You can learn a lot about a band by attending their pre-show sound check. Plenty of veteran bands give short shrift to this pre-show ritual, and they pay the price in poor sound. But Asheville-based blues/funk/soul band Skinny Legs and All take sound check very seriously. There’s no clowning around, no time wasted noodling. In short, they’re professionals.
All photos © Paul Howey
That may come as a bit of a surprise to someone seeing the band for the first time: the average age of the band is less than seventeen. So although lead singer Jesse Barry (17) is careful to implore the crowd at the Grey Eagle to “be sure and tip your bartender,” not one member of the group could spend any time at that bar themselves.
The band’s recently completed album was recorded in home studios belonging to the families of Colin Hanson (16, drums) and Avi Goldstein (14, bass guitar). And while the music is a band effort, Skinny Legs and All called in some local heavyweights when needed: Final mixing took place at Chris Rosser’s Hollow Reed Studios, and renowned percussionist River Guerguerian guests on the album.The five musicians engage in group composition of their original songs. And that collaborative approach — that camaraderie — is evident during our interview. The four male members take turns good-naturedly razzing lead vocalist Jesse Barry about using her “cute voice” to answer questions. When the laughter subsides, Barry explains the group’s origin: “We started as a school elective, and we ended up growing from that.” Since that time they’ve done dozens of shows.
Despite the seasoned stage demeanor and instrumental prowess of the band, they’re not a bunch of highly trained players. They’ve learned their craft by playing together and developing the musical communication and shorthand that comes only from experience and practice.
That practice is paying off. Skinny Legs and All hit the road to support the new album when their combined schedules allow. Upcoming shows include dates in Charlotte, Black Mountain and Asheville, and the band recently traveled to Jacksonville Beach for dates including a prominent spot at that city’s renowned Springing the Blues festival.
All photos © Paul Howey
There are no pawnshop guitars in this act. The band funneled its performance revenues back into buying some of the best equipment available. The stage at Asheville’s Grey Eagle — scene of their album release party — was littered with shiny new amps, guitars and keyboards; David Cate‘s Fender amplifier still had a music store hang-tag on it.But in the hands of these young musicians (Cate is 17) the instruments are no mere toys. The group plays with a lively mix of technique, precision and off-the-cuff looseness. While they hit all the right notes, not once does their playing come off as studied, mannered. Despite their age, they truly seem to have the “feel” of the music, a balanced mix of original and well-chosen cover material. As keyboardist Paul Chelmis (19) puts it, “We’re not old enough to pay our dues, but we still know how to play the blues.”
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