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Band Rock Blues


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The best kept secret in music


"New Shade of Blues"

by Elsbeth Russell

TIFTON — At first glance it doesn't seem possible that the members of the band Blackbird know a thing about the blues.

The fresh-faced band members from Tifton are all in their late teens and early 20s, but their ages mean nothing when it comes to feeling the music they make.

"We're trying to breathe new life into the blues," said Joel Jones, the group's guitarist and vocalist. "It's almost like it's a lost art."

Jones, 21, is one of the newest members of Blackbird, which formed in January when high school classmates 16-year-old Al Janelle, 19-year-old Adam Smith and 17-year-old Matthew Heller decided they wanted to play together off school grounds.

While Smith, a bass guitarist and singer, and Jones are no longer in high school, all four guys played with the Tift County High School Blues Devils jazz band — a connection that they say has helped them form their own rock/ blues style band.

Blackbird practices almost every other day in Janelle's garage. They write many of their own songs and play others inspired by musicians that range from Jimi Hendrix to John Mayer and the Dave Matthews Band.

Each band member also contributes to the group by writing music and lyrics, and Blackbird currently has seven original songs in its musical arsenal.

They say the writing comes from personal experiences — from "bad relationships" to "spotting a pretty girl on the road" to the reaction from a listener telling the band "y'all are too young to sing the blues."

As their lives influence the music they're making, the band says their lives have been equally changed by the music.

"It's almost like a way of life," Heller, the band's drummer, explained. "That's when you know it's in your soul."

And if the time they spend playing and the way they talk about their music doesn't prove their seriousness about their music, just watch their reactions when a song they appreciate comes on the radio.

Sitting at a Tifton restaurant recently, Heller's fingers flew over an invisible piano to the beat as Van Halen's "Jump" played over the speakers.

Heads slightly turned as Van Halen's David Lee Roth sang "might as well jump" and the look in their eyes said their thoughts were on the music.

Even still, audiences don't realize how intent the members of Blackbird are on playing what they call "a new shade of blues" ... until they hear them play.

"Every show someone will come up and say, 'I heard you guys were good and I had to see for myself,' " said Ray Janelle, Al Janelle's father and the band's quasi-manager.

In fact, even the members of the band don't seem to quite grasp the effect their music has on its listeners, citing the time one of the Stevie Ray Vaughn tunes they played brought a man in the crowd to tears.

"That's a feeling that I don't think we'll top for a long time," Jones said.

Still, the band members are young and with that youth comes a vital energy that emerges in their performances.

Each show they play is performed on an old blue and white carpet where the guys stand barefoot.

"We never play with shoes on," said Janelle, who sings and plays guitar.

"I tried to wear shoes one time and they wouldn't let me," Smith interjected.

Another quirk the band jokingly shares is the cherished bottle of V8 juice that accompanies them to each show they play.

Given to them as a joke by Janelle's cousin before a particularly good show the band played, Blackbird has come to see the now 5 or 6-month-old bottle of vegetable juice as a good luck charm.

It's something the guys joke will come along for the ride as they make the climb to the top – and their goal of a record deal.

"All the other people pop the champange," Janelle said with a mischevious grin. "We'll pop the V8 juice."

* Tifton's Blackbird brings its blues and rock music mix to Albany Friday at The Lot.


Blackbird's upcoming shows include:

* 9 p.m. Friday, The Lot at Harvest Moon
* Noon, Nov. 10, Concert in the Garden, Tifton
* 8 p.m. Dec. 1, The Lamplighter Pub, Tifton
* 8 p.m. Dec. 22, The Lamplighter Pub, Tifton


To learn more about Blackbird or to book them for a party or event, contact the group at (229) 392-1313 or visit blackbirdblues.

© 2006 The Albany Herald/Triple Crown Media
- Albany Herald


Currectly Blackbird has a demo with 9 original tracks and 4 cover tracks. In January 2007 Blackbird recorded a live show to be aired on Georgia Public Radio stations, as well as a possibility for National Public Radio airplay. "Chase the Sun" and "Watch Me" have earned airplay on Macon Q106.3 and Tallahassee Gulf 104.1.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Deep in the land of Dixie emerges a band of young, talented musicians poised to bring the sound of rock and blues to their generation. Blackbird has already built a fan base throughout Georgia and Florida. They have held the #1 spot for three weeks on Tallahassee’s Gulf 104 Homegrown radio program. They have been entertaining audiences only since January 2006, but they play with the maturity, precision, and creativity of a long standing band. Blackbird’s song “Fancy Brown Eyes” earned them international recognition in the November issue of ShureNotes as a Top Ten Band.
It's hard to believe that the talented young musicians in Blackbird are still in school - high school even. Al, 16, Matt, 18, Adam, 20, and Joel, 22, became connected to each other through their high school chorus and band programs. They played together in the high school’s blues band, so they all shared an appreciation for the old blues. It’s no surprise that most of the band members grew up listening to classic rock, too. Their music is greatly influenced by some of Rock's best music: Pink Floyd, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix and of course the Allman Brothers Band.
Blackbird’s youth and energy add excitement to their classic rock covers and original material. They continue to write and share their innovative blend of rock and blues with hopes to put together an album in the near future.