The Right Now – Carry Me Home (Review) & Upcoming Shows

I’m always concerned when an established band decides to change their name.

Chicago band The Right Now started life back in 2005 as R&B/Funk band Eli Jones and the Bare Bones by Brendan O’Connell. A live EP was recorded by this band in 2006. A few lineup changes and the addition of Stefanie Berecz as lead vocals prompted the truncating of the name to just Eli Jones. The album Make It Right was released in 2007 under this moniker while still continuing to hold true to the band’s R&B and Funk influences.

History shows that bands with names that seem like they would belong to one person tend to be confusing– just look at Jethro Tull, for example. Add in the fact that Eli Jones didn’t have the domain name for the band and the name was becoming somewhat cumbersome. So, it was the switch in name to The Right Now in 2009 that allowed the band to kind of re-invent itself. All of the fans of Eli Jones who had seen the high-energy shows in the small bars across Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa were going to follow the band even after the name change.

When I saw the band in December of 2008  at Mahoney’s in Cedar Rapids, they were still called Eli Jones, but had already incorporated a lot of the songs that would make up their new album which they had planned to release in 2009 into their live setsCarry Me Home is the first release by the band under it’s new name, and listening to the CD, I was taken back to that show with its memorable performances of “Ain’t Going Back,” “I Could Really Hold On,” “Doing Nothing,” “Carry Me Home,” “Nobody,” and “Before I Know Your Name.”

Getting ready for this review, I pulled out my copy of the Eli Jones album Make It Right for comparison. It’s an album I listened to quite a bit back when the band was rolling through the area. I thought it was really good– certainly the work of a band accomplished in R&B and Jazz, but felt ultimately  it didn’t capture the energy of their live set. Make It Right really seems to be the sound of a band in a transition– some of the tracks have the familiar throwback R&B strut, while other tracks evoke a more jazzy step.

Carry Me Home is the result of a very focused effort in the studio, apparently. The whole CD sounds like it was recorded in one marathon session– a balanced, almost live-to-tape sound. It has a polished production for certain, but not at the risk of the continuity. I find myself listening to the whole album when I put it on– I anticipate the next track at each song.

In some respects Carry Me Home is an album out-of-time– at once holding true to a retro R&B sound with its horns, stomps and claps and sneaking in a more current R&B edge in the form of lead singer Stefanie Berecz powerful lead vocals.

The album runs the gamut of emotion and energy from bright, sunny Tower-of-Powerish horn-driven songs like “You Will Know,” to the Motown harmony-mixed with clean funk picking “Before I Know Your Name” to the distinctly Southern R&B swing of “Doing Nothing” to the slow burner “Carry Me Home.” “Before I Know Your Name” was co-written by Stefanie and Brendan O’Connell (the conductor of this Soul Train) to her then-unborn child– the idea of which makes me smile when I listen to the lyrics.

The Right Now - 7 to 10 7"

It’s also worth noting that The Right Now also has a 7″ out of a non-album track “7 to 10”  which they recorded in Memphis in September 2009 at Scott Bomar’s Electraphoic Recording Studio live to 2″ 8-track tape! The flip is “The One You Love” from the album. On the return trip they took the master to Larry Nix at the legendary Ardent Studios who cut the plates. They hand-delivered the plates to United Record Pressing in Nashville and got a tour. Here is Brendan’s MySpace blog article about the experience (with video!).

It seems there are a lot of notable acts delivering the Stax/Motown-influenced sound today– Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings seems to be leading this front, certainly the last Amy Winehouse album (which uses members of the Dap-Kings), Joss Stone— so it takes a strong but distinguishable effort for a band to not get lost in the comparisons. It’s clear that The Right Now shows respect for the legacy of R&B, Soul and Funk that came before it, but in my opinion the band is building from that tradition.

One can consider the new band name as the answer to the question of what period of popular music they might draw from– no specific period, but obviously writing and performing in The Right Now.

The band just kicked off a run of shows which will bring them back to Eastern Iowa in April. On Friday, 4/16 they will be taping a second Java Blend show (the first as The Right Now), doing an on-air on IPR and hitting The Blue Moose Tap House. On Saturday, they’ll be performing at The Redstone Room in Davenport opening for Daphne Willis and hitting their favorite Iowa stop, Mahoney’s in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, 4/18.

Visit The Right Now Store to order Carry Me Home or the “7 to 10″ 7”

Click Here to visit The Right Now collection at archive.org for some streaming and downloadable live shows.

Click Here to visit The Right Now website.

Click Here to visit The Right Now Facebook Page

Here is where they Twitter.

Click Here for The Right Now on Bandcamp

Click Here for their last.fm page.

Click Here to visit The Right Now iLike page with videos and mp3’s.

Upcoming Shows (from MySpace):

Mar 8 2010    Bullfrog Brewery – CD Release Show!     Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Mar 10 2010     Puck Live – CD Release Show!     Doylestown, Pennsylvania
Mar 11 2010     Groove – CD Release Show!     New York, New York
Mar 12 2010     The Saint     Asbury Park, New Jersey
Mar 13 2010     Shadow Lounge – CD RELEASE SHOW!     Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Mar 18 2010     Vocalo 89.5FM – In-studio     Chicago, Illinois
Mar 18 2010     Fearless Radio – Live In-Studio     Chicago, Illinois
Mar 18 2010     WLUW – Radio Free Chicago (Interview)     Chicago, Illinois
Mar 19 2010     WGN Television     Chicago, Illinois
Mar 19 2010     Lincoln Hall – CD RELEASE SHOW!     Chicago, Illinois
Mar 26 2010     This Must Be The Place     Lemont, Illinois
Apr 9 2010     KSDK – Show Me St. Louis     Saint Louis, Missouri
Apr 9 2010     The Gramophone – CD Release Show!     St. Louis, Missouri
Apr 15 2010     The Frequency w/ Unicycle Loves You     Madison, Wisconsin
Apr 16 2010     Java Blend     Iowa City, Iowa
Apr 16 2010     KRUI 89.7 FM – In-studio     Iowa City, Iowa
Apr 16 2010     The Blue Moose Taphouse – CD Release Show!     Iowa City, Iowa
Apr 17 2010     Redstone Room     Davenport, Iowa
Apr 18 2010     Mahoney’s Pub     Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Apr 24 2010     Downtown Holland Groovewalk     Holland, Michigan
Apr 30 2010     Marly’s Pub – CD Release Show!     Springfield, Illinois
Apr 30 2010     Alice at 97.7 – Studio A Sessions     Springfield, Illinois
May 17 2010     Cosmic Charlies     lexington, Kentucky
May 20 2010     Rogue Tavern w/ Deep Fried 5     Birmingham, Alabama
Jun 4 2010     Upfront & Company     Marquette, Michigan
Jun 5 2010     Upfront & Company     Marquette, Michigan

Eli Jones at Mahoney’s Irish Pub 12/7/08 (Review)

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As I posted earlier, Eli Jones was booked to play Mahoney’s Irish Pub on Sunday 12/7. I was planning to hit the show if I got back from a weekend in Minneapolis at a decent time. As it turns out, I did, but it was a bit hairy coming out of Minneapolis with a bunch of snow blowing all over the roads, but we made it back in one piece, if a bit worn out. Thankfully, the show was an early start, and it got over early, so I could get back home and to bed since I needed to work the next morning.

I had never been to Mahoney’s before for some reason. Apparently it was because I couldn’t find it! My daughter Rae goes to Coe College, and that is in the same area, and she told me to take the H Ave exit off of 380, which is the same one that I take when I visit her on campus. I drove around a bit and found Paddy O’Roark’s on 16th Street but no sign of Mahoney’s. So, I busted out the trusty iPhone and hit the Maps application which helpfully indicated that I was damn near sitting on top of Mahoneys! WTF? Well, only in Cedar Rapids can we support two Irish-themed bars around the corner from each other!

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I got rock star parking in the small lot next to the bar, so I was pretty happy about that– as long as I didn’t get blocked in. Mahoney’s is a very small bar– long and narrow. The band of eight members seemed to take up half of the bar! I made my way to the back of the bar by the covered pool table and staked my place while the band worked through a spirited cover of the Classic Joe Cocker version of the Box Tops’ “The Letter.” The band was set up where seating would normally be along a long table in the center of the bar. It made for some awkward vantage points as far as shooting pictures was concerned, but I think I got some good shots. When I got there the band had already started, and the crowd was relatively thin but within an hour or so the place filled up. The crowd seemed to be a mixture of regulars and regular fans of the band. Even for such a small crowd, the place was electric! The crowd was supportive and the two ladies working the bar were very busy, but attentive and even entertained the crowd by doing some Ikette moves during the “Proud Mary” cover!!

The ladies behind the bar doing their best Ikette impersonations

In the four-hour set, Eli Jones did a set of songs that drew heavily from their 2007 CD Make It Right as well as their as-yet-unrecorded next album, in addition to some very complimentary covers. The cover run the range of 60’s R&B classics like the aforementioned “The Letter” and “Proud Mary” to more obscure classics like the Meters “Look a Py-Py” and they threw in some Prince and a frantic cover of the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” that had Jonathon Edwards running around the bar, and I believe outside at one point! Later in the night he had to apologize to a guy who’s hat was lost during the race.

I think that this show was a good example of how a great crowd can make a great band better. There was a lot of interaction between the band and the crowd that night and they fed off each other. At one point during the third set I counted 45 people in the bar, but damn if it didn’t seem like the crowd was bigger! Brendan said in an e-mail after the show that about 10 people bought CD’s that night, and it looked like the tip jar was pretty full, too.

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Eli Jones is one of the tightest bands I’ve seen in a while and while they don’t put on the choreographed stage show that the Diplomats are doing these days with the Diplomettes, they have their own style and would make a killer double-billing with the Diplomats. Stefanie Berecz holds her own against the three-piece horns section with a powerhouse vocal skill. Her wide range runs the gamut from R&B shouting to smoky blues and raw emotion. I don’t want to downplay the fact that Brendan O’Connell and Chris Corsale also contribute vocals which gives the band the necessary breadth of material to keep “Joe Sixpack” rocking through three sets.

Stefanie Berecz of Eli Jones

Brendan said that this show was the fourth time this year that they played Mahoney’s and he said that this was their favorite bar to play– they haven’t played anywhere else in Cedar Rapids! Considering the warm atmosphere and fun crowd, I can see why and I plan to make it back there when they play next, which should be sometime after they record their next album. If Eli Jones is playing anywhere near you I recommend seeing them.

Jill and the crowd get down
Set One

Make It Right
Bring Your Love To Me
Right Wrong
Poor Man’s Game (*)
The Letter
Better Way (*)
Proud Mary
Afraid Not To Die
Disco Smooth
Son of a Preacher Man
Ain’t Going Back (*)

Set Two

Finally Did For Me
I Could Really Hold On (*)
Doin’ Nothin’ (*)
Give It Up
Mary Jane
Kiss > Seven
Carry Me Home (*)
Stevie (Wonder?)
I’ll Get Down (*)

Set Three

Look a Py-Py
Use Me
Lift This Hurt
Candlelight and Satin Sheets
Since You Been Gone
Life During Wartime
Abracadabra
Whiskey High
Where Did The Time Go
You Got The Love
Before I Know Your Name (*)
Nobody (*)

(*) Songs that will be on the next album

Band Members:

Stefanie Berecz
Brendan O’Connell
Chris Corsale (guitar/vocals)
Greg Nergaard (bass)
John Smillie (drums)
Jonathon Edwards (baritone sax)
Jim Schram (tenor sax)
Eric Miller (trombone)

Click Here to see the other pictures from the show.

Click Here to visit Eli Jones’s Website

Upcoming Show: Chicago Soul Group Eli Jones at Mahoney’s, Cedar Rapids 12/7/08

Eli Jones is an eight-piece band from Chicago that delivers tight accomplished Soul and R&B that draws equally from the annals of classic R&B and Soul of Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin or Stax as it does from the contemporary renewed interest in authentic Soul and R&B delivered by Alicia Keys, John Legend or Joss Stone. The seven-piece Eli Jones band led by the tasty guitar tone of Brendan O’Connell deftly supports the vocal powerhouse of Stefanie Berecz.

The band started in 2005 as a trio and added horns and Berecz arriving at their current lineup in 2007. They released their first studio album Make It Right in November of 2007 and are planning to release their second album in the Summer of 2009. The band has been gigging steadily around the Midwest and played Mahoney’s in Cedar Rapids back in April to a receptive crowd.

The group is coming back to the area again next weekend playing The Busted Lift in Dubuque on Saturday, December 6th, and here in Cedar Rapids at Mahoney’s on Sunday, December 7th. I’m not sure about the cover at the Busted Lift, but the Mahoney’s show is FREE! I can’t think of a better way to wrap up a weekend than some soulful, funky R&B, really. You can always watch “Desperate Housewives” online or Tivo it.

Click Here for the Facebook Event Page– let the band know you’re coming!

Click Here to visit Eli Jones’s website. They have four songs that you can stream.

Click Here to visit Eli Jones’s MySpace Page

Click Here to see the shows up on Archive.org

Click Here to listen to an amazing acoustic “Candlelight and Satin Sheets” from Alice FM in May. The song is taken to an intimate singer-songwriter performance.

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