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Motown Redux
Saxophonist, clarinetist, composer and arranger Don Byron and his five-piece powerhouse of musicians will pay homage to Motown legend, Junior Walker for two shows Friday night at the Walton Arts Center’s Starr Theater.

The ensemble will interpret the music of the soul legend, who was leader of one of the biggest Motown acts of the ’60s and ’70s—Junior Walker and the AllStars. The band put out hits like the sweet and mellow How Sweet It Is (to be loved by you) and the slightly raucous Shotgun.

Bryon will be taking the sax chair for the performance, putting guitar and bass duties to renowned jazz artists David Gilmore (Wayne Shorter, David Sanborn, Boz Scaggs, Joss Stone, et al), Brad Jones (Ornette Coleman, Elvis Costello David Bryne, et al), and organist George Colligan (Cassandra Wilson, Ravi Coltrane, et al).

In addition to the stellar lineup of jazz greats, two Grammy winners will complete the unit. On drums will be Grammy winner Rodney Holmes (Clyde Criner, Steve Kimock, The Brecker Brothers Carlos Santana, et al). Holmes handled drums for Santana in 1993 on the Bob Dylan tour and played on Santana’s Supernatural album and on the hit Smooth.

Vocals will be aptly handled by another Grammy winner, New Orleans bluesman Chris Thomas King, who was saved by George Clooney from a lynching by the KKK in the film, Oh Brother Where Art, Thou. King played the musician Tommy Johnson in the film and performed on the soundtrack for the movie. Other acting credits include his role as bandleader Lowell Fulson in the Ray.

Performances at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Tickets $16 for general and $25 cabaret seating.

In the Clubs

Another round of great music is on tap for this week. Tonight, Texas singer songwriter Wade Bowen—who has a new album coming out later this month–will be at George’s. Friday night a great acoustic act (complete with accordion) Chase Missy will be at Arsaga’s, Crossover, while on Dickson Street another local group, The American Years—who recently released their first album—will perform at Ryleigh’s before heading to Little Rock to compete in the Arkansas Musician Showcase. Saturday night, Oteil and the Peacemakers and Mountain of Venus will be at George’s. On Saturday night if you’re in the mood for a laidback evening, don’t miss Pierce Pettis at GoodFolk. Pettis is a musician’s musician. He’s been a writer at Muscle Shoals (Alabama) Sound Studios, and for Polygram and Universal Music Publishing in Nashville. He holds the coveted New Folk songwriting award from the Kerrville Folk Festival and a CMA for his song You Move Me, which was co-written with Gordon Kennedy and recorded by Garth Brooks on the album Sevens. Another big show this week, will be Jack Ingram at George’s on Wednesday night. There are lots of great local acts playing this week around town, check out the Live Music listings for a complete list.

On Stage
The University Theater is tackling Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba this month with show dates today, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The company will present an adaptation of the Lorca tragedy by British playwright Sir David Hare. The play is about five unmarried daughters who live together under the watchful eye of a suspicious and domineering mother. The house itself has metamorphosed into a combination of prison, convent and hothouse to the frustrated young women. Jealousies and sexual frustrations brew and when the eldest daughter becomes engaged to a handsome man, passion and panic bubble over with fury.

The play is directed by Mavourneen Dywer and features an all-female cast. Performances at 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $12 by calling 575-4752.

Ocie Fisher the genuine article

For a relative newcomer, Ocie Fisher has really set Fayetteville on its ear. That’s because she is indeed the real thing, the true genuine article. Her contribution to the area’s blues scene has been so dramatic that she recently was given a spot in the coveted Hall of Fame as Best Female Vocalist at the Northwest Arkansas Music Awards.
When you see Ocie performance, you will understand why the crowds cheer her on with such enthusiasm. She delivers the goods with a style and flair that makes each blues standard her very own anthem. Ocie has assembled some of Fayetteville’s top bluesmen and has drilled their chops until they have become a solid unit, speaking with one deep voice that renders roots blues dried, fried, and laid to the side. Her group is called the Hipp Doggs.
Ocie has won nine music awards in a relatively short time. The latest have been earned with the Hipp Doggs. Ocie and the Hipp Doggs won The Northwest Arkansas Musical Awards prize for Best Blues Band in 2005 and again in 2006. The group also won the Ozark Music Award for Rhythm and Blues Band of the Year in 2006.
Ocie feels lucky to have found a group of musicians who get along so well and share the same goals and attitudes about music. The Hipp Doggs are: Dave Ervin on keys, Bill Symes on lead guitar, Rich Alexander on harp and the awesome rhythm section of Bill Dollar on drums and Johnny Dough on bass. Founding father, Jay McDonald jams as his busy schedule allows.
Ocie has a natural affinity for the blues. “The blues is something deep down that everybody can feel. Everybody has been through hard times. So just sitting back and listening to something soulful just touches you. It is basically spiritual too. It is special because these are true songs.”
Her affinity for the music and for her audiences shows in Ocie’s live performances. She is known for leaving the stage and merging with her fans when she sings.
“I like to get close to the people,” Ocie said. “They like to see me coming. They get all excited. They run and flock around and everyone wants to sing. They are all excited to sing with me. I have to keep a real tight hold on the microphone. The Hipp Doggs got me a wireless microphone so that I can get out in front with the audience and run around.”
Ocie is ready to branch out with her Hipp Doggs. “I want our group to be able to do more than just blues songs. We are all interested in gospel too. I want to be able to play in churches too.”
Ocie and the band have started writing songs for an original album. Releasing an original album is one of her goals for 2007. She and her band mates plan to go into the studio this summer.
Ocie Fisher and the Hipp Doggs are throwing a Mardi Gras party and performance at 8 p.m. Feb. 16 at the UARK Bowl, 644 West Dickson St. Tickets are $5 at the door.

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