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Reverend Tim & The Pew Rats
The "BACOT BLUES" Sessions
Flat Hat Productions, Lynnwood WA

And so it begins... 

Years of writing & directions, followed by a few months of focused thought, leading to this moment in time...

In Dec. '14, I bounced the name idea (Reverend Tim & the Pew Rats) off my friend, Patrick Alexander, and (with a snicker) he said it was pretty good -- although we both agreed that some may be taken back or offended by the name, seeing that I am not a Reverend & this is not a gospel project.

Years ago, my friend Michael Bloodgood (musician & pastor) was asked to speak at a memorial or funeral (I can't recall the specifics) in a Catholic setting. He, not being Catholic, was introduced as "Reverend," which he thought was funny, thinking, "...if they only knew..."

My use of Reverend is a nod to this, ...if they only knew...

This project is not designed to mock beliefs or belittle faith, but rather serve as a search within my own heart & soul, while creating some cool blues.

Who are the Pew Rats? The Pew Rats is not an official band, but friends I have asked (and will ask) to help. Perhaps, one day, this disc will help bring others by my side to form an official band...we'll see. 

As it stands at time of publication, the core of the Rats consists of
Rafael Tranquilino (guitars)
Chris Tussing (drums, percussion, production)
Leah Tussing (back-up vocals...possible duet?)
and me (vocals)

with these honorary Rats joining us during productions:
Randy Oxford (trombone)
Mike Marinig (sax & multi-instrumentalist)
Brandon Hailey (sax)

(I have a shout out to a couple others, and will announce them when official. I have yet to find someone to play keys or bass at this time...Rafael has offered to play bass, at least on the first track.)

Why "Pew Rats"? My friends are not church mice, some might not even darken the door of a church. Pew rats are folks that don't necessarily click with your average Sunday morning crowd. As I said, this is not a gospel project; no browbeating on it, just soul searching in the key of B(lues).

...which brings us to now.

Over the course of the last (ehem) years, I have been writing and brainstorming various ideas...and then "it" happened. It. Maria & I like to see live shows...mostly local...and in the process, my heart began getting tugged by the raw honesty of the Blues, the feel, the vibe, the stories... Now, like any good rocker kid, I listened to a LOT of Stevie Ray Vaughan (followed by Kenny Wayne Shepherd), but never fully embraced blues as an identity. Until now. Local artists, like The Randy Oxford Band and The CD Woodbury Band, were speaking to me in ways that, quite simply, rock couldn't. Now don't be thinking it's an age thing, "If it's too loud, you're too old," coz that's not it. Blues just...speaks.

After talking with The Rafael Tranquilino Band's vocalist/manager Leah Tussing -- and co-owner of Flat Hat Productions (along with her dad, Chris Tussing), I decided this was the direction I wanted to take with my ideas and get them out there -- anywhere -- to be heard. Building up a friendship with area musicians has also helped, forming a studio "band" of sorts. The project is slated to have seven tunes, but may expand to a full disc (depending on time & funds, as well as schedules), including two cover tunes.

On Tuesday, May 12, Rafael and I began tracking at Flat Hat with Chris Tussing at the helm. Our mission was to get a good foundation for the first song, "Perfect Blues," by The 77s/Michael Roe, a ruckus blues rocker about the struggles of being perfect -- something all of us can identify with:

I'm only one bad apple but 
I've spoiled a whole bunch 
I'm rotten to the core 


Rafael picked up the vibe of the song pretty quick & laid the rhythm guitar down nicely. Leads to follow, along with bass, in the next session. There is a Jerry Lee Lewis-esque piano solo before the final guitar solo...not sure how we're doing that one, yet. May have the horn section have fun for a good chunk of the 6-minute song! We'll see...

Vocally, I started off cold, as I have not been in a studio for quite some time... BUT! This is just a scratch track. Gonna get a LOT more 'tude going for the final version, some swagger, some...mas tequila! Oops...Hide the beer, the pastor's here... **

(** Swirling Eddies reference)

The other cover tune is a SRV-ified version of "A Change is Coming" by LeRoy Bell & His Only Friends -- but that's for another adventure of this Pew Rat further along down the road.

Future updates won't be quite as long, I assure you; I just wanted to catch you up and get this journey going. I hope you stick around, it's gonna be fun!  And no worries: NW Groove will always have reviews of local region blues-based (and some not so bluesy) artists and not just become a blog for this new venture.

Keep on Groovin On ~
Church is dismissed!

TSSutherland
5.13.15

Links:
Reverend Tim & the Pew Rats
The Rafael Tranquilino Band
The Randy Oxford Band
The CD Woodbury Band
The 77s
Flat Hat Productions


PS: Is it just me, or do I look kinda like Sweet Danny Ray in the above pic?

 
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LeRoy Bell & His Only Friends
Sat., May 2, 2015
Fremont Abbey Arts Center
Seattle, WA

If there's anything that my better half and I like to do at any given moment, that would be to see  LeRoy Bell & His Only Friends perform. Upon hearing that they will be doing a rare acoustic show, well...gotta go!

The show's setting was at Seattle's Fremont Abbey, a "beautiful 100 year old brick church building (formerly St. Paul's Lutheran)" that had been restored and renovated into an arts center. The staging was intimate, with maybe 100 other "friends" in attendance, chairs in rows that circled the stage. We had 2nd row reserved, but I think any seat would have been nice in what LeRoy called his living room.

Having seen LeRoy & Co. many times in the 5 years we've been coming to his shows, we knew what to expect, as far as performance & song selection, but we had never seen an acoustic show. Having five albums to choose from, the setlist for this performance could be...anything, including some new material.

LeRoy started the set off solo, performing three tunes while interacting with the audience. The intimate and enduring "Mama Said" and "Live On Love" were followed by "20 Years From Now" (a rare track from "Two Sides to Every Story"). The reception was warm and LeRoy's appreciation was genuine. 

LeRoy was then joined by his Only Friends, whom had been in a room off to the side -- he joked, "Oh, there you are! I thought you forgot about me..." Keyboardist (and occasional accordion hipster) Daniel Walker , drummer (w/ set and drum box) Davis Martin and bassist (with a rather cool acoustic bass!) Terry Morgan stayed throughout the rest of the evening, starting with "Everything About You,"  followed by classics and new classics. At one point in the show, apparently Davis "didn't get the memo" about a song being dropped and the rest of the band was waiting for him to count the next song off; this resulted in what was rather funny (and if recorded, would require a couple retakes!). After the memo crack from LeRoy, Davis stood to count off, "One, two, one, two, one, two, one, two..." resulting in a meltdown of laughter from all in the room -- especially those on stage! 

The evening was short, by regular concert standards (just over 1 1/2 hours), but was highlighted by...an awesome setlist! (As follows:)

(Solo:)
Mama Said
Live on Love
20 Years From Now

(With His Only Friends:)
Everything About You
Can't Run Back to Me
Wind Me Up
Divine Intervention
Father to Son
Mexico
One More Chance
You Won't See Me (New!)
Wouldn't It Be Heaven
Still Not Over You
How Many Times

and was closed with (probably his most notable song)...
A Change Is Coming, complete with audience participation.

(I have the setlist, complete with omitted songs...Voodoo? Everybody? 21st Century Man? and others???)

LeRoy & Co. stuck around, talked with fans and other friends, and made new friends. While I'm sure there were many wanting to get up & dance, the intimate show was a nice change -- and one I wouldn't mind seeing again.

For show listings and more, go to their website: LeRoyBell.com

Keep On Groovin' On,
TSSutherland
5.3.15

 
Hello Groovers! 

Some may know me as an artist (The Randy Oxford Band​ "...it feels good..." cover), a writer (of this blog) or...perhaps not at all. That's fine. I can deal with it. (Note to self: call counselor.) 

I would like to share my photography with you... Now, I may not be the best, but I do try. Many of my subjects include local NW blues artists. I love the scene & the players and this is a way for me to give back to the community. Enjoy!

http://www.facebook.com/tssphotog


(On a side note, I am available for shoots & concert photography in the metro-Seattle area.)

Keep on groovin' on!
TSSutherland
 
Hey Groovers,

Just a lil progress report... Still in the process of relaunching this site. Some NW funk will be reviewed soon: DoctorfunK, The Brown Edition and the one & only... Lady A!

Lotsa blues comin' your way, also.

Contact me to get your CD reviewed!

Keep on groovin' on,
TSSutherland
 
A NWGroove shout-out to birthday boy Randy Oxford, the guy whose band & CD (...it feels good...) is the reason I started this blog!

Have a groovin' b-day, Randy!

TSSutherland

Photo by
TSSutherland Photography
 
Hey Groovers!

Got lots in store for you this year! One of my ideas is to pass along your concert info. Just email info or flyers to nwgroove@yahoo.com & I will gladly post it on this page.

Valentine's Day is a Saturday this year...anyone playing?

Let me know!

Keep on groovin' on,
TSSutherland

NWGroove
http://www.facebook.com/nwgroove

TSSutherland Illustrations
http://www.facebook.com/tssillustrations

TSSutherland Photography
http://www.facebook.com/tssphotog
 
Hello Groovers,

My PC's been down for a few months... I was doing some graphics work for The Rafael Tranquilino Band & shortly after...the start-up no longer starts up.

I have maaaannnnyyyyy projects to review, a new logo to create for this blog, and some organizing to organize. Please bear with me, 2015 will be a groovy one for NWGroove!

My artwork will resume shortly, also: http://www.facebook.com/tssillustrations -- as seen on The Randy Oxford Band's "...it feels good..."  last year & will be on the upcoming Jada Amy release, "Sunny Grey". (And hopefully still on Polly O'Keary's "Witch Hazel".) My page also shows examples of portraits & other artwork. My services are available. Support Local!

Keep on groovin' on,
TSSutherland
 
 
"Call it a rock concert with a story to tell, trimmed with a lot of great jokes. Or call it a sprawling work of performance art, complete with angry rants and scary drag queens. Call it whatever you want, really. I'll just call it wonderful..." —The New York Times

...that, was all I really knew about this play/musical going in, aside from the fact that my friend, LeRoy Bell, was starring in the production. I did some digging around, just a tad, to see what "Passing Strange" was more about, and learned it was a "coming of age" story -- coming of age?  Ummm LeRoy is *ehem* years old, hardly coming of age! Something about a young, black rock musician trying to find his identity in a time when people assumed he would/should be different. From the ACT Theatre's page, "Passing Strange" is summed up by saying, "
this award-winning Broadway hit is finally taking the Seattle stage. Passing Strange is a young black musician’s odyssey of self-discovery, complete with sex, drugs, and above all, rock-and-roll. It’s a musical, but don’t expect show tunes or sequins. Instead, this gritty, heartfelt show will shake the house—and your conceptions of manhood, race, and identity."


Rewind a few years...

Maria & I met LeRoy back in Summer '10, have followed him pretty steadily since, and have even gotten to know him on a "hey, how's it going?" level of friendship. We watched him try out & reach Top 8 on Season 1 of "The X Factor," caught many concerts, and this past New Year's Eve we brought in 2014 at a show he did with His Only Friends at the Kirkland Performance Center. So...when Maria happened upon a post on Facebook about LeRoy starring in a musical, well...we had to check it out!

So, that brings us to now.

What can I say about "Passing Strange" that hasn't been covered in local media? I'm not sure, I didn't read much press prior to writing this -- I want this to be mine, not a rehash of other writers' opinions.


LeRoy heads a stellar cast, and is joined musically by an incredible band (it would have been cool to see His Only Friends backing him up, but...).
After an opening number to set the tempo ("We Might Play All Night'), LeRoy, known in this production as Narrator (altho he does much more than simply speak), sets the scene, and we are introduced to Mother (Marlette Buchanan) and Youth (Andrew Lee Creech) -- now, I had read that this story is a musical embellishment of the life of the writer, Stew, but the names of Mother, Youth (young Stew) & Narrator (old...er Stew) were probably left out for effect, depicting who they were, but not identifying them -- ahh....that stinking "identity" thing mentioned above, gotcha. Ok!  Back to the opening scene.

I will note here that I love the props -- or lack of. This is a gritty rock musical, nothing flashy. The cast uses minimal accessories (sunglasses, scarves, etc) and the staging is open, mind for music cases (those bulky ones with metal corners, meant for hauling gear...my music friends know what I'm talking about). It is upon the larger case that our story's hero, Youth, is lying on as a bed...when all of a sudden, Mother comes in all cheery, urging him to get hit butt out of bed and ready for church. Youth doesn't want to go, he wants to just chill at home (like many youth, I'm sure). The conversation between Mother and Youth is flavored by Narrator's commentary, such as what tone Mother is using (her normal, cheerful Sunday Morning voice, or her negro voice -- don't shoot the messenger, that's the term they used!). So, here we are, in the front row, a couple white folk, snickering...and I have the thought..."Should I be laughing at the commentary?"


Youth observes church, or should I say, "chur-cha"? How Mother parades around with others, talking about how nice each other looks, and oooo look at them shoes! Hence the number, "Baptist Fashion Show." The whole church scene reminds me of
a line from the tune "Mission" by King's X:

Who are these people behind the stained glass windows?
Have they forgotten just what they came here for?
Was it salvation or scared of hell
Or an assembly of a social get-together?


The church gets rolling, with that good ol' gospel beat from your typical Southern Baptist Church setting, stomping, whooping, tearing it up, people getting caught up in the religiousity of churchianity. That's right, I said it, the religiousity of church-ianity. Do you feel me, brothers? I can see how this scene can be viewed as a mockery of church-going folk, and perhaps it is, but it shouldn't take away from people's faith. People are viewed by what can be seen, more rather than what is inside...but what I saw in this scene was churchianity, not gospel-sewn Christianity, and Youth had a "religious experience" -- something that church had never seen before, according to Narrator.

Youth is scolded, then, by Mother, for he embarrasses her in front of the brethren, but is soon whisked into the choir, and meeting a beautiful "Christian" woman (Yesenia Iglesias), who has a list of demands for him if he wants to be her husband ("Yes, brown sugar!" -- by this time, concern about laughing at black-folk humor by black folk was long gone, I was keyed into the storyline completely)...They didn't make it to the altar, and Youth pursued his musical dreams. Youth
is mentored by Mr. Franklin, (J Reese), the choir director/gay son of the preacher man, who encouraged to explore the world in search for his song, guided by the spirituality of...marijuana. And sex. And drugs. And that he should go to Amsterdam, where all he ever dreamed of was, and he could be who he really was -- instead of being a black man pretending to be a black man in late 1970s Los Angeles.

Against the wishes of Mother, Youth tells her he must follow his dreams -- all done in a mock-Noir fashion, which was funny, classy, cool, all the above.


Amsterdam is all he ever dreamed of, heaven on earth (so to speak), where a woman invites him in, offering him her keys...to stay as long as he wants. Pleasures of the flesh abound, one woman, two? (Yesenia Iglesias, again, and Shontina Vernon)
...but his Youth's creativity is stunted, for as a punk-rocker, he had no angst in Amsterdam. Our hero is then urged by his friends to go to Berlin, where there are riots, and anger, and the streets are mean...and so, he goes!

Berlin offers Youth many new ways to vent his angst, to include performance art
...something about how his identity has sex with his ego and called their illegitimate child "Art"...words to that effect. J Reese, in the roll of Mr. Venus, steals the scene himself, shouting (repeatedly, in a German accent), "Vut's inside iz just a lie!) mere feet away from our faces! (In a nutshell, what the media and world has put into our heads about who we are and what we are to be is just a lie and we should rid ourselves of what is not real).

Christmas approaches, and Youth's friends, much to his shock, tell him they are all going home to visit, leaving him to himself. A long-distance call from Mother is met with hesitation, and not wanting to really talk about anything in general. Mother
insists that he come home so they can "talk" ("But we're talking now!" "No son, we need to talk..." along those lines, something that needs to be discussed in person)...Youth never makes it home...well, he does, eventually, but regrets waiting.

Narrator and Youth share a dialog, one where they talk about Mother...You see, Mother was so wrapped up in the ways of churchianity, that she never let herself be...herself. She never wore the outrageous dress that she always wanted to, and sing the way she desired...and she put her lack of pursuit onto her son, not wanting him to be who he truly was. But now, in Youth's regret, sorrow, mournfulness,
he decided to let Mother be who she wanted to be, every day, in his song; to remember her how she would have wanted to remember.

"Passing Strange" is heart-warming, full of grit, humor, a life's truths...and lies. It's about growing up, following your dream -- and wondering, as you grow older, if following the dream of a teenager is really what you should be doing. It brought many ponderings to m
y own mind and heart, looking back upon my dreams as a musician, artist, and finding the one I truly need to spend my life with (which I did, in a twist of fate: my 5th grade girlfriend from 1978 is now my forever girlfriend many years later)...The church scene did not offend me, even tho I am a man of faith -- I, too, am tired of the show part of churchianity, the subculture, the way it seems we need to be, act, and say the right things, for fear of what others (not God, others) might think. I never took drugs, nor lived a heathenish lifestyle, but I did follow the story and its message. Quite simply, "Passing Strange" blew my mind. Incredible.

Afterwards, Maria asked LeRoy if he's interested in doing more theater, to which he responded with a quite hesitant, "...I don't know..." -- he did great, by the way, the role suited him well, and he was able to bring out that gorgeous gold Les Paul of his and jam during the show.


The cast, for the most part, had multiple roles, many of which I did not focus on here. Rounding out the cast are DeSean Halley, band leader/keyboardist Jose
Gonzales, guitarist Kathy Moore, drummer Matt Jorgensen, and bassist Nate Omdal. The director was Tyone Brown. Nicely done, everyone!

A few dates left!
Info and tickets: http://www.acttheatre.org/Tickets/OnStage/PassingStrange


Age Recommendation: 14 and older for sexual references, strong language, and adult themes.
ACT Theatre's policy is to inform audiences of content, but to let parents, guardians, and teachers make decisions that they feel is most appropriate for youth and teens in their care.

LeRoy Bell's website, LeRoyBell.com

TSSutherland
6.26.14
 
I don't normally post concert info, as I know many readers probably aren't in the immediate NW region, by I was commissioned by Randy Oxford to create this poster.............so, I'm promoting it!

The Randy Oxford Band "...it feels good..." AND Polly O'Keary & the Rhythm Method "Compass" -- my first 2 reviewed CDs being showcased in one show, now THAT'S cool!

TSSutherland
5.8.14

    TSSutherland

    TSSutherland is a lover of music that thumps, bumps, rocks & wails! An avid believer in supporting local arts, this page will feature reviews of NW Blues, Rock & Funk.

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