Music

Earl & Them’s ‘Special Blend’

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CD release at George’s Majestic

By Clay Payne

TFW Contributing Writer

(Photo: Jason Hudson) Earl & Them

Real music appreciators don’t flip the channel to MTV (do they even play music anymore?) or turn the radio knob to nationally syndicated pop radio stations to get their musical kicks. And regarding local talented musicians, the folks of Fayetteville have it pretty darn good whether they know it or not.

We all know that many things in life improve with age: wine, scotch and some cheeses. Well, so do face-melting legendary lead guitars players like Earl Cate. At age 69, the Arkansas native is still kicking out the jams. Cate will be accompanied by a host of seasoned musicians with Earl & Them for the CD release party of “Special Blend” at George’s Majestic Lounge on Dickson Street on Friday from 6 to 10 p.m.

“It’s gonna be a lot of fun to get all the guys together,” Cate said. “We don’t get together that often. It’s gonna be hot down there.”

Need to hear Cate’s credentials? In the infamous words of HBO’s Tony Soprano, “Forget about it.” In addition to being listed on Steve Cropper’s list of top 10 guitar players of all time, Cate has played and toured with the likes of The Band, Bo Diddley, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Little Feat, Van Morrison and Neil Young to name a few. The members of Earl & Them combine for an impressive 200-plus years of experience pleasing fans.

The “guys” Cate is referring to include a core of four (who can be seen playing locally from time to time): Terry Cagle (drums, vocals), Cate (lead guitar), Jason Davis (rhythm guitar and vocals) and Mike Murray thumping away on the bass. Joining the core four will be special guests RJ Mischo (harmonica), Dave Renko (saxophone) and master blues guitar man Jimmy Thackery.

“It takes it to another level when you add these guys,” said Mark Risk of Swingin’ Door Records, the executive producer for “Special Blend.” “Earl is one of the most underappreciated, greatest guitar players of all time. Add Jimmy in the mix, and you got something really special.”

Davis said the album’s title has a double meaning. Not only does “Special Blend” refer to the mix of the artists on the recording but also to the band’s style of rock, blues, funk and little dash of country.

“We never aim to play a song the same way,” Davis said. “It’s something you’re only going here to hear that night. The core four is used to our repertoire, but adding the others changes the dynamic to a true free-for-all and adds to the unpredictable.”

When asked why Earl & Them decided on George’s for the band’s CD release performance, Cate said, “It’s a place I’ve played for years on end, and it’s one of the few music staples left in Fayetteville with one of the best stages and best sound in town.”

Risk said Cate fans can expect the same “smooth to rip-roarin’ in-your-face style of roots-bluesy rock,” but that Thackery adds an energy level similar to “revving up a hot-rod.” Cate said “Special Blend” is reminiscent of the Cate Brothers band but is more guitar-oriented and with no keyboards.

At George’s on Friday evening, Earl & Them will play a mix of originals and covers including The Band’s “Ophelia” and “The Shape I’m In.” The CD can be purchased at earlandthem.com and www.cdbaby.com and selected retail outlets.

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