By Shawna Claiborne
Haven't heard of The Dynamites? Well, don't feel too left out just yet, as this amazing, 10-piece funk and soul group have just hit the road this past year, but they hit just like their moniker might suggest — they exploded!
The Dynamites Featuring Charles Walker
I first heard of The Dynamites in March after a JoJo and his Mojo Mardi Gras Band performance in Crested Butte, Colorado. The ringleader of this group (JoJo Hermann, keyboardist for Widespread Panic) and I were talking about the 2nd Annual Crested Butte Alpine Jam that I was planning for the community radio station I manage, KBUT, and I was fishing for some talent. More pointedly, I was hoping to perhaps convince JoJo that the Mojo Mardi Gras band should perform, knowing that JoJo's name holds some clout in the music world and needing some heavy hitters for my lineup. JoJo mentioned that they would not be touring at that time, but that two members of the group (Bill Elder, guitarist, and Jonathan Jackson, alto and tenor sax) had a brand new band they were about to unleash on the country and I should "book them this year, because you probably won't be able to afford them next year."
It took me about three minutes of listening to sound clips on the group's MySpace page to agree. What I heard was immediately reminiscent of James Brown and the JB's with a facelift. These guys are TIGHT. Tighter than Foxy Brown's wig, James' new bag, or any other funk analogy that you care to break out. Whew... I knew I had found a diamond in the rough and went right after them.
The Dynamites by Eric Adkins
This group has emerged on the live music circuit in the timeliest of fashion, as funk, soul, and rhythm & blues acts are experiencing a huge resurgence of popularity. Groups like Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are making a huge name for themselves, selling out venues coast-to-coast, with people getting their nattiest threads out and shakin' their thing in mountain towns, bars, and clubs everywhere. Upon first (and subsequent) listens, one cannot help but make the comparison between The Dynamites and the Dap Kings, JB's, Aretha... That's the sound and they are masters of it.
Bill Elder, the group's birth father, spent two years putting together just the right mix of talented musicians, and he done GOOD! Although the bill, "The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker," may lead one to the conclusion that Charles is the sole (soul?) star of the show, this isn't necessarily the case. Don't get me wrong... Charles, no stranger to the funk and soul community and having 45-plus years of recording experience under his belt (including the hit "Help Somebody" with his former band The Sidewinders), is a man to be reckoned with, while very adept at sharing a stage and the spotlight. This is truly fortunate because there is an entire A-list of musicians on the stage with this group, and they each shine, both as an ensemble and during their solos. Just when you are sure that the groove cannot possibly get any funkier, there is another instrument entering the fold with a fresh, new hot beat. Can you say "Funk All-Stars?" The group has a strong repertoire of originals, many from Charles Walker's earlier days, and mixes in a few very welcome covers, including a smoking rendition of The Meters' "Just Kissed My Baby."
The Dynamites by Bob Brazell Photography
When asked how the group dynamic was working out on the road, Elder answered, "The coolest thing about how this thing has evolved so far is to see all of these killer musicians, who I am blessed to share the stage with, rally around this project. It's always been a tough proposition to get this amount of slammin' players on the same stage together, but to get them to KEEP doing it with a certain degree of sacrifice... that's what's been really amazing."
Charles Walker by Andy Wilson
Drummer Derrek Phillips lent his talent to Charlie Hunter's band, and B3 organ player Tyrone Dickerson spent the first three years of his career honing his talent with Curtis Mayfield. These gentlemen are NOT to be taken lightly. Chris West on the sax and flutes offers a jazzy rhythm to the mix, with Jackson wailing away on the alto and tenor saxes, very reminiscent of Karl Denson at his funkiest. Both musicians on the stringed instruments, bass player Donnie Medallion and Bill Elder (a.k.a. Leo Black) on the lead, can throw down the rhythms better than you could have ever hoped. Don't you dare sit down... Charles may just start yelling at you to "get up and SHAKE YOUR ASS!" Take heed and do as this man says. Elder added that "working with Charles is one of the most beautiful things that has happened to me/us. He is the consummate professional, and has been doing this longer than the rest of the band combined."
This Friday and Saturday (9/29 and 9/30) The Dynamites will be opening for JoJo's other band, Widespread Panic at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in North Carolina. Panic fans are anticipating something new at these shows, as the band is sporting a brand new lead guitarist in the form of the legendary Jimmy Herring (Aquarium Rescue Unit, Frogwings, The Allman Brothers, Jazz is Dead, Phil and Friends, and many more). These dedicated fans will no doubt be thronging to the venue early, vying for those coveted front row positions. What better way to while away those pre-Panic hours than to watch a veteran funk and soul man and his rippin' band "tear the roof off the sucker?"
JoJo Hermann with WSP by Michael Saba
Widespread Panic is not a band that schedules an opening act just to fill time. They quite frequently do not have an opener, and if they do, open your ears. When asked why he thought that The Dynamites were a good fit for an opening spot, JoJo responded, "The Dynamites bring a kind of Funky Meters' rhythm section with one of America's great soul singers - sometimes, Panic reminds me of that - at Panic shows, the vibe is really around dancing... and dancing... and dancing. A band that has the ability to crawl beneath people's skins and make 'em groove endlessly into a kind of trance will be very welcome by the Widespread Panic audience. Though it was Professor Longhair who really invented funk, out of New Orleans, it has evolved into many different styles. But it all comes down to layin' down a groove that takes people to another place. That's why The Dynamites will blow people away."
Former opening acts for the group include Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Galactic, North Mississippi All-stars, Outformation... and you've heard of all of them, right? I guarantee you will also be hearing more about The Dynamites, so be the first on your block to get out there and shake your thang! Doors at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Charlotte, NC open at 5:30 p.m., and the Dynamites take the stage at 6:30 p.m. Don't be late.
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