Southern Avenue started off the 7-28-23 edition of Beech Mountain's "Party on the Mountain" with a bang. Although most of the audience was there to see Sheryl Crow perform, they were introduced to an up-and-coming powerhouse, Grammy Nominated, 6-member band, that hails from Memphis which combines a blues sensibility with a rock up-tempo.
Practically kicking the door down from the first vocal note, Tiernii Jackson, lead vocalist, erupted with the emotional conviction and triumphant swagger of a jubilant church choir. Her vocal ability is impressive, but I found myself often distracted by the visuals of her seductive dancing to truly take in the music. I enjoy watching artists get "taken away" with their music, but the movements of this lead singer did not seem to come from the heart. Tiernii seems to be playing to the gaze and objectifying herself for the audience. Her squatting and gyrating do not match the lyrics of the song, which takes away from the music that she and the band have created together. I found myself looking down or closing my eyes to hear the music of the show. As Southern Avenue continues to develop, I hope they can settle into more of a traditional band dynamic, and less of a "singer-with-a-backup-band" dynamic.
Ori Naftaly, guitarist, delivered the riffs of a seasoned blues veteran. Originally from Israel, Ori found his way into Memphis, TN, for the International Blues Challenge, and it was there he connected with Tiernii Jackson and her sister, Tikyra. Later he invited them to join him as a band, and Southern Avenue was born. The collaboration of Naftaly's lifelong obsession with American blues music and the Jackson sisters' history of singing in the church has created a genre-breaking sound that Naftaly calls "a melting pot of experiences."
Their latest single, a cover of "That's All" by Genesis ca. 1983, puts a blues twist on the hit song. The live version did not disappoint, with Tiernii delivering the full expression of the lyrics. The audience was pleasantly surprised and impressed with their new discovery. The opening act, Southern Avenue, demanded attention with their hybrid, yet seasoned sound. This reviewer hopes the band continues to develop as a true "band," and can live up to their mighty potential as a blues powerhouse.
"We're Gonna Make It"
Cover of "That's All" by Genesis, 1983.
"Don't Give Up"
Review: Libby O'Daniel
Images: Tim Hobert