On Stage (Extra): Gilfillian returns to his roots

Devon Gilfillian

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

It’s not uncommon for musicians who have relocated to different cities to return to their hometowns to perform in concert for their welcoming fans.

Such is the case with Devon Gilfillian.

Gilfillian grew up in suburban Philadelphia – in Morton in Delaware County – and then got his degree from West Chester University.

A few years ago, the young and talented soul/blues artist relocated to Nashville, Tennessee. Now, he is coming back to the Delaware Valley for a pair of shows.

On July 18, Gilfillian will play a free outdoor show at Eagleview Town Center (540 Wellington Square, Exton, http://eagleviewtowncenter.com/july-concerts).

On July 19, he will headline a show at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com).

“We’re off the road for about a week,” said Gilfillian, during a phone interview Monday afternoon from his home in the Music City.

“I head up to Philly next week to hang with the family and do shows at Eagleview and World Café. We have a show in D.C. and then had back home. After that, we’ll be doing festivals – including Musikfest in Bethlehem.”

Gilfillian’s music meshes together gospel-blues and southern soul. Both styles are upfront on his self-titled debut EP which is powered by groove, guitar, and the powerful punch of Gilfillian’s voice.

His songs and vocals show the influence of artists such as Al Green, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding and Ray Charles but also display the young artist’s originality.

The five-song EP or originals is a showcase for Gilfillian’s abundant talents as a singer, songwriter and kickass guitarist.

“My dad is a musician – a wedding singer and a percussionist,” said Gilfillian. “I’ve been singing since I was in elementary school – Motown, old soul, Ray Charles. My dad introduced me to it.

“What put the nail in the coffin was when I picked up electric guitar when I was 14. I was listening to ‘Under the Bridge’ by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and my dad said – that guy sounds like Jimi Hendrix.

“I didn’t know Jimi Hendrix at all. So, my dad got me the ‘Jimi Hendrix Greatest Hits’ CD. Listening to the music Jimi Hendix made changed everything.”

But, music wasn’t the main thing on Gilfillian’s plate back then – education was.

“I went to West Chester University to major in psychology,” said Gilfillian. “In high school, I had a band called Black Sheep. When I was at West Chester, I did solo gigs and acoustic shows.

“I graduated from WCU in 2013. After that, I spent a year working for a non-profit – AmeriCorps’ ‘Rebuilding Together.’ I got accepted to work at a program here in Nashville.”

“Rebuilding Together” is dedicated to national service. Every year, “Rebuilding Together’ engages more than 80 AmeriCorps members to make an impact on homeowners and in communities across the country. They develop and apply valuable professional skills, earn money for education, and are active citizens in the local community.

“When I first got to Nashville, I played guitar and sang for random bands,” said Gilfillian. “One of them was Black Cat Crossing, a Delta Blues cover band.

“After I got done with AmeriCorps, I started working at City Winery (a restaurant/winery barrel room/entertainment venue in Nashville). I met my drummer Jonathan Smalt there.

“Jonathan is also my manager and his friend Taylor Thompson is now my bass player. My band, which I’ve had together for 14 months, also includes Carson Cody on keyboards and Zac Smith on guitar, harmonica and percussion.

“I recorded the EP in February 2016 at Fat Back Studio in East Nashville. At the time, I was listening to a lot of Staples Singers as well as Jimi and Otis. We recorded the EP over a course of three days.”

Video link for Devon Gilfillian — https://youtu.be/X322S_lcns8.

The show at Eagleview Town Center, which has Dirty Dollhouse as the opening act, will start at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

Video link for Dirty Dollhouse — https://youtu.be/xBVZIZpw_Hk.

The show at the World Café Live, which has the Chris Jacobs as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Other upcoming shows at the World Café Live are Charles Havira with Band and OXBLOOD, BobbyrocK on July 16; The Nightowls on July 18; and The Crane Wives on July 19.

David Olney is a musician who has been around the block – and then some. On July 16, Olney is headed to the country for a low-key event.

On Sunday evening, Olney will perform a solo show at Landhaven Bed and Breakfast (1194 Huffs Church Road, Barto, 610-845-3257, www.landhavenbandb.com).

Olney released his first solo record “Eye of the Storm” on Philo/Rounder Records in 1986. On March 31, 2017, he released his 28th solo LP “Don’t Try to Fight It” on Red Parlor Records.

“Some of the songs on the new album are pretty old and some were written last year,” said Olney, during a phone interview Monday afternoon from his home in Nashville, Tennessee. “When I go into to record an album, I look for songs that fit together.”

“Don’t Try to Fight It” was recorded at The Big Muddy Recording Studio in Carleton Place, Ontario.

“I went there because I wanted to work with this Canadian producer Brock Zeman,” said Olney. “My goal was to drop it in his lap and not micromanage.

“There was no theme for the album. I think the way it came about – my manager sent demos to Brock. Then, Brock listened to them and said – let’s do this one and let’s do that one.

“It’s definitely not a concept album. I wanted to do some slower ballad songs and not just rockers. When I was growing up, that’s the way it was done.

“The Beatles would do ‘Day Tripper’ and ‘Yesterday’ on the same album. Even before rock and roll, Frank Sinatra tried to show different sides of his personality by recording both fast songs and slow songs.”

The recording of the album flowed smoothly when Olney and Zeman began working together.

“We narrowed it down to 10 songs on the LP,” said Olney, whose songs have been covered by such artists as Linda Ronstadt, Del McCoury, Mimi Fariña and The Wailin’ Jennys.

“There wasn’t any extra stuff. When you have a limited budget, you have to make the decision beforehand. I went up to Toronto last spring and had one week to get my part done. Then, I dumped it on Brock and he worked on it for six months.

“He’s also a performer and the session players he used were guys from his band. I’d record vocals and guitar here in Nashville and send the tracks to Brock. He’d try different things with the tracks.

“Then, he said come up and do vocals and guitar with the tracks he had worked on. The first thing we did when I got up there was me playing harmonica through a bullhorn. It was good for me to get out of my comfort zone.”

Video link for David Olney – https://youtu.be/SbMFQZ4ey1U?list=PLgEy8Q519zDxmZWpycWb6mfH8FJgPbRaY.

The show at Landhaven B&B will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25. All Concerts are BYOB and children over 12 are welcome.

People are drawn to becoming musicians in many different ways – music at home when they were young, a teacher at school, seeing a band play live – the possibilities are endless.

For the members of the band Morgan Heritage, the path to their existence was definitely guided by genetics.

Morgan Heritage, which is performing on July 19 at the Theatre of the Living Arts (334 South Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1011, http://www.lnphilly.com), is a reggae band formed in 1994 by five children of reggae artist Denroy Morgan — Peter “Peetah” Morgan, Una Morgan, Roy “Gramps” Morgan, Nakhamyah “Lukes” Morgan, and Memmalatel “Mr. Mojo” Morgan.

Denroy Morgan is a veteran reggae start whose debut album “I’ll Do Anything for You” came out in 1981. His children were all musical growing up and have since formed two separate bands and several solo acts.

The dancehall band LMS features Noshayah Morgan, Otiyah “Laza” Morgan and Miriam Morgan. Otiyah Morgan and Roy Morgan are successful solo acts and Roy Morgan’s son Jemere Morgan has also launched a solo music career.

Morgan Heritage is now touring in support of its new album “Avrakedabra,” which was just released on the band’s own independent label CTBC (Cool To Be Conscious) Music Group.

In the wake of the quintet’s historical Grammy Award win for Best Reggae Album as the Producer and Artist for “Strictly Roots,” Morgan Heritage has kept the momentum going with another classic album.

“We recorded ‘Avrakedabra’ on five different continents as we toured the world,” said Peetah Morgan, during a phone interview Friday afternoon from a tour stop in Brooklyn, New York.

“A lot of recording was done in our hotels. We’d set up our recording equipment in the hotel’s meeting room. We also would go to real studios in different cities for a day or two when we had the time – Paris, London, Miami, New York and Jamaica.

“Several of us live in Florida now while Gramps lives in Nashville and Jamaica. But, our musical business is based in Jamaica. Our roots are in St. Thomas, Jamaica.”

Morgan Heritage never really took time off to sit and compose songs for the new album.

“We are able to write on the road,” said Morgan. “We never stop writing. You never know when inspiration is going to hit. An album is never really completed until the very end. Sometimes, we get a new song as the album is being mixed.

“We did the final part of the recording at Circle House, which is Inner Circle’s studio in Miami. It’s a beautiful complex. We spent about four weeks mixing the album. And, even during the mixing phase, we’d sometimes change the mix.”

Morgan Heritage’s new album honors the band’s roots in classic reggae but also includes elements of today’s hip-hop and EDM music genres.

“With our music, we don’t want to make our grandparents’ music,” said Morgan. “We want to appeal to the younger generation. With Morgan Heritage, we refuse to be pigeonholed.

“Today’s audience doesn’t want to hear Jacob Miller or Black Uhuru. To stay current, you’ve got to be an innovator – to push the envelope. We don’t want our music to sound like it was made 35 years ago.”

Video link for Morgan Heritage — https://youtu.be/yYtVDTQxjLk.

The show at TLA will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $19.50.


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