Southern Avenue playing The Spiegeltent at this year’s Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival simply put in one classic high energy performance of R & B, soul and funk music and they are without doubt my favourite “new band find” of 2018 to date.
Who are “Southern Avenue” then? Well, the answer to that question is that they are a Memphis rooted band fronted by an enormous package of energy and vocal talent - Tierinii Jackson. From the first few songs, it is obvious that this young lady has spent her whole life singing and the gospel sounds to her voice that run through every style of song performed give away those deep rooted church singing origins. R & B, soul, funk, jazz, it makes no difference, Tierinii Jackson has the vocal abilities to sing anything that she wants to in any musical style whilst at the same time stamping her own vocal identity on everything she performs.
Southern Avenue are signed to the legendary Stax record label and their debut album “Southern Avenue” was released at the end of last year. If, like me, you have a deep rooted love for all of those classic sounds and performers that the Stax label has been associated with over the years then you have to be able to come up with the goods to stand amongst that legacy. That for me means a super tight rhythm section, solid lead guitar, great keyboards and of course classic vocals. Southern Avenue have the whole package made up by the following line up –
Tikyra Jackson (Drums) and also Tierinii’s sister
Jeremy Powell (Keyboards)
Gage Markey (Bass Guitar)
Ori Naftaly (Lead Guitar)
There is no doubt that the legacy of great performers such as Booker T, Steve Cropper and Carla Thomas have infused a little bit of their musical spirit into this band, and timeless keyboard licks just made a connection between old and new Stax sounds for me tonight. Out of all the instruments, it is always keyboards that I associate with that Stax sound first, and maybe one day we will get to hear some keys laid down on a vintage Hammond organ. Of course, a sharp and tight rhythm section is also a big part of the “Southern Avenue” sound.
Southern Avenue, the debut album, has some fine tracks on it, and of course, the band were playing that album tonight. Standing out for me were “Peace Will Come”, “Love Me Right” and “It’s Gonna Be Alright”.
Two sets over a two hour show was of course quickly going to use up material from the new album, and Southern Avenue proved effortlessly that they can not only perform some of the great standards, but do them in their own unique style, ”Come Together” and “Superstition” being only two of the outstanding performances in this show.
Will “Southern Avenue” get the breaks they need in a ruthlessly competitive music market to stand the tests of time and go onto greater things? Who knows, but if the reception that the band are reveiving everywhere they play is any indication of what is to come, then the answer has to be a big yes.
Review by Tom King