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Friday, January 31

Review and Photos: The Ringers - Mercy Lounge - January 22, 2014 - Nashville, Tennessee

On a featureless stage in downtown Nashville, the all-star group, The Ringers, played to a packed house.  In the upstairs room of this unassuming venue, several acts have played the Mercy Lounge, and the acoustics never disappoint – this night was no exception.  The super group consists of Jimmy Herring, Wayne Krantz & Michael Landau all wielding guitars.  The rhythm section rounds out the band with world-renowned bassist, Etenne Mbappe, and Keith Carlock on the drums.  After playing a short tour in the beginning of last year, their only replacement was on the sticks, as Keith Carlock chose to stay close to his expecting wife for this tour.  The idea behind this band is to take five masters of different genres of music, and leave all egos at the door.  The result was nothing short of astounding.  
They opened the show with The Meters' class "Pungee", and it quickly got the crowd moving.  The song mixed several genres of music, conjuring up a musical rollercoaster.  The three maestros on guitar traded off solos.  But instead of building off the same themes, they would, more often than not, take the songs in an entirely different direction.  This formula led to some of the most interesting improvisation I have witnessed.  Africa Jam followed and two truths were self-evident after a few songs:  no style was off limits, and they were enjoying themselves every bit as much as the drooling public.  This was the concert one always hears about attending, after the fact.  Luck finally lined up on this chilly Wednesday for hundreds of music lovers.  While awe-struck, the crowd displayed plenty of energy, especially for not being familiar with most of the material.  No Spread Head yelled out, “Tall Boy,” because when this act played, even the drunkest frat boy was seduced.  
They accomplished their goal with this music as it clearly transcended their individual accomplishments.  I came excited about Jimmy Herring and he delivered in ways my thesaurus could not give justice.  But Guitarist and composer Michael Landau’s fingers danced like Muhammad Ali, and his bravura performance left me punch happy.  This was no more obvious than during his single, Long Way Home.  His playing lifted the entire band into another realm as they were every bit inspired as dazzled.  This was also the first time I witnessed African bass player Etenne Mbappe before, it will not be the last. The entire show he gave more than he got, always pushing the music into new territory. He made the outstanding look easy time and time again.  Lord of the Ringers was a tune in which encompasses everything this band is about. They share the funky spotlight as this tune gets passed around until arriving at a fresh point, only to explode again. 
The sold out crowd marveled all night as this band painted a masterpiece.  It felt like we were invited to a jam session.  It is scary that this was only their second gig.  Put shame on anyone that misses this act if they cross your path, as it’s a once in a lifetime experience.  I could ramble on how incredible they would be if they had more time together.  Unfortunately, super groups never do.  So I hope their paths cross again.  If not, the legend will just grow about the band that left their agendas at home and created music for themselves and the ages. 
Words by: Kevin Long
Photos by: Ellis Jones IV
 ©Grateful Music LLC