Band of the Week: Southern Avenue

MEET THE BAND: Tierinii Jackson (vocals), Ori Naftaly (guitar), Tikyra Jackson (drums), Jeremy Powell (keyboards), Daniel McKee (bass)

WALKING IN MEMPHIS: An Israeli-born blues player, Naftaly first came to the states with his own band in 2013. "When I came here with my own band, I was touring, and it was awesome and exciting, but I felt like there might be more after meeting local musicians," says Naftaly via phone from his Memphis home. He saw a Tierinii Jackson YouTube video and asked her to audition. "When I saw her video, I thought she had something exciting," he says. "And when she came to audition, I thought she should be auditioning me." She brought her sister Tikyra Jackson into the fold, and the band evolved from there. In the first two weekends of playing together, the band wrote several of the songs that appear on its forthcoming self-titled debut.

SIGNED TO STAX: The band's name comes from a Memphis street and pays homage to Stax Records, the famous Memphis-based soul and R&B imprint. Ironically enough, the group signed a deal with the recently revived Stax Records, which will issue its debut later this month. "We never thought we'd get signed to Stax," says Naftaly. "I grew up listening to Stax records and anything that came out of Memphis and New Orleans — whatever came out of places along the Mississippi River. To be signed to Stax is a dream come true." Produced by Kevin Houston (North Mississippi Allstars, Lucero, Patty Griffin), the band's 10-song debut features guest appearances from Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and trumpeter Marc Franklin of the Bo-Keys. "It was a great experience," Naftaly says of the recording process. "Kevin made sure we have our own sound."

WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR THEM: The self-titled release features soulful originals such as "Don't Give Up," "What Did I Do," "It's Gonna Be Alright," "Love Me Right" and "Wildflower." "Don't Give Up" features a spiritual vibe thanks to its souful vocals and gritty guitars. "I had a serious crisis in my life," says Naftaly when asked about the tune. "The song is about me saying to myself that I need to take things day to day. Coming from Israel, which is war torn, the song reflects that situation. The song also reflects the racial things happening Memphis." In addition, the group pays tribute to its roots with a rousing rendition of the Ann Peebles' Memphis soul classic "Slipped, Tripped and Fell in Love." It's spirited stuff.


WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: Southern Avenue performs at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 19, at Nighttown.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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