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Sacred Harp Sessions: A Passion Project

Kelly Thomas continues tribute to her influences, plus Kelly Richey adds Freekbass to trio

By Mike Breen · January 4th, 2013 · Spill It

The Sacred Harp Sessions is an engaging passion project launched a few months ago by the hard-working, CEA-nominated singer Kelly Thomas. The Sessions (produced, on the video end, by Alex and Tiffany Luscht of Mind Ignition) are issued each month and follow Thomas recording one of her favorite songs with some of her favorite area musicians at some of her favorite local studios.

Ultimately, the video series (slated to go for 12 months) is a tribute to the things that have made Thomas who she is today as an artist (and person). In the videos, Thomas talks about what each song means to her, but the short films are not purely autobiographical — they can also be educational. The first episode, for example, discussed Cincinnati’s King Records and the city’s Hank Williams connection; Kelly recorded Williams’ “Lost Highway” with Arlo McKinley at the location of downtown’s former Herzog recording studio, believed to be the last standing building in which Williams recorded.

Episode 2 of the Sacred Harp Sessions found Thomas teaming up with Cincinnati Blues piano legend Ricky Nye at downtown studio Sound Images for a great take on Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen.” 

December’s song and video features a goosebump-worthy version of Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross,” featuring excellent bluesy rockers The Mudpies.

Keep an eye on Thomas' website (kellythomasonline.com) for links to each month’s installment and limited-edition free downloads of the latest track. Thomas says January’s episode will feature Jeremy Pinnell and the 55s. The musicians are slated to cover “Making Believe,” a huge hit in the mid-’50s for one of the first female Country megastars, Kitty Wells. Looking ahead in 2013, Thomas has guest artists like Switchblade Syndicate and The Lions Rampant slated for Sessions; local band The Sleepin’ Dogs will also join Thomas for the only original song out of the bunch. 

Thomas is currently singing in three bands — her longtime Kelly Thomas and the Fabulous Pickups crew, the classic Country outfit The Tammy WhyNots and The Lonesome Sound (which formed recently after the aforementioned Hank Williams sessions). 

She’ll be starting off 2013 with free shows with all three acts — The Fabulous Pickups join Sassy Molasses at Northside Tavern this Friday, while Saturday has The Tammy WhyNots teaming up with Tex Schramm and The Radio King Cowboys and Doctor Bombay and The Atomic Bachelor Pad at Over-the-Rhine’s MOTR Pub.

The Lonesome Sound has a gig on Jan. 12 at downtown’s Taqueria Mercado.

The Kelly Richey Band, Reborn

While not necessarily “weird,” when fans discovered that longtime local Blues artist Kelly Richey had started a side-business as a “life coach,” undoubtedly a few thought they misheard or misread. It’s not really a logical step from stunning Blues guitarist and vocalist to personal life coach for hire. 

Likewise, when I first got an email about the new lineup of Richey’s band, I did a double take. Again, not that it was particularly unusual news — I just didn’t see it coming. (The music world could use a lot more moments like that.)

Joining Richey in the new version of KRB is experienced drummer Jyn Yates from Kentucky and Chris Sherman, the guiding force behind popular local Funk group Freekbass (and his new duo project, Freekbot). 

While Sherman (who goes by his stage name, Freekbass) is best known for his huge Funk grooves, dabbling in modern EDM and rather flamboyant stage outfits at times, Richey’s sound skates the line between Blues and Rock and the most flash from her live shows comes from out of her fingers as she plays guitar. On the surface, the pairing seems on par with Buckethead joining Bonnie Raitt’s band or Flea sitting in with Stevie Ray Vaughan. In other words, it should be quite interesting to hear what the trio comes up with. The first single, “Fast Drivin’ Mama,” offers a hint — the song is a rocking slice of engaging Blues Funk. It’s not drastically different from Richey’s usual sound, but the groove is appropriately huge. 

The new KRB trio was assembled to record the next Kelly Richey Band album, which the musicians have been working on at Shangri-La Studios in Lexington, Ky. The album — Sweet Spirit — is scheduled for release March 1, followed by tour dates that will take them from Florida to Canada. 

The trio’s debut show is Saturday in Northern Illinois (Mishawaka, to be exact), but local fans won’t have to wait long to check out the new KRB. The group performs on Jan. 11 at Legends Nightclub in Cheviot (legendscincinnati.com). Showtime is 8 p.m. and there is a $10 cover at the door.

CONTACT MIKE BREEN: mbreen@citybeat.com, @CityBeatMusic or on Facebook here.



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