During a November trip to NOLA, I hooked up with Lou Hill of Water Seed to find out how the band was doing since their summer visits to Pittsburgh, beginning with the Three Rivers Arts Festival performance. They have been on an upward trajectory with the Billboard-charting album “Say Yeah.”
First we did a quick walkthrough of the fabled public radio station WWOZ, situated next to the French Market. I just wanted to touch the walls. Just like at WYEP during off hours, there was a volunteer host on the air and almost nobody else around. She ran down to let us in, then ran back up to the on-air studio. (The sound is muted since we didn’t have microphones set up for good audio. The clips are just to give you a sense of the places.)
(Did you ever notice that public radio is usually near the bottom of the FM dial? So, whenever you’re traveling around the country and need some good radio, start at 88MHz and work yourself up slowly until you hear sedate voices and/or great music.)
Lou and I have talked many times, including on WYEP interviews, so we ordered some smoothies in the Market and focused on what’s been happening of late. Here are some key takeaways:
- Water Seed has sought a careful balance between progressive creativity and commercial viability. I wasn’t aware of this, but there was a release called “Fresh” several albums ago that was pulled because it floundered. Some thought it was ahead of its time. Lou and the band are ready to come back to this theme, though they recognize that a new album would have to carefully mix the vibe the current fan base knows with the vision of the future.
- Many in the band are songwriters, something else I wasn’t aware of. Right now Lou is working through the drafts and fleshing them out.
- The core lineup of Water Seed may see some change – more on that later.
After we parted, I walked over to Jackson Square to track down the artist brother of longtime Soul Show listener John Maurer from Altoona, PA. All I had to do was spot the family whiskers in the throngs. Jim Maurer paints animals.
Justin Strong Presents
I don’t get to Spirit often enough for Interval Jazz Night, which is the fourth Wednesday of every month. I wanted to see multi-instrumentalist Shanyse Strickland sit in with the house band. SS is originally from Ohio (Akron, I believe), so she was able to connect with Kent St. professor Chris Coles before hitting the stage. Strickland and I are planning a soulshowmike.org interview in the future. Stay tuned.
Justin Strong has been directing energies to a management role at Spirit after the closure of his AVA/Shadow enterprise. Significantly, the tag “Justin Strong Presents’” is showing up in his promotions and posts. When we talked last week, I told him that this was a really important step in leveraging his brand. He agreed, and he mentioned that he has brought in additional team to help him with social media, graphics, etc. Also, Justin is working on plans for another big NYE affair. Here was last year’s NYE with Lyndsey and Water Seed:
The Midnight Hour
I have been following Adrian Younge for the past 7 years, starting with his cinematic “Something About April” CD. We finally hooked up for a summer dinner discussion at The Watergate in DC, with the plan to reconnect for a phone interview. Excerpts of the interview were presented over the past three weeks on The Soul Show (WYEP). Here is the interview in its entirety:
Younge’s latest project is The Midnight Hour with Ali Shaheed Muhammad. It was quite a surprise to hear that their first tour was passing through Pittsburgh. Loren Oden, who supplied guest vocals on the album, came along with a full contingent of brass and strings to support the rhythm section. Younge and Muhammad swapped keyboard/bass roles late in the show. It was a full house, and it was one of the best shows of 2018. I happened to sit near someone who was at the early-2018 Matador! Soul Sounds show at the Rex, and back then she and I predicted that it would end up being one of the best of the year. That still holds true, and this TMH show is right up there with it.
…and here is a little taste of that Matador! Soul Sounds show at the Rex: