You have to love CD release parties. There’s a palpable excitement in the air as the culmination of so much work – a year or so of writing new material, rehearsing and shaping it into something extra special, recording and mixing, and getting the publicity rolling all takes so much time and effort that the final blow-off represents the release of the album into the world.
Last night at Richmond’s The Camel nightclub, brother and sister performers Cole and Logan Layman reached that milestone of releasing their first album, Tangled, and they were surrounded by friends and family celebrating with them.
True to their friendly outgoing style, they brought along some great friends to perform with them – namely Richmond’s own The Bush League and good friend and IBC Finalist Bobby BlackHat Walters and his band.
Even with a 5 o’clock start time, there were already a number of people inside The Camel ready to get the party started. Taking the stage first, The Bush League kicked things off with an energetic set that included a couple of originals, Kick Up Yo Heels and Show You Off, and a rocking version of Junior Kimbrough’s Stay All Night. Front man John Jay said it best, “We’re doing this like the blues men and women of old. Getting off work and climbing up on a stage and playing our hearts out.”
The audience was really into the set when they took a moment to invite Cole to join them on stage for a smoking version of Catfish Blues. Cole showed some of his trademark fretboard pyrotechnics and the crowd responded in shrieks, squeals, and a lot of applause.
After his turn, Cole stepped down and sister Logan came up not even knowing what she would be singing. Jay and the League threw her a big curve with a Go-Go version of the classic, Stormy Monday. If you are not familiar with Go-Go, it’s very popular in DC thanks to the efforts of Chuck Brown. The genre is also well known in Maryland and the Northern Virginia area.
It’s also very tricky and Logan handled it very well despite having to look up the lyrics to make sure she was singing the right song. She matched Jay note for note and the audience loved the effort.
Next up was Bobby BlackHat Walters who is without a doubt one of the finest showmen in the state. Walters is a great harp player with a fine voice – but it’s his presence that really draws you into his performance. He works the crowd with flair and quickly had everyone into the show even further.
Walters’ five song set merely whetted the appetite for more. He started off slow with I Know What You Mean and then moved into Nursery Rhyme Shuffle. His extended version of Blues Story was electrifying. While regular guitarist Tom Euler continued his blistering assault, Walters enlisted the Bush League’s bassist Royce Folks to substitute on the set.
He ended up the set with Broke My Body Down and finally his tribute to the continually gridlocked Hampton Rhodes Bridge Tunnel – the HRBT Blues.
Finally came the stars of the evening, Cole and Logan Layman who were joined by drummer (and their album’s producer) Ron Lowder, Jr. Starting off with the title track, Tangled, the trio sailed through a very energetic set of originals and covers that had the crowd on its feet and even some of us old fogies boogied as hard as we could.
Brother and sister traded off breaks in a playful manner through most of the set, and Logan’s voice was in rare form. When she reached into her soul to sing Can’t Quit You Baby, you could have heard a pin drop as everyone in the audience collectively held their breath. Afterwards they exploded into a frenzy of shouts and applause.
You could tell that Cole was itching to break out his cigar box guitar and when he did, it added an entire new flavor – a very swampy one in fact – to the proceedings. He ripped into one of my favorite songs, Karma, and added layers of pyrotechnics. They then tackled Judgement Day Blues and Fake It Till You Make It – based on one of their mother’s poems dealing with depression.
One thing about the Laymans is that despite their young ages, they do not shy away from deep subjects and handle them with grace and maturity.
Another thing about them is they share the spotlight with their friends. They not only brought in The Bush League and Bobby BlackHat Walters to play, they brought up Richmond entertainer Dwayne Cabaniss onto the stage to play a couple of songs; My Babe, and a blistering version of B.B. King’s Don’t Answer the Door.
After one more song by the Laymans, Won’t Let It, which caused so many people to jump up on the dance floor that the band was partially obscured. After thunderous applause an all-out jam started with members from all three bands, plus Mama Blues herself, Sandy Layman on drums and Shelly Thiss on vocals, the show was over and we had to clear out of the Camel to make room for the next band.
Kind of the metaphor for the night. Time to make room for the next band. Last night, most people agreed that band is In Layman Terms.
Next time you get a chance, be sure to check ‘em out.