Malcolm X Abram: Hey Mavis to celebrate release of new album

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Self-described "Appalachian Americana" quartet Hey Mavis ( from left: Ed Caner, Bryan Thomas, Laurie Michell Caner and Brent Kirby) will celebrate the release of their latest CD "Honey Man" with a show at Happy Days Lodge in Cuyahoga Valley National Park on Saturday

On Saturday night, a local band will celebrate the release of its new album and its continued survival.

Local Americana/bluegrass quartet Hey Mavis (singer/banjoist Laurie Michelle Caner, her husband fiddler Ed Caner, guitarist/vocalist/percussionist/harmonica player Brent Kirby and upright bassist Bryan Thomas) will hold a CD release party at Happy Days Lodge in Cuyahoga Valley National Park for its sophomore effort, Honey Man.

The album comes relatively soon after the group’s 2010 debut Red Wine, but in those few years, the band has undergone a significant lineup change and endured a mix of triumphs and tribulations.

Begun by the Caners in 2008, the band had released Red Wine and was playing shows with its original trio lineup (featuring bassist/singer Sarah Benn, now of Shivering Timbers). Then everything began to go squirrelly.

“We went to hell and back on this CD,” Ed Caner said from his home in Cleveland. “Laurie and I were on the verge of just quitting completely.”

The band parted ways with Benn.

Caner injured his hand and began concentrating on his day job as a physics, innovation and entrepreneurship instructor at Case Western Reserve University.

Also, the Caners had their first-born child, Roscoe (why, yes, he was named for Dukes of Hazzard sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane), and “things were looking really grim for music,” Caner said.

Nevertheless, the duo soldiered on, determined to finish the batch of songs Laurie Caner had written. They picked up some local musicians (including current bassist Thomas) and began recording with famed producer Don Dixon (R.E.M., the Smithereens and others) and then tragedy struck.

“Four days before we were going to finish it, my cousin committed suicide and it totally flattened me; we were very close to each other,” Caner said.

The band was ready to call it quits but inspirational words from Dixon encouraged members to continue.

With Thomas already in tow, the band reached out to Kirby. He joined and Hey Mavis recut nearly the entire album over Thanksgiving 2011.

“We literally feel like we came out of a train wreck and now we’re cruising at top speed,” Ed Caner said, noting the positive press and good buzz the band has received including having the album’s bluesy, Kirby-sung and arranged lead single Already Down in regular rotation on 91.3 (WAPS-FM) the Summit.

Honey Man features 10 songs by Laurie Caner and one by Kirby. Laurie Caner’s honeyed alto and melodies imbue her songs such as the opener, Say Hello to Paris, about the change of lifestyle that having a kid necessitates, with a gravitas that comes when folks are singing their own words.

Throughout, Laurie Caner’s voice and Kirby’s bluesy tenor harmonize wonderfully, reminding Ed Caner of the classic sound of Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons’ duets from their 1974 album Grievous Angel.

The album has fun tracks such as the randy, up-tempo, back porch stomping shuffle Red Hot and ballads including the gentle, sparse By Your Side (Strength and Sword), and the ersatz power-ballad Little Lovebird as well as Kirby’s bluegrass-inflected Let the Water Do the Work — one of Ed Caner’s favorite tunes on the album.

Hey Mavis’ folksy, contemporary Americana/bluegrass style has become quite de rigueur in pop music with bands such as Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers and the Lumineers selling lots of records and selling out theaters.

Caner said he has seen a trickle-down effect on the band’s usual crowd of baby boomers and he has seen some new younger, hipper faces in their crowd.

“I don’t think they care when they find out we’re 30- and 40-somethings. We’re getting accepted, we’re not getting ignored. We’re happy to be in this genre; it’s always nice when more people are paying attention,” he said, noting that the banjo has become a much cooler instrument in recent years.

The show will be at the Happy Days Lodge in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and in addition to freshly printed CDs, also available will be large prints of the Honey Man album cover drawn by local Leandra Drumm, daughter of world-renowned sculptor/artist Don Drumm. There will also be dessert.

New Old Haunts gets older

On Saturday night, Old Haunts Tavern (1527 E. Market St.) in East Akron will celebrate its first anniversary with an evening of music and food.

The bar and live music venue is owned and operated by music-loving, MMA-fighting brothers Dan and Tom Doverspike and is an interesting juxtaposition of styles.

It’s quite unassuming from the front, and when you step inside, it has the comforting, low-rent feel of a good, but small dive bar, with friendly bartenders who have just the right amount of attitude. But when you step out back, you’re greeted by a sizable deluxe patio area with a nice, well-constructed fire pit (i.e. not a pile of burning bar trash), some tiki torches and plenty of room for drunken cavorting or simply hanging out.

The bands will be First Offense (Dan’s band), and two of his favorite area bands — indie rock band Eddie Doldrum and blue-collar bar-rockers the Most Beautiful Losers.

While the average financial planner would probably advise against opening a live music bar during this extended economic poop-storm, the Doverspike brothers decided to live one of their dreams.

“I’ve been in a band a long time. We enjoy live music and always wanted to own a bar and this one sort of fell into our laps so we went with it,” Dan Doverspike said. “I prefer dive bars myself for my own drinking excursions, and then there were a couple of other places that I use to go to that do pit fires in the back, and I thought it would be great to have pit fires while we’re doing shows.”

Doverspike said his years of being in the business and booking bands prepared him for being on the other side of the bar and dealing with the vagaries of owning one.

“I knew the economics of how live music worked, which is a little depressing,” he said laughing.

But there is one big difference between hanging out or playing in a bar and actually owning one.

“There’s a lot of gross stuff. Someone asked me what the worst part about owning a bar was, it’s all the vomit and bodily fluids,” he said.

Doverspike said Old Haunts Tavern has been doing pretty well and he believes the business is growing. One of the brothers’ goals for 2013 is to bring in at least one small national touring act a month.

The few times I’ve been to Old Haunts were good ones, with a small but lively crowd, a surprisingly strong sound system and enough good beer choices to satisfy a beer snob like myself.

R.I.P., Leroy Bonner

Many young folks today are used to their R&B stars being solo acts or the occasional boy/girl group. But those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s (or just appreciate the music of the era), know that R&B bands were once a dominant force in the genre and Dayton’s Ohio Players was one of the best.

That band was fronted by Leroy Bonner, aka “Sugarfoot,” who died Saturday at 69 at his home near Dayton.

It was Sugarfoot who founded the band in 1964 and his wild afro, super sexy double-neck guitars and unique vocals that made the Ohio Players immediately recognizable on the radio and gave a fun, slightly odd edge to their string of gold and platinum albums.

Hits included Fire, Skin Tight, Love Rollercoaster, the much sampled Funky Wurm and slow jams such as Sweet Sticky Thang and I Want to Be Free.

In recent years, Bonner had been touring with Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players still leading a big nine-piece R&B funk machine and carrying the torch for folks who miss the actual Rhythm & Blues lacking in much of contemporary R&B.

R.I.P., Sugarfoot.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at 330-996-3758 or by email at He’s also on Facebook as Malcolm X Abram. … Go figure.

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