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Your weekend arts forecast: A new guitar hero; bands from the past

Bill DeYoung



Chicago-born guitarist JD Simo brings his trio to Ruth Eckerd Hall's Murray Theatre Friday. Publicity photo.

Nashville-based guitarist JD Simo plays the Murray Theatre, Ruth Eckerd Hall’s intimate black box room, Friday; his trio includes Adam Abrashoff on drums and Adam Bednarikwith playing bass. Raved Rolling Stone: “JD Simo spins soulful psychedelic blues rock with an improvisational bent reminiscent of the Grateful Dead and Stevie Ray Vaughan.”

Simo plays hill country blues, psychedelic music and untethered rock ‘n’ roll. He was once a member of Phil Lesh’s Phil & Friends, and has worked with Jack White, Luther Dickinson (whose hill country trio, the North Mississippi All-Stars, is beyond legendary) and Blackberry Smoke. He’s also buds with Joe Bonamassa.

Blues trio GA-20 is support act. Tickets here.

Heard it in an old song

Friday night’s concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall is a solid slice of ‘70s rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia, as South Carolina’s Marshall Tucker Band and Colorado’s Firefall co-headline.

It’s been a long road for both of these bands, and just about all of the “name” musicians, songwriters have vocalists have long departed – either for greener pastures, or for that great green pasture in the sky.

There never was a guy named Marshall Tucker in the Southern Rocking band that bears his name, and the legendary guitar ‘n’ bass playing brothers (Toy and Tommy Caldwell) who formed the core of the original group are no longer with us.

The way we were: The “classic” Marshall Tucker Band lineup, 1970s. Capricorn Records press photo.

Still in the ranks, carrying the torch proudly, is original vocalist Doug Gray, who sang all the MTB hits (except for “Can’t You See,” which featured Toy Caldwell, who wrote the song). That was Doug who “Heard it in a Love Song.” He sang “Fire on the Mountain,’ too, and “Take the Highway.” And many, many more.

Firefall (“You Are the Woman,” “Just Remember I Love You”) was formed in the wake of the Crosby, Stills & Nash/America hippie harmony era by singer/songwriter Rick Roberts, who notably had replaced Gram Parsons in the Flying Burrito Brothers.

He’s not in the band any more; it’s captained by founding guitarist Jock Bartley. Founding bassist Mark Andes, who’d been in the “classic” lineup of Spirit and went on to play in Heart and several other marquee acts, is still part of Firefall but is not performing on this Clearwater date, according to manager Len Fico.

Also on the bill is Tarpon Springs native Bertie Higgins, who was a mainstay on the bay area music scene in the 1960s (he was, for example, the drummer in the Roemans, which backed perennial hitmaker Tommy Roe).

As a singer/songwriter, Higgins is best known for the 1982 Top Ten single “Key Largo.”

Details and tickets are here.

Classical music

The Museum of Fine Art St. Petersburg welcomes classical pianist Sarah Cahill today, performing a five-hour marathon of little-heard music by women composers from throughout the centuries. The Catalyst spoke with Ms. Cahill (here) about this adventurous undertaking.

Simone Porter

Previously-announced guest artist Karen Gomyo canceled due to illness, but The Florida Orchestra is carrying on with this weekend’s scheduled concerts employing a new violinist (Simone Porter) and a new violin concerto (Beethoven, rather than Brahms). The rest of the program (Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater, Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall) remains unchanged, with Debussy’s La Mer and Gabriela Lena Frank’s Apu: Tone Poem for Orchestra. Larry Rachleff conducts; tickets and more info here. (It hasn’t been a great month for TFO, as last weekend’s concerts were canceled out of raging Covid concerns.)

And still more

Jobsite Theatre’s 1980s-infused take on Romeo & Juliet opens Friday (preview performance tonight). Jobsite’s part of the Straz Center, between Ashley Avenue and the river in downtown Tampa. Read all about the show here.

British metal vocalist Bruce Dickinson’s spoken-word tour, “An Evening With,” stops by the Tampa Theatre tonight (Jan. 20). Here’s our story explaining what the Iron Maiden singer is up to.

St. Petersburg Press author Tom Gribbin (The Last Florida Boy) will be chatting and signing books tonight at 7 in the courtyard at Tombolo Books. Interviewed by yours truly. More about Mr. Gribbin and his Sunshine State adventure novel here.

Hillsborough blues guitarist Selwyn Birchwood makes one of his infrequent concert visits to the Palladium Theater Friday (tickets here).

Bill Medley, who has one of the most resonant baritone voices in all of popular music, has been one-half of the Righteous Brothers for nearly six decades. Although the other half, tenor Bobby Hatfield, passed away in 2003, Medley still performs under the Righteous Brothers name, with vocalist Bucky Heard. The ’22 Bros are in concert at the Capital Theatre in Clearwater Friday and Saturday. Tickets here.

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