November 16, 2006
When I first stepped foot inside of The Mercy Lounge, I knew that it would be a good night. One of Colorado’s fruitful music scene’s brightest up-and-comers, Mama’s Cookin', would be opening for Outformation.
Sam Holt and the Outformation crew have risen to soaring heights over the last year. Selling out after-shows at Chicago’s House of Blues, late night Rocks Off Boats cruises in New York City, and opening a few weekend runs for Widespread Panic and Umpherey’s Mcgee have seemingly pushed the Outformation gang toward a more full time touring schedule. More about them later; first Mama’s Cookin'.
These soulful, bluesy musicians meld a mixture of hip-hop, blues and R&B with some serious rock and roll chops. Front man, Zebuel Early knows his way around the guitar and delivered some impressive vocals throughout their short set. A talented rhythm section joined Zebuel. Mike Adamo delivered fat beats from behind the kit, and Steve Labella joined right in with flawless, thundering bass.
The night would prove to be filled with special guests, and Mama’s Cookin' got the ball rolling early with Nashville musician Hunter Williams jumping on percussion. Hopefully Mama’s Cookin' will bring their R&B blues review back to the South soon. They have a great sound, and were well received. They certainly made a great pairing with headliners Outformation.
I guess things are going well when one of your musical heroes stops by your show to sit in for a while. Part of Sam Holt’s musical chemistry includes some outlaw country and definitely some Marshall Tucker Band roots. So when iconic Marshall Tucker Band guitarist George McCorkle stopped in to say hello and play a song or two, everyone in attendance knew we were in for treat.
After ripping thru “Valley Blue” and “Into My Arms,” the band was joined by McCorkle. There instantly was chemistry between Sam and the legendary guitarist as they shared licks on “Blue Ridge Mountain Sky”. Yet another friend of the band, Eric Normand, jumped in next, adding guitar to the cover of Shooter Jennings' “Solid Gold Country” and Waylon’s “Lonesome, Orn’ry and Mean.”
They say that practice makes perfect, and I do believe that is true. The chance to play more has definitely accelerated Outformation's growth and helped them develop their sound.
The addition of C.R. Gruver on a fulltime basis has greatly helped. C.R., who was the M.V.P. of the front-range music scene in Colorado for a while, has now relocated to New Orleans and joined the band permanently. Also, Jeff “Birddog” Lane continues to impress on percussion. He added a tremendous amount of fuel to the jams, exerting perfect taste on what to add and when.
Old friend and Nashville resident Jason Graumlich would join in next. Jason (Levi as he is also known) would fall in perfectly with his lap steel on “Center Stage.” Sam and Jason have a lot of the same influences and are always a treat to watch play together. “Center Stage” would segue right into “Tennessee Before Daylight” then give way to a small set break.
The second set started with more guests. Rhett Akins joined the band for a smoking rendition of “Can’t You See.” Alongside the eclectic and versatile covers, the band offered up originals like the tasty instrumental “Edgewater,” “90,” and “Bout My Money.” “Bout My Money” sandwiched a massive drum jam with Hunter Williams joining back in the action on percussion.
Relentlessly attacking the crowd with fist pumping rock and roll, Holt’s scorching hot guitar was joined again by the lap steel of Jason Graumlich and Paul Augustino on keys for “Can’t Change the Past.”
Ambitious, even outright dangerous play is what makes live music exciting. So when the perfect cover of Widespread Panic’s “B of D” segued into “Game On” and continued thru C.R.’s take on “West LA Fadeaway, Outformation proved they weren’t scared to go big.
In fact they would not stop there,segueing into a few more borrowed Panic tunes with “Happy Child” and “Burned Faceless." These guys are ready for their time to begin, and they are making it happen. They seem to be recklessly willing to grind it out, and are making great music along the way.
The night didn’t stop there. They played as late as possible with a full house hanging on every note. Outformation will undoubtly be touring hard in 2007, and there are rumors of a new album. Keep posted and your ears turned OUT!
words/photos by Brad Hodge