There's been far too much tragic music news swirling about recently and, sadly, the latest is about a Florida guy. On Jan. 17, soul provocateur and hip-hop influence Clarence Reid succumbed to liver cancer. He was a serious and credentialed hit songwriter for noted artists like Betty Wright, Gwen McCrae, Sam & Dave and KC & the Sunshine Band. But in the underground, he was known and wildly beloved as the X-rated Blowfly, a fascinating, surprisingly enduring and deep-winding career tributary that carried him from the R&B and proto-disco of Miami's TK Records all the way over to Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles.
This OG ODB from Miami was particularly special to Orlando freaks because he played Will's Pub regularly and brought the nasty every damn time. For that, with pants around our ankles, we salute you, sir. And though the loss is great, his final album, 77 Rusty Trombones, is set for a February release, because that's how a real motherfucker goes out.
For a young act with very little tangible trail, Mothers is emerging on some considerable national-level groundswell. The Athens band doesn't even have an album out yet (that happens on Feb. 26 on Grand Jury) but they've already got some heavy advance buzz and even some industry forces gathering behind them. Now, after seeing them at their Orlando debut (Jan. 12, Will's Pub), it's pretty clear that all that promise is real. Even if you've heard any of the good songs going around online, strap in. What I saw was significantly bigger and deeper.
Their indie rock is a surprising and compelling union of Kristine Leschper's Angel Olsen-esque vocals, oblique melodic turns and near-shoegaze swells of dissonance. Curious, lovely and loud, it's a balance of beckoning strangeness and a brawny sense of sonic drama. And their live show is the best impression they've left yet. With a grandly auspicious sound and a hotly anticipated debut album set to drop next month, now's the time to get on 'em.
While we're on new discovery, I just recently named the city of Lakeland the "best satellite scene" in my 2015 Undie Awards on the wings of standout groups like Poster, Omri Loved Celadon and Pilgrimage. Well, add new band Swept to that illustrious list because they're further proof that there is something magical in the water over there right now. Between their musical lines and lodestars, Swept isn't easy to pin. Live, they swayed from off-kilter indie rock to noisy psych-gaze from song to song. The only unifying thread seems to be a sensibility that's textured, woozy and interestingly left-field. But it's intriguing and amounts to a band very much worth watching.
Also opening was Tre Hester, an esteemed local musician who's played with an enviable list of homegrown indie names like the Great Deceivers, the Pauses and now with rising local Laney Jones, as well as national indie star Matt Pond. From that list, it's clear he's been a pretty wanted hired gun for quite a few years now, which explains why his own material isn't especially known. But this little performance made a positive case for him to consider giving it a little more commitment.
His music is pleasantly downcast indie rock. The inclusion of a David Bazan cover in his set – and the further fact that it was the most upbeat song he played – should give you an idea of where Hester's coming from. But buoying the tender, reflective mood is his clear, articulated and melodic voice. And the result is a lot less soporific than it looks on paper.
He's currently working on his first solo EP with Saskatchewan's Ranson Vorpahl with recording help from Fat Night's Daniel Hanson. As always, however, the timing of its completion is subject to his other commitments. And since Laney Jones and the Spirits are about to hit the national tour circuit pretty hard to push her upcoming new self-titled LP (release show at Will's Pub on March 11), he's going to be awfully busy for a while. Still, it's worth keeping an eye out for.