Friends, let me testify. Those scales that Slarti keeps showing on his blog are accurate. The man is disappearing before our very blog-eyes. He really is nearly at fighting weight. If his thick hair keeps growing it may soon outweigh his torso!
We saw ‘his’ band last night. Little group of about 73 people (uh, actually there were nine, but they sound BIG). The band is called ‘X-Alt‘, which is a pretty clever despite the fact that maybe one of the ‘kids’ in the band is from Generation X (not that everyone else on stage is dino-saur-ish!) and they really don’t play alternative music, but what they do is exalt, with some Memphis-style horns, a couple of keyboards, some stinging guitar, and a ton of good vocalists.
This is the third time I’ve heard these guys. I’m not a big Christian music kinda guy. I grew up in an era where a lot of schlock was passed off as music and labelled Christian or praise, and it was somehow OK, because of the ‘brand’. I know the industry has grown up quite a bit since those days (yeah, probably a lot more than I’ve grown up), but my prejudice still is woven neatly into my sleeve.
These guys play great music. If the music blows, the message suffers. I know the message is really the true medium for X-Alt, but they know better than me, if the songs aren’t popping, the ‘go ye into all the world’ bit isn’t going to make it out of the driveway.
Our diminishing buddy Slarti got more vocals last night than the previous times I’ve heard the band. Slarti’s voice has a little more grit and growl than anybody else up there. He’s the one that can do the upbeat Stax-rumble and make it work along with those punctuating horns behind him. He especially shines on his own tune, ‘Piggyback Ride’ (uh, Slarti, your passion is showing).
My wife pointed out to me last night that the reason the song ‘Oh Happy Days’ works so well for these guys is that they don’t play it dirge-speed. They actually SOUND happy. Yeah, they do a lot of standards from the 60s, either leaving them alone lyrically to convey the message: Lean on Me, He ain’t Heavy, Put a Little Love in Your Heart*, or twisting the lyrics a bit to make sure we know WHERE the love’s coming from, e.g. Slarti’s take on the Sam and Dave ‘Soothe Me‘. The soothing here is heart-ward, and a little more to the ‘north’ than perhaps the original.
I don’t want to denigrate or neglect the rest of the band, especially the vocals. They truly have more lead singers on one stage than Van Halen and The Band put together. But, I”ve just gotta say that last night, Katy Seale was ON. She sings right on the edge of Americana, blues and torch just enough to make you realize you’d drive all the way to Ashland City for her featured songs alone. Throw in the amazing harmonies, the tight horns, the stinging guitar, and an occasional poignant flute, and you have good times, even if you doubt the Source of their inspiration.
And, oh yeah, Slarti threw in a little go-go dancing last night that almost cleaned out my nasal passages with espresso. Somewhere, someone needs to get that on ‘YouTube’.
*my one piece of advice is to drop ‘Put a Little Love in Your Heart’ and pick up another Memphis style song like some Dusty Springfield or the Isaac Haye’s chestnut: “If something is wrong with my baby…”. Too many good vocal chops in that band to not serve up some more grit.