Bo-Keys Stomp It Out At Southpaw

While in NYC this weekend, the Bo-Keys took a few hours off from the Lincoln Center showcase to play with the Sweet Divines and the City Champs.

I wasn’t able to make either gig, but New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff liked what he heard at Southpaw.

From today’s NYT:

But the high point of the evening came from the middle act, and especially by musicians from the time and place being heavily referenced. The Bo-Keys, an eight-piece band, are Memphis’s current answer to the Bar-Kays, the Stax record label’s house band in the 1960s and ’70s. (They were in town to take part in the Ponderosa Stomp festival, at Lincoln Center through the weekend.) The band’s boss is the bassist Scott Bomar, but it boasts the trumpeter and singer Ben Cauley, an original member of the Bar-Kays and the only survivor of the plane crash that killed Otis Redding. The band’s visual and aural centerpiece, though, is the gravel-voiced guitarist Charles Skip Pitts, who played the music’s stinging, wrangling leads and chicken-scratched through a wah-wah pedal.

The band’s set was a marvel of discipline and dirt, keeping its dance grooves close to the ground, never overplaying or letting solos spiral beyond their tight spaces. In addition to Memphis soul standards like “Soul Finger” the band played “Theme From Shaft,” for which Mr. Pitts originated the guitar part. (Maybe you can hear it in your head: wicka-wicka.) If you remember that sound as something good but limited, watching him play it was something else. Carefully using harmonics, changing up the rhythm of his strumming, violently sliding his hand up the guitar neck, he created a whole percussive and melodic universe out of wicka-wicka. It was the sound of origin and ownership.

Go here for the rest of the review.

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