Whirlwind dynamo Lucy Hammond leads powerful unit in original & R&B covers
She's a whirlwind and dynamo with more power onstage than a Columbia River hydro dam. That's bandleader, show-woman, composer and diva, Lucy Hammond. As front-person of her own four-piece, The Lucy Hammond Band, she describes their sound as "soulful, rockin', blues." With a stage presence that’s as brassy as it is subtle, Hammond brings elements of Etta James, Janis Joplin, Candye Kane, Susan Tedeschi and even Mama Cass Elliot that create a personality as compelling as it is bold. The listener can't help but be drawn in and absorbed within both the music and stage performance. While she doesn't consider herself a blues purist, the blues are strongly incorporated throughout her music, both in covers and original songs. The term 'roadhouse' comes to mind when describing the gritty grooves and low-down pocket where the band keeps the music's flow.
As a musical unit, TLHB plays tight with a well-polished show. There is little or no dawdling on stage with crisp and efficient timing between songs. The bass locks in with the drums and is throbbing and punchy. The drumming is concise but never overpowering. There are two guitarists, each of whom plays either lead or rhythm and both can and do sing lead vocals and backup. One of guitarists also plays sax with phat solos and riffs. Each guitar sizzles and lights a fire on leads or plays tasteful fills and cuts. In either case, neither overwhelms the musical whole.
The band is Steven Compana on bass; Kevin Shoepe on drums; Phil Friscia on guitar, sax and vocals; and
George Reiswig on guitar and vocals. Each is lifetime musicians and are completely capable of leading and fronting their own bands. The musical sound features vocal harmonies and backing choruses along with Hammond's powerful and commanding soul/hard-drinkin', blues-woman voice. Add in elements of cabaret on stage and the band completely engages the crowd. It brings versatility within the framework of roadhouse soul and blues.
The key is Hammond's connection with the crowd and her stage hosting and front-person skills. She explains, "I got a kick-ass team and though I'm the front person, all of my front line sings and could front their own band. Each one has an individually unique voice both vocally and musically. They are all multi-instrumental. This line-up has been with me almost two years and we added Phil after some personnel changes and loss of keyboard player Jeff McCombs to cancer. Phil joined the band and this is the line-up that people know. Our first gig was at the Melody Ballroom and since then we've played Trail's End and others. We were all strangers three years ago. I found them all through ads, Craig's List, Bandmix, Musician's Forest and others. Most responded to my ad. Some were in other bands and some had relocated here.” She talks about the effort she makes to connect with her crowd; "Being relaxed and calm helps bring out who I am as an artist and allows me to leave everything I have on the stage every time. It seems to help make the audience comfortable as well. I'm attempting to emotionally connect with every person in the audience. I've been doing this my entire life. It's as much of who I am as anything else."
Hammond discusses the band's sound and focus and musical influences; "Soulful, rockin’, blues is our pitch line that indicates our influences. I don't consider myself a blues purist by any means, though I deeply love and revere those who are. Blues has been my strongest shaping influence, but I consider myself a hybrid of all the influences who made me. Some of the biggest names and recognizable stars consistently experiment and push the boundaries of their genre. It's a natural process to integrate unusual influences when you come across them...for the media icon media moguls are pushing themselves to do different things. In today's world, creating a true relationship with your audience is everything. Establishing an interesting and symbiotic dialog with them is essential. You no longer have to find everyone to be successful. You only have to find your people."
This philosophy extends to Hammond’s original writing and composing process, "I bring all my other life experiences into my writing and performing. I try to write from a deeply personal place. But I attempt to frame the song in a way that a listener can relate to it and see their own life experiences. My process varies. Usually I'll start with a lyric line and a piece of the melody. But it can work differently. For example, with Mr. Right, it was different, the melody line progression came first." She mentions some of her earliest music experiences. "My Momma said I could sing before I could talk. So it's natural to me as breathing. I was born in Washington, I'm a Northwest girl and spent the bulk of my life in the greater Portland area. I sang in gospel groups and choirs as a teenager doing the potluck circuit...churches, staying in peoples’ homes. My very first show was at The Euphoria Tavern with The Cobalt Blues Band, along with a number of other bands, with Two Louies in attendance."
Lucy Hammond is an artist with clear plans and goals. She explains; "I'm focusing on recording and building relationships. In this market, economically and how market cycles shift in today's world, the old model of recording a 12-song CD is inefficient, expensive and not in keeping with fans habits. Today, people buy songs they like. Primarily actual CD sales only occur at your shows, so releasing a five-or six-song EP CD every four to six months keeps you in top of mind of both media outlets and fans' minds. Though I love blues and that's my media genre, I fully intend to cross over to other music genres. I believe the business model that made Motown work is having a resurgence, individual songs, i.e. The Single, become popular as a precursor to an EP or CD. A more current trend is a movement to subscription radio that's based on listener preference such as Jango or Pandora.com is likely to be where more music is focused on individual tastes. Artists that use those services to expose their music to fans are more likely to find success and listeners. There's just so much availability in the music workplace that every outlet is fractured to smaller and smaller pools of listeners. So you have to go where the people are. In my view, there is room for everyone. But being heard above the fray is the most difficult task for today's artists due to the sheer volume of voices. Ultimately, it all comes down to the music and real people."
Hammond continues; "Many established blues artists don't see using the internet, social media, and other online vehicles to connect with blues fans as important as doing live shows. But the old paradigm of just playing shows and putting out CDs isn't enough anymore. Unless you have a 20-year track record of already being established in the public eye on a national basis, it's just not enough. It's time to adapt or die. You have to do it in a way that's true to your personality and perspective. And if you don't want to do it then you better find someone who can!" She talks about her immediate and future plans; "My plans are I'm competing in the Journey to Memphis competition and regardless of the outcome, I'm going to the International Blues Challenge in 2012. I'm looking forward to my EP release Proof to prove to myself that I could do this. It's the song that tells my story. I'm looking forward to doing some road work this summer, playing some festivals and meeting more people who like what I'm doing and making more friends along the way. My main goal is to pour my heart out and leave it all on the stage every time. And if you like that, then I'm the girl for you!!"
You can see more of The Lucy Hammond Band at their website: www.thelucyhammondband.com. See also PE&D Music on Tap and Bandstand listings.