Walking in Gratitude: Melody Trucks Band Album Release Celebration
All photographs by kind permission of Frank Allen Sr.
Saturday, September 28, was a day of joyous celebration at 1904 Music Hall in Jacksonville, Florida. It marked the two-year anniversary of the first performance by the Melody Trucks Band at Great Outdoors Jam (09.30.17), and it was the release date of the debut album by this superb ensemble. The atmosphere was electric, deservedly so.
The evening got off to a great start with Ginger Beard Man, which guitarist West Brook (THE ginger beard man) pointed out was “3/7 of the Melody Trucks Band.” He was joined by the usual suspects: Shane Platten on bass and vocals and Shaun Taunton on drums and vocals. The set included a pair of originals and a wide-ranging set of covers. They opened with their tune “The Road,” and the house was rockin’ already!
They took “Simple Man” WAAAY uptempo, very cool, before West Brook switched from guitar to lap slide as Platten blew up “Superstition” on bass and vocals. The trio then used the slow rocker “She Talks to Angles” to lead them into a great series of musical references: “Hey Jude/Third Stone from the Sun > Can’t You See > Lochloosa > Hey Jude.” West Brook tore up another original, “Voodoo’s Gone,” before they finished big with “Hush > Midnight Rider > Hush.”
[GBM: The Road, Simple Man, Superstition, She Talks to Angles > Hey Jude/Third Stone from the Sun > Can’t You See > Lochloosa > Hey Jude, Voodoo’s Gone, Hush > Midnight Rider > Hush]
THAT’S how you start the party!
The Corbitt-Clampitt Experience had the honors next (“2/7 of MTB + 2”). Isaac Corbitt, harp player extraordinaire, and Brady Clampitt, guitar, have had this combo working for a few years. This was the quartet who went to play for the troops in Guantanamo back in August. They both sing and are aided and abetted by backed by James Holloway on drums and Jake Alessandrini on bass. Corbitt electrified the crowd with his stirring rendition of the National Anthem before the band sunk into a set of originals and covers.
After getting everyone moving with “Countin’ On Love” and “Back on the Road,” they invited percussionist Jimmy Rector to join them for “Don’t Feed the Bass.” Accepted Perspective – Design by Jimmy Rector created the album cover for the new Melody Trucks Band album cover. They turned Rector loose a couple of times, Corbitt rapping in between, before Clampitt ripped his best solo of the night (thus far!), and Corbitt demonstrated — on every tune — why he is so highly revered.
Next they offered “Carolina Song,” which came from the very first Corbitt Brothers album. Then it was time for Corbitt to dazzle with an incredible intro to “Train Train.” For “Blind, Crippled and Crazy,” they asked Vaylor Trucks to join them, and he too dazzled. CCE closed their set with fan favorite “Jacksonville.”
A word about Trucks and Trucks. Vaylor is Melody’s brother, the children of the late Butch Trucks. Of all the musicians with names associated with the Allman Brothers Band, these two have not received the recognition they deserve. Vaylor leads an astounding band called The Yeti Trio that plays some intricate and challenge prog rock and more. And we will speak more about Melody in a moment.
[CCE: Star-Spangled Banner, Countin’ On Love, Back on the Road, Don’t Feed the Bass, Carolina Song, Train Train, Blind, Crippled and Crazy, Jacksonville]
It was time for the main event. As the Melody Trucks Band took the stage, she explained that set one would be the new album, Walking in Gratitude, start to finish. The second set would be wide open. For the most part, the first set was a straight-ahead presentation of the album (with a few detours). For those who were there, you know that you have never heard the band play the songs like this, and you know you never will again. In regular concert, these songs are all jammed out. That made the set no less enjoyable — just making an observation.
Melody said they would normally never have a guest artist up for the first song, but Vaylor did play on “Freight Train,” the homage to their dad. It was beautiful. West Brook stood out on slide, then Clampitt on organ, and finally Vaylor. They nudged the tune into a “Les Brers in A Minor” tease at the end. Clampitt sang “Fire Inside,” and there was a noticeable cheer when he sang the line “I’m walking in gratitude.”
Guitarist Willis Gore was on fire all night, and he sang “Pride Comes Before the Fall” with that deep Southern twang in his voice. This tune is most reminiscent of ABB, and Corbitt was on fire, then dueling with West Brook, who then had a great slide intro to “Livin’ a Lie,” one of the album’s most powerful songs. West Brook and Melody tossed the vocals back and forth. It is also worth commenting on the power of Melody’s vocals as she has blossomed over these past two years.
Clampitt sang “Can You Feel Me Now” before Corbitt on vocals intertwined with Melody on “Live Your Life.” Gore shone again on his song “Before I Leave,” and then Melody unleashed the beast, a.k.a. Platten, for some wild stomping bass before getting to the heart of “Jellyfish,” the last song on the album.
[MTB ONE: Freight Train, Fire Inside > Synchronicity, Pride Comes Before the Fall, Livin’ a Lie, Can You Feel Me Now, Live Your Life, Before I Leave, Jellyfish]
Before they took a set break, the band members presented Melody with a plaque commemorating the new album. Then Melody called Dale Murphy to the stage. Murphy recorded and mixed the album at Winterstone Sound in Tallahassee, and he produced the album with the band. They gave him a signed poster in honor of his contribution to the release of Walking in Gratitude. Also honored was Jimmy Rector, the designer of the album cover.
The second set, properly, was as loose and freewheeling as the first was tight and reserved. They opened, appropriately, with “Leave My Blues at Home.” Melody was out front on congas. West Brook and Corbitt soloed, and then Clampitt and Gore duked it out on guitar. Vaylor joined the party for a rousing “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad.” Platten was huuuuge here, and they redirected the song into “Soulful Serenade” at the end.
After West Brook sang “Put It On Me,” the proceeding absolutely exploded as Melody began with congas before Shaun Taunton, who was a badass all night, drove that slow drum beat that led inexorably into Platten’s massive bass line on “Spanish Moon.” Gore and Vaylor both tore it up. Up to this point, Vaylor’s solos had been, shall we say, reserved, not like his Yeti Trio stuff. This solo of his was EXACTLY what I was hoping to hear. And Gore’s vocals CRUSHED. DAMN!
[Question: is there anyone who DOESN’T sing the Tower of Power horn parts in their heads, at least that first time? Just sayin’…]
(Almost) everybody got a break while Corbitt and Taunton blew out a tremendous “Harp Jam” before the rest of the band returned to the stage as West Brook slid them into “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’,” featuring yet another mind-blowing Corbitt harp solo. There was a superb long intro before Platten pleaded to “Use Me” as the tune percolated. Toward the end, he offered up great vocalese in unison with his bass.
Corbitt did justice to JJ Grey’s “Ho Cake” on vocals, and then Kaleigh Baker (vocals) and Matt Walker (guitar) were invited up to assist on a song Melody handles so well: “Little by Little.” Baker sang background/chorus, leaving the spotlight to Melody. Clampitt had another great organ solo, and Walker showed his stuff as well.
Vaylor again climbed aboard as the band played “Million Miles.” Gore again stood out on vocals, and the solo by Corbitt was, according to my notes, STOOPID. To close the joyous evening, Melody selected a tune she has performed often in honor of Butch, Col. Bruce, and others we have lost with a dynamic “Yield Not to Temptation.” Vaylor was still up, and they called Jimmy Rector to play congas. Everybody rocked. EVERYBODY. Toward the close of the song, they snuck in a “Low Rider” tease (there had been one earlier, at some point) and then West Brook started a “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In” revival.
And we were done. Absolute perfection. All the accolades you will hear are absolute merited. BRAVA, BRAVO, one and all!
[MTB TWO: Leave My Blues at Home, Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad > Soulful Serenade, Put It On Me, Spanish Moon, Harp Jam, Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’, Use Me, Ho Cake, Little by Little, Million Miles, Yield Not to Temptation (w/ Low Rider, When the Saints Go Marchin’ In teases)]