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A Fistful of Sugar @ World Cafe Live on Friday.

January 7, 2014

AFOS Group Shot CloseText by Michele Zipkin.

Local folk/bluegrass outfit A Fistful of Sugar will celebrate the release of their debut album, Perspicacity, on Friday at World Cafe Live. The brass-forward, Eastern European-flavored West Philadelphia Orchestra will share a bill with them that night, along with Aaron and the Spell and Black Horse Motel.

AFOS has a modern vibe built on a melting pot of traditional genres. Each of the six member’s individual musical background and stylistic know-how permeates the group’s multifaceted sound. Old school jazz, gypsy swing, blues and traditional folk can be heard throughout their new eleven song collection, the lyrical poetry running contrast to playfulness in this harmony-rich sextet.

Some of the stylistic zest in AFOS stems from Mike Shax, the band’s rhythm guitarist and contributing vocalist. Shax acquired an eclectic mix of musical influences growing up, from rockabilly to Hungarian gypsy music, classic rock to R&B. AFOS started with five musicians contributing harmony to Shax’s songs but progressed to a veritable collaboration in songwriting among its members.

Lisa Watson lends her rich experience in jazz singing and a cappella, as well as accordion work. Meaghan Kyle contributes her knowledge of honky tonk harmony and musical theater genres. Reverend TJ McGlinchey adds his multi instrumental and songwriting sensibility on guitar, ukulele and mandolin. Will Mills spices things up on the violin with his background in Irish, Klezmer and bluegrass music. And Jess McDowell, an experienced backup singer and frontwoman of the Wounded Healers, adds her sweet soprano as well as guitar and percussion.

The overall personality of the songs on Perspicacity is diverse. You’ll feast your ears on dance-worthy gypsy swing tunes like “Lady Midas,” sporting some serious violin chops from Mills, slow and seductive numbers like “Virtuous Woman,” showcasing Watson’s soulful alto, and the old fashioned jazziness of “Miss Impossible to See.”  The band’s new record rides on versatility in genres old and new, barbershop-like vocal work, and keen instrumental execution.

(Image courtesy of the band, via Lisa Schaffer)

One Comment
  1. January 8, 2014 1:40 am

    Hey that’s my video. 🙂

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