Summertime is definitely here in the Azalea City. And when the heat and humidity start rising, we start heading to one of our many bayside or beachside venues to enjoy our favorite musical acts.

The Causeway is home to a variety of establishments that feature local music, and one of the newest is paying homage to Azalea City sounds with an impressive line-up of local musicians. Lap’s Grocery & Grill is bringing together six of the area’s most popular groups and performers for Lap’s Locals Mini Music Festival.

Artists such as Ryan Balthrop are excited to be a part of this inaugural event.

“We’re really looking forward to playing Lap’s,” Balthrop said. “It’s incredible, everything they have to offer there. It’s a great lineup at the festival, too. I can’t wait to play and watch my friends do their thing.”

Balthrop (also a new father) will charm the crowd with original cuts from his latest album “Leap of Faith.” This collection of original material ranges from grooving jams such as “Stuck in the Mud” to reggae-infused tunes such as “Runaway Train of Thought.” After Lap’s, Balthrop will be sticking close to home with numerous gigs up and down the Gulf Coast, and he is not the only one excited about the festival.

Harrison McInnis Trio will be adding a little homemade soul into the mix with their set.

“We are thrilled to be part of Lap’s Locals Music Fest, and honored to be in the middle of this stellar lineup of Mobile’s finest musicians,” McInnis said.

Local favorite Lee Yankie & the Hellz Yeah will be giving the crowd a taste of their sound. Yankie has made a name for himself with a truly Southern sound that mixes rock, soul and Americana into one beautiful package.

Eric Erdman has been traversing the globe, including wowing the masses Down Under. However, no one can stay away from Mobile too long, and he is no exception. Erdman is almost an unspoken requirement for a line-up like this, and he is sure to be the consummate crowd pleaser with tracks off of both his solo efforts.

If there is one band that has been doing Mobile proud of late, then it has to be The Mulligan Brothers. In a short time, this band has gone from playing local watering holes to performing at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Music Feature-Mulligan Brothers

Currently, this modern Americana group is busy writing their second album. The band is also getting ready to go into the studio, and they will have a “big announcement” concerning the studio and producer in the coming weeks. Lap’s Locals Only Mini Festival will be a warm-up for a line-up of tour dates in June.

“We will be doing an East Coast tour the first two weeks of June that includes a run all the way up to Boston to play at Fenway Park,” said drummer Greg DeLuca. “It ends with us playing the Bama Theatre in Tuscaloosa on June 13.”

While many choose to miss the opener at festivals, the public should make an exception for this event. Lisa Mills has remained one of the Gulf Coast’s brightest musical stars. Mills has taken her soulful blues sounds worldwide and has shared the stage and/or studio with artists such as Robert Plant, Junior Wells and Dr. John.

The singer-songwriter has now taken on a new project that has roots in the past. Recently, Mills decided to “reclaim” her debut album “I’m Changing,” which she sees as an unfinished album. Mills cites a variety of reasons for going back to her debut. She received much encouragement from constant requests for copies of the out-of-print album. A group of friendly investors also felt the need for Mills to revisit “I’m Changing.” Ultimately, undeniable fate became the biggest factor in this project.

“It was between doing a gospel CD based on my family hymnal, which once belonged to my great-grandmother. It would be a tribute to my mother, who passed away a couple of years ago or to do an album of new material or to finish ‘I’m Changing,’” Mills explained. “It became evident to me that I needed to finish ‘I’m Changing,’ before I get to anything new.”

Mills recruited Grammy Award winning engineer/producer Trina Shoemaker for this project. Shoemaker has worked with bands such as The Indigo Girls, Blues Traveler and Dixie Chicks. For the singer-songwriter, Shoemaker was a natural choice for this album.

At first, Mills was apprehensive about asking Shoemaker to become involved in this project, but her reaction turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

“She was very enthusiastic about it,” Mills said. “She was familiar with some of the songs already from hearing me play live at Blue Moon Farm.”

While Mills was originally in the studio recording “I’m Changing,” nature took its toll. She was struck with a series of throat problems that was making the creative experience uncomfortable. Mills even had to receive a series of steroid shots to be able to record in the studio and perform at the album’s launch party. Shoemaker got her hands on the tracks and analyzed them with her trained ear.

Mills was expecting to re-record all the vocals. To her surprise, Shoemaker decided to work her sonic magic on the original tracks.

“She said to me, ‘I think these vocals are great, and there’s some real mojo in these tracks,’” Mills said. “It was a special moment in time, and I was singing a lot better than I thought I was doing.”

Currently, Mills is busy preparing for the release of this reclaimed album. Part of the album’s funding came through a Kickstarter campaign, and those who invested can expect their gifts in the near future. She is also waiting for permission from Jimi Hendrix’s estate to include her version of “Little Wing.”

Mills’ fans can expect the bigger and better version of “I’m Changing” in the near future. Until then, the Lap’s crowd will have the good fortune to experience the music of not only Lisa Mills but all of the fine local musicians at this landmark event.

Lap’s Grocery & Grill’s Locals Mini Music Festival
Date: Saturday, May 31, with doors at 11 a.m.
Venue: Lap’s Grocery & Grill, 1595 Battleship Pkwy.,
Tickets: Free General Admission/$40 for VIP Pass