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Soundchecks are an essential part of touring. Some singers love them; most bands hate them, but the daily tweaking of mics and amps and monitors is as much a part of life on the road as catering and after show parties. It’s not uncommon for bands (at least those who still like each other) to jam at soundcheck, but one group of musicians has taken that to a new level: DICK50.

As members of Texas R&B/country soul legend Delbert McClinton’s band, the musicians of Dick50-–bassist STEVE MACKEY, keyboardist KEVIN MCKENDREE, guitarist ROB MCNELLEY, and drummer LYNN WIILLIAMS––knew they had chemistry. Says McNelley, “We’ve played together so much that we developed our own musical language.” They were friends as well as colleagues, sharing influences, musical tastes, and, as evidenced by the band’s tongue-in-cheek name, a dry sense of humor. Most importantly, the four musicians discovered that together they had a distinctive sound––a style Williams calls “stripped down rock and roll soul.”

“We’ve played together on all kinds of recording sessions and gigs,” says McKendree, “but when it’s just the four of us jamming for fun, our music is much greater than the sum of its parts. We started coming up with great songs during soundcheck, but, of course, we’d always forget them later, so we decided to set up at The Rock House, my studio out in Franklin, TN, and make an album as if it were a soundcheck, with lots of spontaneity and limited overdubs and effects.”

The result is “LATESHOW” (APRIL 6, 2010), the debut CD from Dick50, whose members are four of the most well heeled, hard-grooving musicians currently working on the Nashville scene.

“Each of these songs were written and recorded in one session by the whole band,” says Mackey. “Eleven songs; eleven days. The plan was to go into the studio that morning cold, and walk out with a song.” And so they did. The finished tracks are a testament to the musical alchemy that can only happen when the vibe is relaxed and the players are on the same page.

“Make It Right,” for example, blends Mackey’s slippery Big Easy-style bass line with an irresistibly funky groove. “After everything/ Now I’m wondering/ What I need to make it right,” sings McNelley, the group’s ad hoc frontman, in a soaring tenor reminiscent of Jamaican reggae/soul singer Jimmy Cliff. Meanwhile, a two-note piano hook drives the point

McKendree’s Clavinet anchors “Medicine Man,” an NRBQ-sounding strut that reminds us that “You can’t get something for nothing/ that’ll take you down every single time.” McNelley’s wonky guitar line adds junkyard dog bite, while Williams sloshes along like a one-man parade. “Like You Did,” on the other hand, channels vintage Brit roots-rock with it’s soul-shout verses and explosive guitar line.

“The ’70s thing is important,” says Mackey. “It’s what we heard growing up––a much broader spectrum of music on the radio. That’s why, when we borrow from rock and UK pop and soul and R&B, it doesn’t feel to us like we’re jumping around stylistically.”

That explains “LateShow’s” sound which draws from a multitude of sources but is still consistent. Tracks like “Dirty South,” “Down,” “Flyin’ Now,” “So We Shine” and “Goldilocks” might rock hard, but they don’t neatly fit categories like “indie” or “pop.” Rather, they demonstrate a love of deep grooves, hooky songwriting and shared influences as varied as The Rolling Stones, John Scofield, and Willie Nelson. In the hands of Dick50––whose individual credits include, along with Delbert McClinton, recordings with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Brian Setzer, John Hiatt, Dolly Parton, India.Arie and LadyAntebellum––this musical gene pool results in a brave new sound.


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