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After 25 years of playing shows and releasing 9 CD's and 2 DVD's, South Carolina's Blue Dogs continue to perform more than 100 shows a year, from clubs, festivals, and colleges to corporate events, private parties, and fundraisers---primarily in the southeast but still traveling wherever they are called, over the past few years to New York, DC and Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and of course Georgia and the Carolinas. They continue to maintain a national (and international) fanbase, with all 9 recordings available through iTunes and other digital portals.
To be more specific, January 2013 marked 25 years since standup bassist Hank Futch joined forces with longtime friend, fellow cub scout, and acoustic guitarist/vocalist Bobby Houck under the band name “Blue Dogs.” And so the Charleston, SC-based Blue Dogs quietly move into their 26th year as a band (est. 1987) playing and singing Americana/country-rock music.
Back in 2008, to mark their 20th, the Blue Dogs released a DVD of a live performance in their hometown, recorded in a 200-year-old theatre called the Dock Street Theatre, where they not-so-coincidentally made their first live CD 10 years earlier). On Thanksgiving Day 2008, Live at the Dock Street Theatre…again.
That video serves as a milestone in the Dogs’ career in more ways than one. With 99 minutes of footage, it includes guest appearances by some of their good friends and well-known South Carolina musicians: Blue Dogs songwriter Phillip Lammonds, Tommy Dew and Kevin Wadley from the influential 90’s Charleston band The Archetypes, Columbia’s Danielle Howle, and the Adande African Drum ensemble featuring former Dogs percussionist (‘97-’98) Jesse Thrower.
The show might as well be considered the Blue Dogs’ definitive performance. It is packed with 20 songs, pulling from all 5 of their studio releases as well as a couple of songs that have never been released by the band. There are fan favorites throughout. And the band runs the gamut stylistically, flexing their country/pop muscles, but then also weaving in the bluegrass sensibility that goes back to the band’s beginnings, while then managing to incorporate African djembe drums seamlessly into the show.
In fact, what is so obviously present in this show is a Blue Dogs trademark: a loose unpredictability. Various local and regional bluegrass musicians step on and off the stage with ease, most with no rehearsal that day with the band. At one point in the show, the band blows an intro to the song, and without missing a beat, stops and jokes and then starts again. Not surprisingly, the moment was not edited from the footage and made the final cut.
Rounding out the band’s lineup for the show is original Dogs’ drummer Greg Walker, whose first gig with the then-acoustic band was in 1992 at the Music Farm in Charleston, where he spontaneously set up and played and has been the band’s drummer ever since. The newest member of the band is celebrating his 10th anniversary--guitarist David Stewart, who plays flawlessly. Yet the star of the evening could well be the band’s sometime mandolin player, Daren Shumaker, who is all over the stage and all over the songs with tasteful solos and licks and seems to be having the time of his life. Everyone shines in this video, which truly turns out to be just the right kind of celebration as it showcases the achievements of a band 20 years in and on top of their game.
As it turned out, 2005 was a prolific year for the band. In January of that year, Live at Workplay, a live cd released in 2006, was recorded at the Birmingham, Alabama concert venue of the same name. Produced by Bruce Hornsby guitarist and veteran producer Doug Derryberry, the CD was a warm up of sorts for the Live at the Dock Street…again DVD, pulling from all of their previous records but featuring just the core group, the current Dogs lineup (the same since 1998): Houck and Futch with Walker and Stewart.
Recorded before a very lively and intimate audience, Workplay features versions of songs from their more recent studio albums Halos and Good Buys, Letters from Round O, and Blue Dogs (all recorded after 1996, when the band went full time), but it also reaches back to their early 90’s recordings Music For Dog People and Soul Dogfood and includes several previously unreleased songs. Many of the Blue Dogs’ most-requested songs are present, including “Walter,” “Isabelle,” “Cosmic Cowboy,” “Bill Bill,” “Half of My Mistakes” (co-written by Bobby Houck and famed Texan-turned-Nashvillian songwriter Radney Foster) and “Make Your Mama Proud,” plus Hank Futch takes a turn on the acoustic guitar with the gospel song “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” and Arthur Smith’s “Conversation with a Mule.” A rendition of Lyle Lovett’s “L.A. County” and a take on Blue Mountain’s “Blue Canoe” (seemingly custom-made for the Blue Dogs) close the CD in rocking fashion.
The CD received accolades right away, from fans and critics and radio. The Midwest Record Recap writes:
“Once again we have to wonder why this bunch of roots rockers are one of the best bands you never heard of. A hard working outfit that rubs some mighty impressive elbows along their way, here they do a live recap and more of their ten years as pros. Turning the crowd on with great ease, the Dogs deliver the goods and go on their merry way. Funtastic outing that simply lets the good times roll without pretense or affect.”
The CD was accepted with open arms by XM Radio, where Channel 12’s “X-Country” played numerous tracks from the album until it climbed to #1 on its chart by August 2006. And listeners of one of the biggest AAA/Americana stations in the country, WNCW, put Workplay in its year-end list of the top 50 Americana records of the year.
The Blue Dogs’ previous CD, 2004’s Halos and Good Buys, was produced by Don Gehman (John Mellencamp, REM, Hootie & the Blowfish, Pat Green), garnering excellent critical reviews and extensive airplay, particularly on the Texas music charts. “The road-seasoned band effectively straddles the line between loose rock swagger and radio-friendly hooks,” said Billboard magazine in its review. An earlier CD, 1999’s Letters from Round O, was produced by Cracker front-man-turned-producer David Lowery and generated radio response from Modern Rock, Triple A and Americana radio, as well as glowing reviews in the New York Times and the Washington Post, among others.
The band continues to tour, primarily on the east coast, but in recent years also throughout the southeast, in Texas, the midwest, and the northeast. The band has performed on the same stage with such well-known and diverse artists as Willie Nelson, Widespread Panic, Bruce Hornsby, and Hootie and the Blowfish. They have also received national exposure by singing the national anthem at the final Southern 500 NASCAR race in Darlington SC in 2004, and in 2007 performing as the house band on a week’s worth of Wheel of Fortune shows.
If it's a high energy show you're looking for, then look no further. Leisure brings energy like you're never seen to every show and leaves every fan craving more. These guys can't be denied as entertainers!
This group hails from NC and brings the missing ingredient in much of today’s “modern rock” (aside from talent) is humility, the ability of the artist to reveal their emotional wounds to the world and share the pain with an appreciative audience. The best rap music has humility aplenty, though it’s hard to tell, hidden underneath all the sexual braggadocio, while folk rockers have always worn their wimpy hearts on their sleeves. Not since the early efforts of Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, and Joe Jackson – the “angry young men” of the ‘80s – has rock and roll enjoyed such freedom.
In this aspect, Leisure McCorkle is a welcome throwback to an earlier era, an anomaly in an age that champions marketability and profit over sincerity and talent. Their music shows both in abundance, McCorkle’s finely-tuned, guitar-driven, three-minute pop/rock treasures drenched in sincerity and delivered with no small amount of talent. Leisure McCorkle is the MAN, a new wave fury with a heart of glass and bag full o’ manic musical hooks. The Reverend has heard the gospel according to McCorkle and now I’m going to “LA-La-La-La-La my way through life!” In a perfect world, Leisure McCorkle would rule the airwaves; as it is, their music will have to remain our dirty little secret.
LM has been compared to seminal artists like: Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, Graham Parker, Fountains of Wayne, Ben Folds, Weezer, The Cars, Marvelous 3, The Pixes, Teenage Fanclub, Billy Joel and others . He also has appeared in magazines such as: Billboard, Magnet, The Big Takover, Jersey Beat, BOB, Amplifier and daily and weekly papers across the world such as NY Times, LA Entertainment Weekly, Irish Times, Creative Loafing, The Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, Denver Westwood, Detroit Metro etc. Leisure has also had several songs on MTV's "Real World" and "Road Rules."
LM have toured with the likes of: Cowboy Mouth, Ben Folds, Elliot Smith, Frank Black (The Pixies), and Glen Tillbrook (of Squeeze) to name a few.
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Rock/Funk/Reggae Infused Originals & Party Covers
When the laid back vibe of Myrtle Beach, SC meets acoustic rock of Lake Michigan, Simplified, the island rock band arrives with a loud and welcoming splash. In 2002, Clee Laster of SC and Chris Sheridan a MI native, started out as an acoustic duo. Early on, both musicians displayed innate musical capabilities, which were passed down from family members, and inspired by a diverse collection of original influences. They both grew up on the water, in different parts of the country, but the beach life-blood continues to surge within their suntanned souls, flowing forth in passionate, fun, and energetic jams.
They began playing acoustic shows, revving up and charming the Charlotte, NC crowds, while writing original songs. In 2003, the full band took shape as Simplified. Acclaimed as a dedicated touring machine, they gained new fans, one by one. Simplified's sound caught on, with a devoted fan base in the Southeastern US. With their incessant touring, an enthusiastic buzz was growing, and in turn they began booking shows nationwide, playing for increasingly larger audiences.
With a never-ending tour schedule, including over 3,000 powerhouse, popular performances, Simplified members, with both electric and acoustic acts, are enthusiastic as ever. From Key West, FL to New York City and throughout the Midwest, their hard work, perseverance and commitment have always been key to their hard earned success. Sequentially, in 2011, their song “Shall We Begin” was featured on ESPN’s ‘Kick off to College GameDay.’ Currently their hit “Gettin Home,” is featured in the video game, NASCAR The Game 2013 and they have been praised as one of Pandora Radio’s top played indie rock bands.
Still writing and riding the sometimes choppy, always exciting musical shores, Clee and Sheridan reinvented the band in 2013 with their newest material, while getting back to their island rock roots. This year, they are releasing tracks from their crowd-pleasing, May 10th, 2013 show at Hideaway Cafe in St. Petersburg, FL. Sheridan states, "Our fans have been requesting a live album so we are focusing on getting as much live content out as possible."
Sheridan and Clee have effectively reformulated the band by adding key ingredients: new players with positive energy, multi-instrumentalists, and a camaraderie that stimulates their passion for writing new material. Now abandoning what others suggested, returning to their roots of a feel good vibe, Clee explains, “We are writing new songs for ourselves and our fans, not for a producer or critic. We are getting right back to where we started, with what we know and love…music that makes you smile.”
Their signature sound is a contagious fusion of rock and reggae, attracting a diverse audience and embracing every kind of fan. Sheridan emphasizes, "We're a rock band with elements of reggae, funk, and acoustic roots. We don't limit ourselves musically and it shows in the songs we write." Conjuring up the island rock roots, Clee expresses, "Our live shows are all about having fun. Each performance will bring you to the beach and right back home.”
A decade later, Simplified continues to evolve and attract new audiences through their crowd-pleasing, relatable songs and ongoing support from their loyal fans. Starting out as two musicians with a dream, to one of the industry’s top emerging rock bands, makes Simplified a true tour de force. There’s nothing simple about that.
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While undeniably pop/rock music with a southern flare, this quartet has created an unforgettable sound that pays homage to multiple genres and styles including rock, samba, beach, roots and world beats. Every song weaves memorable vocal hooks with bold musicianship; creating a radio friendly experience that will have you humming their tunes long after the last note fades. Live, Simplified delivers an electrifying performance, showcasing the talents of each musician while never overshadowing the band as a whole. You definitely DO NOT want to miss their show!
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