The Little Memphis Blues Orchestra aren’t really an orchestra, per se, nor do all of them hail directly from the blues hub Wilson Pickett officially christened Soulsville U.S.A. However, the members of the Birmingham-based group do play an energetic and studious brand of Stax- and Allmans-influenced rock with down home blues and classic R&B overtones. By now they’re also probably sick and tired of hearing the soon-to-be-obsolete shout-out “soul patrol” from half-lit concertgoers.
Indeed, L.M.B.O. are the band that recent American Idol winner Taylor Hicks gigged with before flipping his salt n’ pepper wig and venturing into Hollywood prime-time territory. Hicks’ recent debut solo album, In Your Time, demonstrates his love of vintage R&B, soul, and Americana — and features classics, including a rendition of “Georgia” and Archie Bell & The Drells hit “Tighten Up.”
Memphis native Brian Less (piano/organ/vocals), Mitch Jones (bass), Sam Gunderson (guitar/vocals), and Zippy Dietrich (drums) have a deep love for American music as well. They play original compositions along with a choice batch of covers from their esteemed funky predecessors, including Billy Preston’s “Will It Go ‘Round In Circles” and a tight run-through of Booker T. & The M.G.s’ organ-heavy instrumental “Hip-Hug Her.” The ‘Bama boys are a little older than ex-frontman Hicks and know full well how to put on a high-energy shakin’ soul revue, sometimes equipped with a guest horn player or two.
Formerly known as — yep, you guessed it — The Taylor Hicks Band, the guys had been already playing together for several years and, instead of folding, they renamed themselves Little Memphis Blues Orchestra (or “LiMBO,” as they’ve also been referred to in send-up of their herky-jerky dancing pal’s sudden departure) after Hicks’ advancement in the 2006 Idol competition. They’ve stated that no ill will is felt between the parties and that they look forward to working with Hicks again after his Idol contract is fulfilled. In the meantime, the Orchestra’s members appear to be in anything but limbo and have been working on a debut disc of their own that looks to be wrapped up soon.
“On any given day you will find Little Memphis Blues Orchestra members playing in hot spots throughout the Southeast and currently expanding from coast to coast,” reads a recent confident band press release. “It’s the best this business has offered up to music lovers in years. Check out the show. There’s not a chance you’ll walk away without a smile on your face. Catch a glimpse of the real deal.”
The band’s otherwise engaged singer may continue in his longing to “make you proud” but his former bandmates appear more intent on taking care of bidness the old fashioned way — making new believers one barroom or juke joint at a time.
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