Rae and The Royal Peacocks are something new and special in the blues universe. On the verge of their trip to Memphis to represent Atlanta in the International Blues Challenge, they have released their first EP, Blues at Its Juke-Joint’ Finest, and it is, indeed, fine!
The group takes its name from lead singer Rebecca “Rae” Easley and includes some of Atlanta’s best musicians, with Danny Vinson on lead guitar, Valerie Waters on keys, Harold Patillo on bass, and Art McNaughton on drums. They call the band The Royal Peacocks after a famous nightclub in Atlanta where many blues greats performed in the past, and after you hear this EP, you will believe that Rae and the band could have shared that stage with any one of them and fit right in!
There may be only 6 songs here, but you will feel that you have had a full feast of blues by the end. It starts out strong with “Pretty Good Love,” a song recorded by Big Maybelle in 1956, where the band lays down a Ray Charles sound with Waters soaring above the guitars and rums while Rae shows off her perfect blues voice. Richard L’Hommedieu at Midnight Circus Studios has provided crystal clear sound which makes you feel as though you are standing right in the room with them and, and getting to know them personally through the music.
The next song, “Gotta Be Some Changes Made,” slows the tempo a bit and lets Ellis get soulful. It also allows Vinson and Patillo to show off on guitar and drums. Just sit back and flow with this classic woman’s declaration of independence.
“No One’s Perfect” Is even bluesier. The wealth of emotion in Ellis’ ‘voice proves that she understands how to use it to its best effect and also that being able to sing is not enough without putting your heart into it. Vinson’s guitar perfectly echoes the feeling.
“Hey Hey” starts out with Waters’ gospel-flavored piano creating a thoughtful mood for Ellis’ restrained anger in the first verse. Then the drums kick in and the tempo picks up and the rest of the band joins in. There’s a tremendous musical interlude and Rae comes back in full blast and by the end you realize you need to breathe now.
Next is my favorite song. If this one doesn’t grab you nothing will! Ellis bravely takes on Ruth Brown’s “Mama, He Treats our Daughter Mean.” i have always thought that is the perfect female performance in a blues song but I’ll be darned if Rae doesn’t equal it. And listen to Waters tear that keyboard up!
Then the band plays that unmistakable early rhythm and blues dance rhythm and Rae launches into “You’ll Lose A Good Thong/Just Won’t Do Right.” recorded live in the studio, not only it is beautifully done but Rae’s comment “Gonna sing a little like James Brown now” during the medley and her quiet little giggle a bit later add to the feeling of intimacy between band and listener.
When you realize that this band has been together only a short period of time. and that both Ellis and Waters are still young women while Vinson, McNaught and Patillo have been on the music scene much longer, it is amazing how perfectly they fit together. It is my understanding that most of them first got together at a jam. If so, we should all be hitting every jam w can looking for talent like this.
No matter how interested you are in the IBC, you need to discover Rae and The Royal Peacocks. Listen to them on on Spotify and iTunes. This band needs to be around for a long time.
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