Troy Youngblood Returns to Tampa Bay Area for Magical Shows
Before we go a step further, let me note that Troy Youngblood’s deep tenor voice is my all-time favorite among Florida’s male singers. When he moved his family to Maine about four years ago, there simply wasn’t anyone like him in our community. The announcement that he would return to the Tampa Bay area for four shows after a couple gigs in Nashville electrified all here who knew him — and his voice.
The first of the area shows was at Crowbar in Ybor City on Thursday, May 18, reuniting Youngblood with dear friend Tom DeGeorge, proprietor of Crowbar and the voice of small music venues everywhere. The show was stacked, despite the luke-warm turnout on a mid-week evening.
George Pennington and the Odyssey opened the show with a lovely set, first acoustic, then electric. Pennington was lead guitarist in Troy Youngblood and the Soulfish for the band’s last two years before Youngblood’s move north. The quartet opened with beautiful picking from Pennington on acoustic guitar before the band entered, so mellow, very understated, truly wonderful.
Matt Salvador kept perfect time on drum kit, and Sebastian Siaca was a real treat on bass. Ross Strauser had a fine tenor sax solo on the next tune that featured Pennington’s low-key vocals, followed by a short instrumental and lovely interplay.
Pennington strapped on the electric guitar, and we blasted off with “War Chief,” a deep blues rocker with a huge tenor solo. Pennington strode into metal land, then went mellow… briefly, before exploding again. “Dug Down Soul” smoked, and “Canopy” was an instrumental built on the Billy Cobham classic “Stratus.”
Now it was time for Youngblood’s first group — Skull and Bone Band — one he created with Chris Brown, bass; and Mountain Mike Sherman, drums and nakedness (well, at least partial). The history of the band is a tad fuzzy, just the way they like it, but for this show Al Farr was on keyboards and harmonica and Deran Correia on lead guitar. This band never worked for style points or precision; they throw down a great time with a lot of fun each performance.
“Goin’ Down South” was a deep dive that energized the crowd, Farr superb on harp. Correia had a great guitar solo on the second tune. By the time they got to “x in the Water,” Sherman had his shirt off, and there were calls for more. “Where is the Love” (not that one) was a fine song, and eventually Chris Sgammato, who had wandered in, stepped on stage with alto sax to wrangle with Correia in a fine battle.
There was a tune about ghost ships called “Walk the Plank” before they closed with a deep, dark “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” Brown crushing this one on bass (well, the whole set). Farr sparkled on keyboards.
A request for “Buck-Naked John”? You bet!
Youngblood had stuck to acoustic guitar for the Skull and Bone Band set but switched to electric for the Soulfish romp about to begin. Pennington was now on stage as lead guitarist, and Reggie Scott took over the drum kit (clothed). Farr was pure magic on “Walkabout” before the band settled in for a simply stunning half-hour tour through soul blues, and nobody delivers that quite like Youngblood.
First up was the deep lament of “Just Another Day (In My Life),” so palpable you could reach out and grab it. Farr on electric piano played clavinet style. Pennington mined terse, constrained blues licks over an extended solo, so fine. And the song would return several times to Youngblood almost growling the chorus. WOW!
Somehow it got even better, more heartfelt, deep down inside with “River of Souls.” Farr’s harp was a major addition, Brown on amazing bass, and Scott providing the perfect tempo for vocals and then guitar from both Pennington and Youngblood. There was a short stomp though “Got My Mojo Working,” one of Youngblood’s favorites to cover.
Youngblood called it, then retracted that to play one more song for DeGeorge, Bruce Springsteen’s sprawling “Atlantic City.” Youngblood had at least three sheets of handwritten lyrics to help him close the special night.
Troy Youngblood and the Soulfish would play The Blueberry Patch Friday with Skull and Bone Band, with the Soulfish then at Ella’s Folk Art Cafe Sunday, and Youngblood joining Pennington Monday at Crowbar; Pennington hosts the weekly open jam there.