Sol Roots 'Live From The Hamilton' Album Review and Exclusive Interview
Well, things have taken quite a turn here. Is everyone ok? Are you ok? Is music still relevant? I’m still plugging away here, trying to find a bit of normalcy. It’s few and far between but music is truly my guiding light. I have recently started a music vlog “Out Of My Mind” where I discuss the ins-and-outs of the Jam Music Scene and much more. I hope you all will be joining me. Feel free to comment, share, and interact. Let’s get the ball rolling!
I recently introduced Sol Roots, the prominent DC Bluesman, to all of you. After receiving so much interest, I have decided to give you even more. I talked with Sol about life, music, the blues, and the DC music scene in an exclusive Jam Band Purist interview. I also got the opportunity to review his most recent live album release 'Live At The Hamilton' and I will add it below.
Sol Roots ‘Live At the Hamilton’ is a diverse and well-recorded album that immediately draws each listener in. This live album includes Phil Wiggins on the harmonica and Eddie Christmas on the drums. From the opening notes of “Sugaree” The Grateful Dead staple, the band immediately comes together and the harmonica work from Phil Wiggins lies heavily in the mix adding something new to this rendition. This version of the song is much more upbeat with a great funk feel. The vocals are off the charts and overall it has a great sound. Good lord, that harmonica can wail. I have heard countless covers of this immortal classic about a lady of the night but Sol Roots makes this one all their own, adding a quality that transcends genre.
“Goin' Home” is up next on 'Live From The Hamilton' and this one immediately gets my blood pumping with a New Orleans swing. Besides these infectious grooves taking over my brain waves, the lyrics to “Goin' Home” are poignant and endure with each listen. “Take the girl out of the country, not the country out of the girl.“ This track is the perfect example of what Sol Roots brings to the stage. I can hear the sizzle of the energy in the room, I can feel the music reverberate through me, I can even smell the faint reek of musk, sweat, and alcohol. I can see the people dancing to the sound. I must be missing live music.
“I Bet You” is compelling from the opening guitar riffs. The groove starts when the harmonica begins to whine out the long soulful notes. For me, "I Bet You" is right up my alley; bluesy with a Motown feel to boot. This is definitely my favorite track off of 'Live At The Hamilton.' Although all the tracks have a unique sound and flavor to them. "I Bet You" is filled with just the right amount of blues, funk, and great improvisational solos from Sol himself.
“Roberta” is straight-blues, no twist or turns. This song makes you want to shake your hips with a partner or even alone. The drums from Eddie Christmas are laying down a heavy groove here. This song is filled with improvisational solos between Sol and Wiggins. I can tell from the recording that this band's chemistry comes from tons of practice and working together sonically.
“St. James Infirmary Blues” is played like I’ve never heard, a little faster and with a lot more gusto. The live aspect of this album makes me feel like I am at the show watching this band work together harmoniously to create something greater. This recording lends itself to the ever-shifting change in music and covers that last throughout the ages.
Overall ‘Live From The Hamilton’ does a great job conveying Sol Roots live performances. Sol Roots shows its listeners why they are one of the best in the DC area. I can’t wait to get a chance to see this band live and experience their performance. It was my pleasure to chat with Sol and talk about all things music below. 'Live From The Hamilton' can be found here https://solrootsmusic.com/home I implore my readers to help Sol and his band raise funds in this struggling musical era. Sol Roots will also be doing a live stream performance for Events DC on their Instagram page this Wednesday, June 24 & live at JV's in Falls Church Thursday, June 25. Check them out!
Exclusive JBP Interview with Sol Roots:
JBP: Is there a story behind the name, Sol Roots?
Sol: "My name is Sol Creech, and my last name would get messed up a lot, or not remembered. The band would perform a lot of old school soul, blues, funk, and rock. Digging back to the roots of each genre. The band went by "Sol Creech Band" at the very beginnings, just "Sol" for a while, then "Sol and Funk Root" and then evolved to "Sol Roots". Sol Roots seems easier for people to remember and gives a better impression of what the crowd can expect. It just grew naturally, I suppose."
JBP: How has coming up in the D.C./Northern VA/Maryland area helped shape your career as a musician?
Sol: "Actually, I was born in NC, and lived in NC, Arizona, VA, and TN, and have family in Brazil and Costa Rica, later moving to the D.C. area.
The D.C. area is home, while still maintaining contact with family and friends all over. D.C. has an awesome musician community and we're very glad to be a part of it. My trio has had a weekly residence on U St in DC for around 9 years, and shared in a rich musical community, right up until the global pandemic hit. We are all very thankful for the amazingly talented musicians that we have had as special guests regularly. My main drummer Vic Chase, grew up around D.C. and has been an integral part of the jazz/funk/fusion scene for decades. My main bassist Andreas Holmstom performed and studied in his home country of Sweden, then cut his teeth in NYC, before coming down to D.C."
JBP: What are some of your most thrilling experiences working as a musician?
Sol: "I've been working with the non-profit company Music Maker Relief Foundation since I was a kid, from their very beginnings. With Music Maker, I've gotten to perform with, record, produce, tour, and learn from some of the real pioneers of American Music. Musicians like Robert Lee Coleman (a fantastic guitarist who was in James Brown's band, with Percy Sledge and others), Albert White (deep blues/ soul Atlanta guitarist, whose uncle Piano Red inspired The Beatles and others), Cool John Ferguson (phenomenal guitarist who Taj Mahal calls "one of the five greatest guitar players in the world"), Beverly "Guitar" Watkins, Lil Joe Burton, John Dee Holeman, Cootie Starks, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Taj Mahal, Guitar Gabriel, Captain Luke, and the list goes on and on. All of these artists have been involved with laying the foundation for today's music. Even if they are not as well known, it's an incredible blessing to hang out, perform, and travel the world with all these wonderful musicians and great spirits, and I will keep broadcasting their names and stories as long as I'm able."
JBP: In your personal music style, do you use a lot of improvisation?
Sol: "I would say a strong YES to that. I like to let the particular group of musicians, and the audience, both set the tone for whatever is going to happen in the shows. Ideally, each musician can listen, lock in with each other, and create something new every time. A huge part of it is listening. That's when the real magic can happen. Many times blues can be the hardest, mostly because many musicians might start thinking "this is too easy" and just jump into automatic pilot and miss the nuances that are happening. With my trio, we all bring together some various influences of funk, soul, jazz, fusion, and blues and these guys can really take off into some cool variations every show."
JBP: What's it like working/opening with some of the jam world's biggest acts?
Sol: "Over the years, we've been blessed to do some co-bills with killer acts like Soulive, Dumpstaphunk, Jon Cleary, Jackie Greene, The Wood Brothers, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, etc. Each show is different, and each band has a different vibe. I think it's interesting to see how music, bands, and situations evolve. I met master New Orleans drummer Eddie Christmas when we were all on tour over in Australia. He was with Jon Cleary, and I was playing bass behind a few Music Maker artists. We kept in contact, talking about doing some gigs and recording and a gig finally came up earlier this year where we could do a collaboration we'd been talking about for a while. It's been great having musicians from other bands sit in with us, and to sit in with other bands from time to time. You never know what can happen, you just have to be open to what the universe presents you."
JBP: How about your relationship with master saxophonist, Ron Holloway?
Sol: "Ron Holloway is an amazing saxophonist, great person, and just a fun guy to hang with, and hear his stories. His roots run deep in D.C. (and world-wide), from working with Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, and others, having a huge mural painted of him and other music legends, and a street named after him in D.C.! Ron and I first did some gigs together when we were all part of a local jam band called "Covered With Jam". We did several gigs with other different formations too. After a while, our calendars lined up and I had him be a special guest performing with my group. We would end up doing some shows together throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, and I had him regularly on our shows on U St in D.C. I'm already looking forward to the next time! It's always a real pleasure for the audience, and musicians as well."
JBP: I can tell from this new live album you are influenced by the blues but what other music has inspired you in your musical career?
Sol: "I truly love all styles of music and being a full-time musician I've ended up playing with groups as varied as African highlife bands, jazz combos, acoustic folk bands, live hip-hop bands, reggae groups, various funk and rock bands, singer-songwriters, gospel groups and more. I think my main focuses have been funk, blues, soul, rock, jazz, and reggae. Having family in Brazil and Costa Rica has influenced me as well. I sometimes feel like a musical crossroads, a spot where everything meets up. It gets deep when you see how the musical tree has branched off in so many ways, but a lot of the roots can be drawn back to the blues. One of my mentors and friends Tim Duffy describes it as "The blues traditions of the South have formed a deep aquifer of music that contemporary artists around the world draw from daily".
JBP: Do you prefer studio work vs live performances?
Sol: "I love both. I went to school for studio engineering, so that's another passion of mine. Studio work has really helped out during the time where all these venues were closed. Many times it seems easier to make musical magic happen with just live performances, the musicians can be more relaxed. Some awesome things can happen in the studio, and that's some of my next focuses. I have a big stash of unfinished pieces waiting to be polished and then released."
JBP: Any recent projects to promote besides this album? What's next?
Sol: "A few things are cooking. I was a hired gun for some recordings for some singer-songwriters recently, Louisiana based Daniel Lee, Virginia based singer-songwriter Ashleigh Chevalier, and Virginia based Jamie Potter. Also, some older original tracks need to be released, that feature some awesome musicians I've worked with from around the Mid-Atlantic: drummer "King" George Penn, bassist Jake Dempsey, drummer Scott Rabino, drummer Paul Dudley and more."
JBP: Where do you see the music industry after Covid-19 and how have you been staying afloat?
Sol: "I pulled off a few solo and trio live-stream performances, and had donations coming indirectly, the music fans truly helped immensely, it's been humbling. It's been rough, to say the least. I've done some recording gigs, a few teaching gigs, and also have to give special thanks to organizations like The Hamilton, The DC Legendary Musicians, DC After Dark, and Music Maker Relief Foundation. Last week, we just did our first actual live gig after a few months of quarantine/ hibernation. It's going to be a long road to get back to "normal" but I believe people are ready to come out and support all the independent venues, bands, and be safe and smart about it."
JBP: Being on the road, I'm sure you have seen some pretty wild stuff, any crazy experiences you've been dying to tell?
Sol: "Some of my favorites have been at venues where you really feel the deep history....like performing in France, where the venue was an old amphitheater with seats of stone cut out of the mountain, that dated back to the Roman times. Everything had been designed in ancient times to carry the acoustics naturally. Or other spots in Italy or Spain, seeing all the deep architecture and art. Or some of the blues cruises, jam-packed full of music heavyweights and intense fans. Or providing music entertainment for a deep-sea fishing tournament in Guatemala."
"Something that pops in my mind now, is one of the times we were at Bluesfest, the largest roots and blues festival in Australia. There is an Australian act called Yothu Yindi, whose album I picked up when I was a kid. They blend traditional aboriginal music with more modern rock music, with messages about mutual respect and understanding in the coming together of different cultures. They are hugely popular in Australia. To see an immense sea of people, all coming together, for the roots and having the music vibe in modern times and styles, is really powerful. Music has that power. Love has that power."
"From touring and traveling all over the world, I believe there are way more people that have compassion for others, and who have an understanding of how to work together, than the destructive groups of people. Regardless of whatever the media is blasting in our face, and regardless of who is trying to "lead" - the people who stand for togetherness, vastly outnumber the ones who hate, and who want to destroy. There are some aspects out there who want to divide people up, create fear, and encourage battles. Because if people are fighting each other, they are more easily controlled and directed. There are many things to be justly angry about, and many things to join together to change, urgently right now, and out of love of humanity, not out of hate. Now's the time to join together. And we've seen many examples of that in recent protests, all across the world."
"I'm very grateful for all my teachers and influences and grateful for all my family and musical family, of all cultures and walks of life. Good can happen when people join together. It's about a way of life. Not just now, not just on social media posts, not just in the next few weeks or months, but for the rest of life. Just about all the musicians I've known can see that bigger picture."
JBP: Thanks to Sol Creech for this interview and look for more from Sol on my upcoming VLOG 'Out Of My Mind.'
"Once in a while, you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right."
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.