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Southern Avenue: Southern Avenue

James Nadal By

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Memphis, Tennessee, is one of the outstanding music cities of America. Southern Avenue runs from East Memphis due west, where it turns into E. McClemore Avenue, home of Soulsville, better known as Stax Records. This young Memphis group named themselves and their self-titled debut release, Southern Avenue, in a deliberate undertaking to continue and expand upon the soul, blues, and gospel tradition associated with this fabled city.

Fronted by the vivacious and vigorous vocalist Tierinni Jackson, the band has the recognizable throwback sound of Stax, but also adds a distinctive contemporary essence, giving them a razor sharp modern identity. Originally started by guitarist Ori Naftaly as a blues band, they morphed into their current lineup with the addition of Tierinni's sister Tikyra Jackson on drums, Daniel McKee on bass, and keyboardist Jeremy Powell. The Jackson sisters sang and played in the local churches, tuning them into the inherent qualities required to perform soul music in Memphis; the other members proving just as proficient in their capabilities.

They open with the gospel rooted "Don't Give Up," Jackson's dominant voice displaying where she came from, and setting the direction for the album. She falls right into a southern soul groove on "What Did I Do," with solid backing by Naftaly's tasty guitar licks, and Powell's organ fills. Ann Peeble's funky "Slipped, Tripped, and Fell In Love," is transformed with a renewed attitude, and is sure to be a popular dance number.

As is the criteria in soul, it's in the ballads that they show their true ability, "Love Me Right," features a classic horn arrangement by Marc Franklin, and Jackson delivers a scorching romantic plea. She reveals her ease with current styles and nuances as she tackles the simmering "It's Gonna Be Alright," and "Wildflower," excellent, progressive, examples of contemporary rhythm and blues. The song list is balanced with diversity as "80 Miles From Memphis," an up-tempo country shuffle, that shows where rock and roll originated, "No Time To Lose," is a soul/rock burner, and "Rumble," takes a syncopated journey into the wild side. Kudos to bassist Daniel McKee whose versatility and appropriate feeling for each song is essential to this bands success.

The acoustical introduction to the hymn "Peace Will Come," goes back to church, as they slowly bring up the instrumentation to match the song's energy, yet allowing for the highlighted vocal and chorus to take center stage. The southern churches is where soul music has its primordial origins, and its importance is relevant and evident anytime it is performed.

Southern Avenue has only been together for a short time, but are paying their dues the old fashioned way, continuously gigging at clubs and festivals, and by entering and winning numerous band challenges. Coupled with substantive original material, they were spotted and signed by Stax Records, with high expectations, a contract which they accepted with professional obligation. This is a band that based on their collective talents and powerful live performances, is garnering an increasing audience base, and this record should catapult them into the international spotlight.

Track Listing: Don’t Give Up; What Did I Do; It’s Gonna Be Alright; Slipped, Tripped, and Fell In Love; Love Me Right; 80 Miles From Memphis; Wildflower; No Time To Lose; Rumble; Peace Will Come.

Personnel: Tierinii Jackson: lead vocals; Tikyra Jackson: drums, vocals; Ori Naftaly: guitar; Daniel McKee: bass; Jeremy Powell: keyboards; Luther Dickinson: guitar; Marc Franklin: trumpet, horn arrangements.

Title: Southern Avenue | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Stax Records

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