Jimmy Hall Birthday Bash

Jimmy Hall Birthday Bash

Honey Island Swamp Band, Royal Johnson

Sat, April 15, 2017

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Cox Capitol Theatre

Macon, GA

$20.00 - $30.00

Jimmy Hall and Friends
Jimmy Hall and Friends
Jimmy Hall was born in Birmingham, Alabama and raised in Mobile by a musical family steeped in gospel tradition.

Jimmy Hall, vocalist for Jeff Beck's 2014 US Tour co-headling with ZZ Top, is, according to Jeff Beck's Website, a Southern Boy With Lots of Soul. Jimmy is heading on tour with Jeff Beck again Spring of 2015 and will be touring with Hank Jr. in the Fall.

Jimmy Hall first gained notoriety as the front man for the band Wet Willie from Mobile, Alabama. His unique brand of R&B-infused rock and roll swagger propelled the group’s “Keep On Smilin’” into the Top 10 on the Billboard singles chart in 1974. After five albums with Marcon, Georgia's Capricorn Records, Wet Willie moved to the Epic label in 1977, carrying the singles “Street Corner Serenade” and “Weekend” to the Top 40. As a solo artist, Jimmy appeared in the Top 40 yet again with “I’m Happy That Love Has Found You” in 1980. He was nominated for a Best Male Vocalist Grammy for his work on Jeff Beck’s 1986 album, Flash. His songs have been recorded by Gregg Allman, The Marshall Tucker Band, The Amazing Rhythm Aces, Johnny Russell, and others. Since the 1980s, Hall has been a vocalist, saxophonist, harmonica player and band leader with Hank Williams, Jr.
Honey Island Swamp Band
Honey Island Swamp Band
Take a late-night stroll through downtown New Orleans and you’ll hear a thousand flavours of music spill from the clubs. Spin the new album by the Crescent City’s new favourite sons, meanwhile, and you’ll hear a band who embody that eclectic spirit. “There are songs here for every mood, occasion or playlist,” explains Honey Island Swamp Band’s Aaron Wilkinson of Demolition Day, “so hopefully it will appeal to a lot of musical tastes. Just make sure you turn it up loud…”
Released in 2016 on Ruf Records, Demolition Day is the band’s fourth full-length studio release and marks a milestone in their career. The album title cuts deep. It’s just over a decade since Hurricane Katrina tore along the Gulf Coast, plunging New Orleans into devastation, but throwing together four Big Easy evacuees who found themselves marooned in San Francisco.
Aaron Wilkinson (acoustic guitar/mandolin/vocals), Chris Mulé (electric guitar/vocals), Sam Price (bass/vocals) and Garland Paul (drums/vocals) were already on nodding terms from their hometown circuit, but when the four men joined forces for a weekly residency at San Francisco’s Boom Boom Room, the chemistry was undeniable. By 2009, the lineup had released award-winning debut Wishing Well, enlisted Hammond B-3 wizard Trevor Brooks and placed one foot onto the podium of New Orleans greats.
Ten years and a thousand gigs down the line, that same battle-hardened lineup took just four days to track Demolition Day at The Parlor Recording Studio in New Orleans with famed producer Luther Dickinson (also leader of the North Mississippi Allstars and ex-Black Crowes guitarist). “We had a very tight window to record,” Wilkinson recalls, “so we had to minimalise in places and really pack a lot of emotion into each take. Luther calls it ‘the freedom of limitation’ and it really served us well on this album.”
As did the no-frills production ethos. “We’ve always wanted to record to two-inch tape, to get that old analogue sound,” say the band, “and this was our first opportunity to make it happen. Luther was the perfect producer to help us nail that old-school, authentic sound. He was great at keeping us focused on the spirit of each performance, not getting bogged down in details and perfectionism. That’s what we were looking for and what we needed.”
After all, polish isn’t necessary when you’re working with songs this strong. Across its eleven cuts, Demolition Day tips a hat to most of the great American genres, while adding the Honey Island Swamp Band’s inimitable thumbprint. There’s the spring-heeled slide-blues of “Ain’t No Fun”, the upbeat funk of “Head High Water Blues”, the cat-house piano and country-fried guitars of “How Do You Feel”. But then, on the emotional flipside, there’s also the reflective wah-guitar lilt of “Say It Isn’t True”, the mournful funeral-jazz slow-burn of “No Easy Way” and the heart-in-mouth acoustic confessional of “Katie”. “We’re diverse and complex people,” Wilkinson says, “and our audiences are as well. So we try to let our music reflect that.”
Just as eclectic are the lyrical themes. “They really are all over the map,” Wilkinson says of the topics explored on Demolition Day. “Some are rooted in reality and personal experience. ‘Head High Water Blues’ is a look back at the Hurricane Katrina experience now that ten years has passed. Much has been rebuilt, but much has not and never will be – and the song is more about the emotional scars that can never be fully erased. Others are just fiction and storytelling. We had the music for ‘Through Another Day’, and it sounded sort of old and epic and Southern, and that inspired this Civil War-era storyline that became the lyrics. Others are just sort of playful nonsense about life and relationships, like ‘Watch And Chain’.”
Demolition Day is just the start. You might experience these eleven tracks for the first time on your stereo or smartphone, but as Honey Island Swamp Band tour across the States and beyond in 2016, you can expect them to take on a life of their own. “These songs will continue to progress, develop and blossom,” Wilkinson says. “A record is a snapshot in time, a picture of where a song is at a particular moment. But we’ve never been the type of band to stick to one way of playing a song, so we’ll continue to let the music evolve. That’s what keeps it fresh and exciting for us – and we want to share that with our audiences.”
Royal Johnson
Royal Johnson
Royal Johnson began with just one song. Founders Chance Royal and Andy Johnson got together in May of 2014 to record a simple demo, just for fun, of a song that Johnson had recently written. He laid down some basic guitar and vocals, leaving Royal to work on the song for a couple days. In that time Royal filled out the song, adding bass and layered guitar work. The new creative outlet was a welcomed change for the creatively frustrated guitarist.

“After we got together and recorded ‘Ballad of Birmingham,’ we knew that there was potential in forming a band around the music that we were writing,” says Royal. “I was in a band situation that basically refused to grow musically, and I wanted to get out of the grind of being in a strictly covers band. Andy and I had a really good working relationship when we were in (Macon band) Mystery Road together, and I knew that he also wanted to do something creative.”

A native of Thomaston, Georgia, Royal has been playing guitar for almost 20 years. Influenced by rock and blues music at an early age, his journey has made him a proficient player at several different instruments and styles, including jazz, funk, country and soul music.

More songs quickly developed between the duo, and it became apparent that an EP was in order. They had played in bands together before, but their step-by-step, “from the ground up” approach to the new project posed no need for rushing into assembling a full band. They continued their recording project track by track, in an extra room at Chance’s house, thoughtfully crafting songs as they went and leaving plenty of space for experimentation.

“Most of the songs started with just an idea, or a riff, or a loose structure of some chords and a few lyrics,” admits Johnson. “I would bring a song to Chance, or vice versa, and record whatever ideas I was hearing, and then the next time I came over Chance would have added all of his ideas. And then we would pull back and forth on the direction, experimenting and re-cutting tracks until we thought we’d found the right sounds. In some cases the end results were drastically different than the original ideas. It’s a different approach, but it allowed us to create freely, with no pressure.”

Johnson began singing in church choirs in Upson County, and within a few years had taught himself how to play guitar and lap steel. His gospel-style vocals have led bands that experimented in everything from alternative rock and blues to jazz and funk in the middle GA area, leading to this most focused point in his career. A former English student and professional writer, his writing styles are as varied as his musical tastes. He also plays in a duo, Dos Blues Guys, who recently won the Atlanta Blues Challenge at the Hard Rock Cafe.

... … … … …

Assemble the Revolution…

The songs kept coming, and by the turn of the year the “band” was in full-on planning for a full release. In January Justin Raffield of Mystery Road tracked drums for 6 of the now 9 songs.

In February Johnson brought in old friend Kevin Vines to record a few bass tracks. His playing electrified the sound of the songs, and it became clear that he was the bass player the group needed. Johnson and Vines met each other during a short stint as hired hands in the band Sol Junky a couple years back.

A native of Nashville, Kevin began playing bass in his grandmother’s church on a two-lane highway in the low country of South Carolina. He grew up in Washington DC listening to and playing all the popular styles of the 70s – folk, rock, funk and gospel. In his words, “it’s all about the joy of a deep gutbucket groove.”

Meanwhile the duo began developing a live routine. Their second show (with Raffield on cajon) was opening for classic rockers Stillwater in March of 2015 in front of a crowd of 1500+ at The Crazy Bull in Macon. In April and May the band began serious planning for the full album, honing in on art design and track listing.

In early June of 2015 Royal Johnson performed as a full band for the first time, with Raffield on drums and friendly Maconite Joseph Palmer on bass, at The Big House Allman Brothers Band Museum in Macon for the Gregg Brooks benefit/Tim Brooks Memorial. In July, as Royal and Johnson put the finishing touches on tracking for the full album, Vines introduced drummer Joanie Ferguson to the group.

Ferguson grew up in Michigan, grooving to the funky Motown sound and cutting her teeth playing in church, school and local bands. She toured with ROSCO in the mid-90s, which also featured Charlie Wooten (Zydefunk, Royal Southern Brotherhood) and CR Gruver (New Orleans Suspects). Vines just happened to be touring the same circuit with the band Full Stop, and he met Joanie around ‘97 in Greenville, NC. The two stayed in touch, and after several years of touring, both somehow made their way to Atlanta and re-connected.

After just one rehearsal the current RJ lineup made its first performance on Sunday, July 26, 2015 at the annual Jodie Jam at The Big House, with R&B legend Robert Lee Coleman (James Brown, Percy Sledge) sitting in on a few songs. Coleman was thrilled with the new group, and continues to frequently play shows with the band. His feelings were echoed that day, and the new foursome charged ahead with confident tenacity.

… … … … …

And now…

The Big House is a great place to start for any band in Macon. The buzz created with those first two shows continues to grow louder, and that ABB-Macon family is still a large part of the Royal Johnson base. The warm loving vibes continued to grow, as did the anxiety about the debut album.

Friend and Atlanta session drummer Chris Reeves recorded the final three drum tracks in August, and by the end of September the album Belly Full was shipped. A release party was held at historic Grant’s Lounge in Macon, as the official after-party for the 2015 GABBA Festival, with Coleman again joining the band onstage. The late night patrons were hanging from the rafters as the band unleashed their new material with precision and power.

In the months since, the band has captivated audiences of all colors and creeds by playing a variety of venues from central Florida to the North Carolina highlands – outdoor festivals like Papa Joe’s Banjo-B-Que with Willie Nelson and Old Crow Medicine Show, and also Curleyfest, Norristown Throwdown and the Waycross Creek Revival with Way-X band the Pine Box Dwellers; hockey arenas opening for The Doobie Brothers; breweries like Decatur’s Three Taverns and Appalachian Mountain Brewery in Boone; bar scenes like The Crazy Bull in Macon and LL Creek in Waycross; biker bars like Mulligan’s in Marietta (with RLC and Big Mike and the Booty Papas); intimate acoustic settings like St. Augustine, Florida’s Limelight Theatre, and also at Gallery West, the shop of Allman Brothers Band tour mystic and iconic rock photographer Kirk West; listening rooms like the Red Light Café and Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta and Grant Street Music Room in Clarkesville; two packed-out Tuesday night shows at Darwin’s Burgers and Blues with special guests Joey Huffman (Hank Williams Jr., Drivin’ n’ Cryin’) and Bobby Golden of Stillwater; and mellow back yard vibes in southeast GA like Captain Stan’s Smokehouse and Marshside Grill. To that variety you can add the infamous Clermont Lounge, mud races in Thomaston, the Oakhurst Porchfest and wedding receptions. They were also recently invited to participate in The Hummingbird’s Best of Georgia Roots Rock Showcase in Macon.

The infectious energy of Royal Johnson’s live shows and the eclectic nature of their debut album has brought together a diverse fanbase. Roots-and-Blues-enthused funk rock. Like seeing a mashup of Marshall Tucker Band and Sly Stone.

The band is a shining example of true variety. Royal Johnson is a completely independent band, handling its own management duties. They present a multi-cultural, honest blend of each member’s diverse stylings.

The group is currently recording its second album, but its first at Muscadine Studios, home of legendary producer and musician Paul Hornsby. Paul is a member of both the Alabama and Georgia Music Hall of Fame, producing several gold and platinum records, and most known for his work with the Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels and Wet Willie. The album will be completed in phases in the coming months, as the band has another docket of interesting shows on the horizon.
Venue Information:
Cox Capitol Theatre
382 Second Street
Macon, GA, 31201