expect to hear much more about.
I received my review copy from Concord Records. For folks in the Washington DC area, they are appearing at Jammin Java in Vienna Virginia on Sunday evening, February 26, http://www.ticketfly.com/event/1401833-southern-avenue-stax-records-vienna/. Here is a video of them performing "Don't Give Up."