The Ringers, featuring Keith Carlock (drums), Jimmy Herring (guitar), Wayne Krantz (guitar), Michael Landau (guitar) and Etienne MBappe (bass) brought the feelings of lightness and renewal offered by Mother Nature each spring a bit early with what could be called A Midwinter’s Couple Night’s Dream Tour. The tour featured two performances in central North Carolina during a short run of East Coast dates running from Georgia up through New York City.
These shows brought forth the eternal question; “Electric guitar, how do we love thee?” Do we love thee as in the powers you possess? Powers similar to Dorothy’s longing for happiness beyond the rainbow? Do we love you as a fortunate; contest winning child who lovingly opened their candy bar to find one of Willa Wonka’s golden tickets? Not being easy to place a word on what is so loveable about you, electric guitar, let’s sit a spell and ponder; “It”. Whatever “It” touches, wherever “It” reaches, whenever “It” arrives, we all know “It”.
Well for two nights, “It” was in full effect in North Carolina. The first night in Charlotte’s Neighborhood Theater followed the next night by a show at the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh. In assessing the two shows, Charlotte had a little more of an Allman Brother’s/70s super group power feel to the show while in Raleigh, there was a strong, spacey, “get on your good foot” funk groove. While the band was loading up after the show, Wayne Krantz and Michael Landau were kind enough to share a few comments on the shows. Michael Landau mentioned what a blast they were having on tour. While Wayne Krantz kindly responded to my question about the differing vibes and sounds the Charlotte and Raleigh shows offered; with his arms full of guitars I should add, Wayne stated that Raleigh was more funky, ESPECIALLY, the second half of the set. A few of the songs that were attention getters over the course of the two nights were both Ringer originals as well as songs the musicians had played as their own in previous bands. To name a few of the tunes The Ringers played are Worried Life Blues, Pymfao, African Jam, Pungee, Slopes, Little Money Maker and Annick 2.
“It” was revealed in how the The Ringers interacted with each other onstage. Like Lady Godiva in all her glory atop her steed, The Ringers unabashedly bared all their musical charms. Each night, the interactions between the musicians were completely fluid and allowed each member of The Ringers to share all their talents with no one posing or striving to catch the limelight. The musicians being from all walks of musical life; effortlessly, without any ego and free from any limitations with their instruments, shared the stage and sound to the delight of everyone in the venue each of the two nights. Jimmy, even though the “headliner”, just stepped off to the side and chilled throughout the sets sometimes to the extent of sitting on a stool while smiling and nodding his approval while being as much of a fan as anyone in the audience.
The MVP of the whole group may have been Bass player, Etienne MBappe. Much like the catcher on a baseball team whose contributions are so often underappreciated, the bass player can get lost in the shuffle. His experience with world beats and mastery of jazz made Etienne an ideal choice as bassist for this band. As Herring, Krantz and Landau were being swept along by “It” as if on a flying carpet, there was Etienne, standing strong and tall in the middle of all this swirling, spacey, powerful magnificence banging out a bass line that served the “It” to a tee. Etienne who played with Ray Charles, is best known for his years with the Zawinul Syndicate and is currently a member of John McLaughlin’s 4th Dimension.
Wayne Krantz’s tenth album, Howie 61, was released this past April to widespread and well deserved acclaim throughout the music world. Krantz has continues his evolution as an artist and audio alchemist. Respected and renowned for his improvisational jazz, rock and whatever magic is channeled through his guitars. Check Wayne Krantz’s 2004 book, An Improviser’s OS, for further insight into Wayne’s skills.
A featured and heavily accomplished session musician, Michael Landau, has a note worthy career dating back to the early 1980s with artists such as the much beloved Joni Mitchell, Seal, Michael Jackson, James Taylor, Steve Perry, Pink Floyd and Miles Davis. Not just a hired gun or guitarist for others, Michael Landau has captained other bands including Raging Honkies and Burning Water. Nothing against the impressive list of acts and individuals Michael has played with but we can all agree on this point, “In Joni Mitchell, we trust.”
Keith Carlock is no newcomer to the music scene. Keith has worked with John Mayer, Sting, Steely Dan, James Taylor, Diana Ross, Faith Hill, The Blues Brothers Band, Wayne Krantz, Harry Belafonte, Larry Carlton, Clay Aiken, Rascal Flatts, Paula Abdul and Grover Washington, Jr,. From the most classic of 1970s FM radio, to one of the sweetest voices that Motown or the planet has to offer, to jazz and even to some of today’s nouveaux country’s biggest groups plus a one-time American Idol wonder boy, Keith has experienced “It” fully.
Knowing Jimmy Herring prefers a world without musical genres and his dedication and goal to make music for the purpose of bringing more happiness to the world, while providing a soundtrack for years and years and years of lively and loving times with friends and to give us a mind, body and spirit boost when we need one the most; bless your soul, your freakishly fast fingertips and the efforts of your musical brother’s in arms! Jimmy’s musical contributions cannot be ignored and for most of you reading this article, can be rattled off chronologically: The Aquarium Rescue Unit, Jazz is Dead, the Allman Brother’s Band, the Phil Lesh Quintet, Phil Lesh and Friends and of course his role with Widespread Panic. Jimmy also released a solo album, Subject To Change, this past August. Mucho gracias Jimmy Herring!
And you may ask yourself, “Just what the %^&*( is this “It”?
“It” slipped through the southern blues bars and across the wrong side of the tracks into the most proper of suburbs to drive rock and roll to prominence.
“It” proclaimed the English Invasion via the Ed Sullivan Show. One if by Eric Clapton, two if by Jimmy Page, three if by a liquor bottle shattered in the street by Keith Richards.
“It” swirled around the Bay Area and far, far beyond as Jerry Garcia and friends did, and continue doing, their thing.
“It” sweated balls while Stevie Ray Vaughan made every guitar he played his beeeeeeeyatch; shirtless, wide eyed and full of passion.
“It” astounds when one is within winking or head nodding distance of Warren Haynes. Warren Haynes, with a half a dozen simple notes so sincere that the notes bring a tear to your eye or with a solo run of notes so powerful you can feel both the vibration of sheer volume in a physical manner as your t-shirt pulses to the beat or in a way that encourages our spirit to keep “GITTIN’ IT !” as life’s twists and turns, test and taunt.
“It” celebrates our highest highs and soothes us during our lowest lows.
Over the course of these two nights, The Ringers put on a display of “It” that none in attendance could have possibly taken for granted or have the misfortune to forget anytime soon.