Southern Avenue brings Memphis Blues to Plattsburgh and Buffalo

Southern Avenue, Memphis’ hottest blues group will be heading to New York this weekend for two can’t miss shows. They’ll perform at the Plattsburgh Mayor’s Cup on Friday, July 7 and Buffalo Niagara Blues Fest on Saturday, July 8. The Concord/Stax recording artists just released their self-titled debut album in February and bring together soul, funk and rock that when combined with blues moves your feet and stirs your soul.

Talking with Southern Avenue’s Ori Naftaly, an Israeli-born blues guitarist who came to Memphis in 2013 for the International Blues Challenge, his blues sound started with the electrified Chicago blues before he turned to earlier blues legends and connected with the soul side of Memphis. Southern Avenue brings in a Mavis Staples angle of blues, with more gospel-based tunes and greater arrangements for vocals from Tierinii Jackson and Tikyra Jackson. Two songs in particular, “Don’t Give Up” and “80 Miles From Memphis,” have the Staples Singers sound, but Naftaly admits, each has a different vibe to it. “We have so many different things to write and find inspiration in, so every song has a different vibe in it and a whole different world we can dive into.” Executive producer John Burke from Concord Music Group helped to trim down the album from 18 songs to those that showcased their broad sound.

One track in particular, “Peace will Come,” was written about his childhood growing up in Israel during the Gulf War. It beckons a question asked often in the Middle East, ‘When will peace come?,’ but this question refers to peace between people and the environment, not necessarily countries. The song has power to it with the weight of the goal of peace weighted down in the lyrics, alongside a Staples Singers vibe.

 And while Naftaly is an Israeli burn blues guitarist, he is not the first. Guy King moved to Chicago a generation before Ori ventured to Memphis. While both are blues musicians and have found a comfortable place in the roots of their genre, Ori looks to bring the blues to the table with Southern Avenue. But soul, funk and jazz will surely find their way into the Southern Avenue performances this weekend in Plattsburgh and Buffalo.

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