‘Twas a week after Thanksgiving when all through the Weirdo house, not a creature was stirring, not even a Weirdo mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care. Three knocks on the door and listen y’all, no one was there! If you listened closely you could surely hear a little Rock & Roll, Funk, and Jazz filled the Franklin air. A great escape is happening let us tell you where…
It’s Christmas Time at Franklin Theatre and it takes place one night only, Saturday, December 7, 2019: Doors open at 7:30pm; Show starts at 8:00 p.m. at Franklin Theatre, 419 Main St, Franklin, TN 37064. Get your tickets now at: weirdoworkshop.com/events
Kick-off your Christmas holiday with a soulful and magical night filled with theatrics, heart-warming sounds, and a dazzling presentation by Louis York and The Shindellas. And, the incredible Caroline Randall Williams will be performing with Louis York, along with Patrick Dailey and The W. Crimm Singers, A.K.A. The Wakanda Chorale. They are also featured on the phenomenal new release by Louis York entitled “American Griots.”
Louis York is the musical creation of Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony, who’ve worked with everyone from Celine Dion and Michael Jackson to Ne-Yo, Rihanna, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, and Bruno Mars; their music is not one genre. Or influence. Or thought. It’s an exploration of it all. When stepping behind the mic for the first time in their careers, the Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer threw out every rule the business has told them to follow. It doesn’t matter how long, how many transitions or how many genres.
Kelly and Harmony found themselves searching for one thing, and one thing alone – GREAT ART. Art they’re proud to introduce to the world. Music they believe does their rhythmic predecessors proud. And the two have tapped into their eclectic backgrounds and respective New York and St. Louis upbringings to do just that. Every lyric & vocal you hear is straight from Claude’s heart. Every sound a product of Harmony’s mind. But words simply don’t do the justice a play button can.
“It’s time for creators to decide what the next decade will sound like, what it will be,” explains Harmony. “Every decade has something new to offer musically and culturally. The excellence and the freedom and the risk-taking and the orchestration, that’s what I feel like. Music has to become aspirational again.”
Since the duo began writing and recording music, Louis York—named after a combination of their respective hometowns (Harmony from East St. Louis, Kelly from New York City)—has released an EP trilogy entitled Masterpiece Theater: Act I, Act II, Act III. The projects earned praise from publications including Billboard and Los Angeles Times for their genre-bending sensibilities and creative aesthetic. In a relatively short amount of time, the pair has amassed more than one million cumulative streams on Spotify; given a talk as part of the esteemed TEDx Nashville program; and performed sold-out shows, most recently on its “Love Takeover” tour since the start of the year.
Now, after establishing their own creative studio, label and artist collective Weirdo Workshop, and settling into their headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, the pair have unleashed its full-length debut, American Griots, released October 18.
“A Griot is a traditional West African storyteller and musician and historian,” explains Kelly. “It’s purposely harkening back to a legacy that Chuck and I personally relate to. It’s more, look at the state of the world right now, how much do we need light music, how much do we need things to inspire? Really badly. Rather than complain about it, we decided to be the solution.”
The set is an ambitious step forward for Louis York, stretching the limitations of convention by traipsing sound and style, without losing focus of the message at hand. “For us, it’s not just about writing a song—our songs come from life experiences and learning and mistakes,” continues Kelly. “The songs aren’t just like, look at us, we can do cool music. Louis York is more about the music, which is the end result of a lot of growth. It always feels better when we pull our music out, because it feels like it’s the ending of a really long, hard race.”
Lead single “Don’t You Forget” is a rich, sprightly introduction to the project, a testament to the power of love, replete with warm harmonies, head-bobbing grooves and an instantly hooky chorus.
“Our first offering from this album, we wanted to make sure that the sentiment rang loud and clear: we’re the two-man Earth, Wind & Fire, get to know us,” says Harmony. The levity of the track extends to the doo-wop bounce of “Glow” and country-inflected ballad “Teach Me a Song” featuring Jimmie Allen, one of the more expansive tracks on the set. But American Griots also has heft and contemplation of the world at large, asking more from the experience of listening to it.
“I Wonder,” which touts contributions from Nashville poet Caroline Randall Williams, W. Crimm Singers and countertenor Patrick Dailey, is a haunting meditation on the state of the world, and what the activists before us would make of what we’ve become.
“These are the things I’m thinking about every single night,” says Kelly. “Most likely, if it’s not a music concern for us, we’re up because there’s something happening in the world that’s troubling us so much that it spurs us to turn to songs.” Adds Harmony, “We knew we wanted to make the new negro spiritual. It wouldn’t just be jazz or classical or soulful. It would be all of those things put together, so that’s what I did.”
With the release of American Griots, Louis York plans to continue to challenge what two black men making music in today’s musical climate are capable of achieving. Their Weirdo Workshop shingle, which is making waves in Nashville and diversifying Music City, is developing signees The Shindellas, all while bringing their vision as Louis York to the masses.
“The goal here isn’t to have a hot album; the goal here is to make history,” says Kelly. “To leave a legacy, but also make history and be known as one of the best bands to do it, and to do that, it has to be real. I think if people can feel that, they’ll get that kind of mentality when they go to create, and music gets better, America gets better and the world gets better.”
About The Shindellas
Beatnik group The Shindellas are a female band formed under the belief that when women come together, powerful things can happen. The Shindellas are comprised of three brilliantly talented women, Kasi Jones (Singer), Stacy Johnson (Singer/Guitarist) and Tamara Chauniece (Singer). Each member was introduced by multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated, songwriting and production duo, Chuck Harmony and Claude Kelly, also known as the progressive band Louis York.
The Shindellas explore Jazz, Soul and true R&B to create a unique genre of music for their audience. They are proponents of self-love, empowerment, and elegance, which are tenets they work hard to spread through their music.
About Patrick Dailey
Patrick Dailey has been described as possessing “a powerful and elegant countertenor voice” and a “VOCAL STANDOUT.” On the eve of President Barack Obama’s first inauguration, Mr. Dailey debuted at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the finale duet of the annual Let Freedom Ring Celebration with Aretha Franklin. Mr. Dailey served as featured artist, conductor, and music curator for the official MLK50 commemoration at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN.
As a scholar, he presented a performative presentation entitled “The Anatomy of the Black Voice: Peculiarities, Challenges, and Regional Differences” at the Center for Black Music Research’s 2013 Black Vocality Symposium. Mr. Dailey is a graduate of both Morgan State University and Boston University and serves on the voice faculty at Tennessee State University (TSU), where he established the Big Blue Opera Initiatives and the annual Harry T. Burleigh Spiritual Festival.
About the W. Crimm Singers A.K.A. The Wakanda Chorale
Picture it…North Nashville, summer of 2018…a group of friends that just so happen to be vocalists of various backgrounds and experiences come together at the request of veteran music educator and opera singer, William G. Crimm for a Wakanda-themed Freedom School presentation. They had so much fun and vowed to get together more often. Thus, the W. Crimm Singers A.K.A. The Wakanda Chorale was born! The ensemble is in residence at Tennessee State University through the Big Blue Opera Initiatives and numbers 60 members total.
As the name suggests, they wholly embrace music of the Black experience throughout the diaspora and every genre connected to it. From opera and musical theater artists to educators to session singers and background vocalists and even stand out solo artists, you’ll find some of everything in this aggregation. In their time together, the aggregation and its members have recorded and performed with Louis York, Stars Go Dim, Intersection Contemporary Music Ensemble, Hannibal Lukombe, Rodrick Dixon, and been featured on 91Classical’s Live in Studio C and Bobby Jones Presents. Each individual truly is a force unto themselves so when they come together, brace yourselves!
About Caroline Randall Williams
Caroline Randall Williams is a Nashville born and raised author and poet whose book Soul Food Love is changing southern cuisine for the healthy better. She has been recognized as one of “50 People Changing the South in 2015” by Southern Living, her’s is a #1 Amazon soul food cookbook, she has been featured and discussed on Dr. Oz, Essence Magazine, and NPR Hear and Now.
“I was raised to go to well-stocked specialty grocery stores, farmers’ markets, even the farms themselves” she says. “My world turned upside down in 2010, when I moved to the Mississippi Delta to teach school for two years. In the Delta, almost without exception, the best groceries—the only groceries—come from Walmart. They have the widest selection, with the freshest vegetables, and the consistency isn’t matched anywhere else in the region. With their produce aisle as my only grocery store, I learned how to eat healthfully and soulfully, day in and day out, on a teacher’s budget.
“Growing up, most of my family was large. My mother, who called me Baby Girl, thought I was perfect just the way I was and let me eat whatever I wanted. I watched her become heavier and heavier without any real concern—she was just following the model of the many women who came before her. It wasn’t until my mom reached her largest, and I watched how hard it was for her to try to do something about it, that I really began to worry.
“One day a co-worker of mine shared a conversation she’d had with her mother-in-law, and what she told me changed how I looked at my own family’s food ways. My friend said that she used to bake a pound cake once a week, until her mother-in-law criticized her for it, saying that when she was young, they had a pound cake at holidays, yes, but not every week! That was too much! It made the cake less special. That’s when I had my little revelation: We’ve begun to mistake celebration food for everyday food.
“When I think about what the future of food looks like, I find myself thinking that it looks like the past of my friend’s mother-in-law more than it looks like the past of my grandmothers. My friend’s mother-in-law knew that excess every day would spoil the real pleasures of a meaningful feast. And now I know it too.
“The foods we now think of as ‘soul food’ are not the ones our families were eating day in and day out; they are the celebration foods that have claimed our attention over time. All that extra sugar, the flour, the cream—those things were luxuries. The food at the soul of our community, the food that kept us on our feet and marching forward, was clean and delicious.
“My future children are going to eat differently than I did as a kid. I ate out; my kids will eat in. I thought cooking was for special occasions; my kids will know cooking is for every day. I thought ‘soul food’ was a guilty pleasure. My kids will know ‘soul food’ is a healthy truth.
“But I’m not a mama yet. For now, standing on the shoulders of these brilliant, big, black women, I go on ahead and feed my friends from my small kitchen. I feed them from my history, from our history, our past, our present, and from the fresh start of what I hope our future looks like. And that, as we like to say in my family, is how you entertain like Mama and stay healthy like Baby Girl.”