by Rhetta Akamatsu
Photos by Takesi Ken Akamatsu
Recently. Eiza Neas won a surprising award. She won a Detroit Black Music Award.
Now, this was surprising for just one reason Eiza Neas is Caucasian, and no white person had ever won this award before.
But any confusion as to why she won is swept away as soon as she takes the stage at Darwin’s and begins to sing. Born and raised in Detroit and steeped in the blues for years, she truly does carry on the Detroit Black music tradition. Just listening to her pour out her soul in “Ball and Chain” would convince anyone of that. She invokes the spirits of Etta James and Koko Taylor, not only in covers like “Ball and Chain” and “Red House” but in original songs like “You Ain’t My Dog No More.”
On some other songs, she can be cool and smooth. Sitting and playing the piano, singing “Cold, Cold Night,” with an able assist from Alan Schwartz on the chorus, she stirs thoughts of Stevie Nicks, yes, but also Nina Simone and Carole King.
Neals has a great band, too. Howard Glaser, her amazing guitarist, hurt his shoulder and could not be there. but Alan Schwartz did a marvelous job filling in and Demarcus Sumter was exactly the right drummer for this band as always, while Darryl Lee, from Atlanta by way of Detroit, handled bass with joy and skill as he always does. Together they were loose and having fun, but they kept the music tight and right.
Along with her songs like “Breaking and Entering” and ‘10,000 Feet Below,” Eiza and the band did some unexpected covers that worked incredibly well. She had just the right slither for The Stones’ “Miss You” and “Hotel California” maintained its mysterious air with a powerful injection of Detroit blues and amazing guitar solos by Schwartz.
The only word to sum up Eliza Neals is that she is amazing. She makes me happy every time I see her. Just like the name says, Eliza Neals and The Narcotics prove great music is the only drug you need! And Darwin’s is the perfect showcase for a band like this. See Eliza and The Narcotics any chance you get and check out Darwin’s in Sandy Springs if you’re in the Atlanta area!