Last Saturday night I cruised out to Mojos Kitchen to cover two of Jacksonville’s best original bands, each performing in radically different genres. Yes, I again crawled out of retirement to check out the local live music scene. Everywhere I go in Jax and the Beaches, I witness world class musicians and songwriters struggling to get noticed.
First up for the Mojos Showcase was the rowdy original bluegrass trio, Grandpa’s Cough Medicine. Members of this wildly eccentric band include one of the best banjo pickers I’ve ever heard, Mike “Banjo Boy” Coker, Brett Bass on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, and Jon Murphy on upright bass. These preachers of the bluegrass gospel are tighter than Grandpa’s wallet.
The trio has written many clever and witty ditties that they have arranged into the bluegrass format. Songs like “Political Scandal” bristles with biting satirical lyrics: “He (a politician) snorted coke off a hooker’s ass on my dime!”
These ass kicking grass evangelists can make a blind man see or a crippled man walk with their topical repertoire of songs that tell tales of the American working man, such as “Beer Truck Driving Man:” “He takes his work home and makes sure we all stay drunk.” But then they wrote this catchy song “Drinkin’ Money,” the chorus goes, “I ain’t got enough money to drink anymore…. My girlfriend left me because she caught me drinking Listerine.” Hey, someone buy this poor schmuck a beer.
After performing an hour and a half set, the thunder grass boys gave up the stage to the original band, Yankee Slickers–an interesting variation on the old southern rock sound. However, the guitar dueling Ivey brothers–Jason and Paul–write intelligently conceived songs that are not necessarily in the southern rock genre. This makes them stand out in the throng of other original bands.
Joining the Ivey brothers on drums is Mike Romine and Mark David on bass. This group of advanced musicians has been seasoned by years on the road. So far, the band is unsigned, but in today’s music world, some bands find it advantageous to stay independent. This concept allows the band to market their material directly to fans without giving up a percentage or authority to the record company.
The group launched an ambitious set of a cross section of their best material, including the popular songs “On the Lurk,” “Times a’ Changing,” and “For the Moment.” Remarkably, the Ivey brothers play duel leads like one guitarist holding one guitar. With one Ivey playing a Les Paul with slide and the other Ivey playing a Stratocaster, the blending sound is genetically satisfying.
Hearing the Yankee Slickers play their original material, I concluded that this is not really a southern rock band, per se, but an original rock band that crosses many musical barriers, creating a truly unique sound. The Iveys may look like they stepped into a time warp from the 1970s, but their music is modern but nostalgic at the same time.