If you’ve seen this site before, you’ll know the concept. I find Kentucky bands and artists that I feel need a little spotlight and I do my best to convey the reasons you should care. My motto is pretty simple, support the artists or lose the art. That should be a pretty compelling argument, but I’m sure you’ll want more, so let’s get started.
One of the bands that have been on my radar for some time, is Lexington’s Magnolia Boulevard. I’ve watched several performances on the ole Tube of You, but I just hadn’t had the opportunity to catch them live. Thankfully though, that all changed on Saturday night at The Burl.
Before I get into their performance, let’s learn a bit about Magnolia Boulevard. They’re a five-piece band that has what seems like a million influences, and that’s a total compliment by the way. You can hear Duane Allman and Derek Trucks through the slide play of Gregg Irwin. You’ll get some Sly & The Family Stone, as well as some Ohio Players from the low-end of bassist John Roberts and drummer Todd Copeland. You’ll get some Steppenwolf, Doors and Steve Winwood vibes from keyboard/pianist Ryan Allen. Then, you’ll get some sonic vibes of Janis Joplin, Susan Tedeschi and even a little Bonnie Raitt from vocalist Maggie Noëlle. Collectively, the quintet’s performances feature some of the tightest musicianship in the area.
Now, I feel I must warn you before we move on.
*WARNING: If you don’t like to have a good time, you’re gonna hate Magnolia Boulevard. I haven’t seen that many asses moving since I passed a farm full of burrows.*
You read that right. A local show where people show up have a good time and dance. Seems like a simple concept, but usually people just go get drunk and become a wallflower. Thankfully, Magnolia Boulevard “ain’t got time for that sh!t”. The crowd at the Burl embraced a great night of music and were eventually mesmerized by the dancing siren known as Maggie.
The patrons were scattered about as I arrived late in the set of Louisville’s Vessel. Many were outside smoking, a few were parked at the bar and the few tables at the Burl were all full. It was cold outside, but it was plenty warm inside and the crowd was already rowdy as they were shoulder to shoulder and about 25 rows deep. Vessel has been around for some time and their performance was a great reflection of that experience, so check them out if given the chance.
After a quick changeover, Magnolia Boulevard took to the stage and gave one of the best local performances that I have had the pleasure of witnessing. The stained glass logo of the Burl beaming behind Maggie gave a certain aura to her performance, like a raspy Angel taking us all to Church.
Some of my favorite voices share an element that Maggie possesses. It’s that rare ability to push your voice to a seemingly out of control spot, where it’s ready to break, but it’s then reeled back in at the last moment. It’s like watching a skilled motorcycle rider take a curve much faster than you feel it is humanly possible to make it through. Yet, when it’s over, you feel exhilarated.
I mentioned that you could feel and hear a Duane Allman influence in Gregg Erwin and I’d put his slide play in the top 3 in Kentucky. Right behind Greg Martin of the Kentucky Headhunters and Chris Robertson of Black Stone Cherry. These three gentlemen, I’d put their playing up against any other slide player on the planet.
As someone who has seen well over 1000 bands in my lifetime, I want to make a bold statement, the musicians in Magnolia Boulevard could outplay 90% of the bands that I’ve seen. It would be a higher percentage, but I’ve seen a lot of technical musicians. As for being soulful, I’d put them in my top 10, but it’s hard to move up that list because it includes folks like Anderson East, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Joe Bonamassa, Chris Stapleton and Rival Sons.
Some of my favorites on the night included a funky almost ska-version of Otis Redding’s classic, “These Arms Of Mine”, (Y’all know what a sucker I am for Otis, anyways.) “Ride (The Pocket)”, “Jezebel”, “Sister”, and the monster performance of the somewhat obscure classic “Fire On The Bayou” by The Meters with Art and Cyril Neville of the famous Neville Brothers. Here’s a little trivia for ya about “Fire On The Bayou”. It was later re-recorded by the Neville Brothers. Backing vocals on the track were provided by a young Whitney Houston and her Mother Cissy.
Look if a band or artist is good enough to draw other musicians to their show, they’re worth your time. Seeing Justin Wells at the show told me that before the first note was played, that this was going to be a great night.
Magnolia Boulevard are funky, they’re classic yet fresh, they’re groovy and they’re only rock ‘n’ roll, but I like ’em!
The Burl is also a cool spot. It is large enough to hold plenty, but it’s also small enough to keep an intimate feel and a tolerable volume level. There are also some amazing spots to eat across the street on the Pepper Campus. So get on out of the house, have a New York slice, some amazing ice cream and cap it all off with a great night of music at The Burl, especially if Magnolia Boulevard is playing. You’ve been good, treat yo’self!