The Melody Trucks Band Made Me Write This

Every time. Every damn time. Every time I swear, aver, and avow that I am NOT taking a notepad and NOT taking notes and NOT writing about a show, damned if the band doesn’t just throw down a best-ever performance I cannot help but acknowledge.

So last night (Saturday, February 1) it was the Melody Trucks Band, darn them all to heck. They were at the intimate Dunedin Brewery. Now mind you I’d seen them kill at Suwannee Rising, Orange Blossom Jamboree, their album release party at 1904 for Walking in Gratitude, and Hometeam New Year’s Rally. (And that Suwannee Rising set was especially sweet, seeing Melody and band deservedly on the Mushroom Stage/Amphitheater in Live Oak.)

This show topped them all — best ever for me, and a number of patrons who’ve seen them agreed. The band was completely lit up, and the atmosphere was simply electric. It never hurts that you could reach right out and touch them on stage (but DON’T DO THAT!].

For those who arrived during the first set, it was certainly a confusing sight. Guitarist Willis Gore wasn’t on stage (OK, that stage is so small he was never actually ON stage, but he wasn’t playing). And Melody Trucks’ congas weren’t there, either! She was just sitting off to the side with the march table! What the heck!

There are several subsets of the Melody Trucks Band. Guitarist West Brook, bass player Shane Platten, and drummer Shaun Taunton perform as Ginger Beard Man. Brady Clampitt, who plays guitar and keyboards, and Isaac Corbitt, harp, have a project called The Corbitt-Clampitt Experience. What we witnessed Saturday was another subset featuring Brook, Platten, Corbitt, Clampitt, and Taunton performing as The High Fives.

The High Fives – photo courtesy of Alan Feldman

And it was totally awesome, not that it should surprise anyone. “The Road,” a tune by Ginger Beard Man, was the only non-cover of the set, but this was a brilliant mix of covers from soul, blues, and R&B to rock and especially the Southern kind. Everybody but Taunton sings — and sings well — so this was a blast. Willis Gore sat in for one tune. They played the most uptempo, rollicking version of “Simple Man” you’ve ever heard, West Brook and Platten dancing madly as they played. And West Brook laid down the best solo I’ve ever heard from him on the Mofro song “You Know What I’m Talkin’ About.” Clampitt played keyboards through much of the set, adding great flavor, and Taunton’s time is relentless. That man has fun!

[THE HIGH FIVES: Mississippi (JJ Grey & Mofro), The Road (Ginger Beard Man), Personal Thing (King Johnson), Use Me (Bill Withers), Gonna Make It Alright (Paul Pena) WG*, Simple Man (Lynyrd Skynyrd), You Know What I’m Talkin’ About (JJ Grey & Mofro), Superstition (Stevie Wonder), Blind, Crippled, & Crazy (O.V. Wright), Hush > Midnight Rider > Hush (Joe South/Deep Purple/Allman Brothers Band)]

After the break, they set up for the Melody Trucks Band proper, primarily meaning that her congas and vocal mic were set up center front. They played eight of the nine tracks from Walking in Gratitude (“Before I Leave” was cut for time) and three other great songs: “Strange Brew” (Cream), “Just One,” and another Mofro masterpiece, “Ho Cake,” that Corbitt does such justice to vocally. That last one got ridiculous when Corbit had everybody trading quick solos: Gore, Brook, Corbitt, Alex Sears (sitting in on organ), and Clampitt (guitar). WOW!

Everybody took a turn singing, and there were times when five or six were singing in chorus, truly magnificent. The traditional “Harp Jam” with Corbitt and Taunton was its usual face-melting self, and of course they “unleashed the beast,” because Platten is every bit of that on bass. Melody’s percussion always adds that extra oomph to the sound, and her duet with West Brook on “Living a Lie” remains my favorite song from the record.

And I would be remiss were I not to shout out Willis Gore, a simply stunning guitarist AND vocalist who is the perfect embodiment of Southern rock; his addition to MTB and to Bonnie Blue, another amazing Jacksonville export, cannot be overstated. He IS the Capricorn sound.

House sound engineer Chris Fama again knocked it out of the park with a perfect mix at reasonable volume. The brewery was wall to wall from first note to last.

[MTB: Syncronicity, Pride Comes Before the Fall, Live Your Life, Living a Lie, Can You Feel Me Now, Harp Jam, Jellyfish, Strange Brew, Come and Go Blues, Ho Cake, Freight Train, Just One, Fire Inside]

Among the festivals on the horizon for MTB are the second annual Suwannee Rising at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak and the Wanee Block Party in Fort Lauderdale and a date in support of JJ Grey and Mofro, all in April, with much more to come.

We were delighted to discover that the band livestreamed the entire show, and here it is!

An evening with The Melody Trucks Band at Dunedin Brewery.

Posted by The Melody Trucks Band on Saturday, February 1, 2020

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