Kris Lager Band
Friday, Dec. 16, at 8 p.m.
The Listening Room, 78 St. Francis St., www.thelisteningroommobile.com
Tickets: $15 artist donation
As part of “America’s Breadbasket,” Nebraska is a large sprawl of agrarian lands. Travelers may run across a few cities, such as Omaha or Lincoln, but even these metropolises are overshadowed by the state’s farming landscape. Nebraska may seem the last place that would give birth to a band specializing in electrified blues, funk and soul, but the Kris Lager Band is making its mark.
For the past decade, the band has kept listeners perpetually grooving with its eclectic concoction. Without knowing the band’s background, many would think Lager and his crew maintain deep Southern roots, but Lager is proud to say his Nebraskan upbringing helped shape his sound.
Lager’s music lessons began with his late father. Throughout his youth, Lager’s dad introduced him to a variety of blues and classic rock artists. When he began to experiment with his own music, Lager focused on the blues. He accented his blues education with regular visits to Lincoln’s premiere blues venue, the Zoo Bar. Not only did the young Lager enhance his love for the blues, but also felt the glorious power and emotion of soul.
“I fell in love with soul music and got big into Otis Redding and Ray Charles and Van Morrison and Wilson Pickett,” Lager explained. “So those guys are big influences on me.”
Eventually Lager collected a group of talented musicians and began forming what would become a musical style that he calls “heavy soul and boogie trance.” Lager attributes his music’s heavy soul sound to the big guitar sound echoing through his music. He credits Sophistafunk keyboardist Adam Gold with tagging this musical aspect as “heavy soul” after sharing the bill at a Michigan show. Lager says his relationship with his audience drives the “boogie trance” facet of the band’s sound.
“With the boogie element, I like to get the crowd dancing and moving,” Lager said. “I’m also huge into boogie artists like John Lee Hooker and Magic Sam. They’ve both been huge influences on my guitar playing. I kinda tip my hat to those old boogie guys that know how to play a good swanky guitar.”
Lager will be making his Azalea City debut with a set filled with songs from his latest album, “Rise & Shine,” the band’s first experience with in-house recording and production. After recording their debut “Swagadocious” at Lincoln’s Sadson Studios with Luke Kellison, Kris Lager Band traveled to Whiskey Bayou Studio in Houma, Louisiana, to record their sophomore effort, “Platte River Runaway.” While there, they received production guidance from iconic swamp-pop superstar Tab Benoit.
When it was time to record their third album, “Heavy Trance & Boogie Soul,” Kris Lager Band chose Monophonic’s Kelly Finnigan and Ian McDonald to oversee recording and production. For “Rise & Shine,” Lager decided to take all the knowledge that band picked up working with these studio veterans and apply it in their personal studio — Studio Blue — with the band’s keyboardist, Jeremiah Weir, acting as producer and engineer. Not only did the band enjoy the financial benefits of DIY, but Lager says the album also benefits from the freedom that comes with recording in-house.
“With a lot of our previous records, we went in over the course of a week and laid it down,” Lager said. “For the Tab record, we were in Louisiana for a week, and that was it. With “Heavy Soul & Boogie Trance” with the Monophonics, we were in San Rafael [California] for a week. With this record, we got to take our time. If we didn’t like something, we redid it.”
“Rise & Shine” is a culmination of the band’s past both on the stage and in the studio. This album fuses the blues of “Swagadocious” with the swamp pop-inspired sounds of “Platte River Runaway” and the fuzzy garage identity of “Heavy Soul & Boogie Trance.” This mixture has given Kris Lager Band its own unique identity in the current music world.
“Rise & Shine” thrives from its limitless philosophy. It rolls smoothly across a musical landscape of rock and blues, with “Ain’t Got No Worries” providing a musical diversion with its reggae goodness. However, a common thread of soul runs throughout the album. Lager even showcases his love for his late father and the sounds of South Louisiana with the swamp pop masterpiece “Standing Right in Your Lovelight.” Lager says this song took shape while he was playing guitar bedside for his father in the last days of battle with cancer.
“He liked happy songs, a good beat and a good riff,” Lager said. “He loved Cajun music. One of his last requests was ‘Jambalaya’ by Hank Williams. It seemed appropriate I actually got to play that song for him before he passed away. I thought that if I’m going to sing this song about my old man, I want it to make me happy.”
Lager says the public can expect another self-produced album from Kris Lager Band in the very near future. Tentatively titled “Love Songs & Lifelines,” the album should live up to its name. Lager says the upcoming release is comprised entirely of love songs inspired by his love for his wife, children, father and music. He describes it as a “documentary/album.”
Kris Lager Band’s set at The Listening Room will be quite a diversion from the typically earnest listening room environment. While the band’s music is quite powerful on its own, its live interpretation completes the group’s musical formula. The band thrives on the symbiotic relationship that can exist between band and audience, and takes the stage with the aim of providing a charismatic and memorable live show.
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