Sound Check: Heavy Glow in Canton; Hamlisch tribute in Cleveland

By Malcolm X Abram Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Power trio Heavy Glow, from left Joe Brooks, Clevelander Jared Mullins and Andrew Merkle will preview songs from their soon-to-be-released sophomore album Pearls & Swine and Everything Fine at Buzzbin Art & Music Shop in Canton on Saturday night. (Photo courtesy Bo Cross)

On Friday night, one of Ohio’s own returns to his old stomping grounds with his band Heavy Glow.

The trio of drummer Andrew Merkle, bassist Joe Brooks and guitarist/singer/songwriter and native Clevelander Jared Mullins has been kicking around San Diego since 2008, releasing two EPs and one full length album, 2011’s Midnight Moan. The band is currently previewing its second album, Pearls & Swine and Everything Fine, due out later this year.

The trio works a guitar-driven mix of blues-rock riffs, late ’60s soul and snatches of power pop and psyche-rock for a pleasantly familiar rock ’n’ roll sound that should allow boomer parents and their rock-loving kids to crank the album together on the way to soccer/baseball/cello practice.

I don’t usually quote press materials, but Mullins, who left Cleveland nearly a decade ago (yes, in part due to the weather) is still a proud Ohio boy and counts plenty of area acts among his influences, including early Black Keys, Mr. Gnome, and Cincinnati’s melodic psyche-rockers Buffalo Killers, along with other power chord-driven bands such as Queens of the Stone Age and the Foo Fighters.

Though he’s usually a few thousand miles away, he clearly recalls (and not fondly) winter in Northeast Ohio:

“When you’re growing up in Cleveland, you don’t see the sun for months, and everything is black and white and dismal. You dream in colors and wonder what it’s like elsewhere. I grew up on a farm with blue collar, manual labor work, and I did it because that’s what you do, but it always helped to have a song in my head. That and being close to Detroit, and here we had the power trios the Glass Harp, the James Gang, all those guys and proximity to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where you could be introduced to the history of rock,” he said.

“I went to see Robert Lockwood Jr. in downtown Cleveland when I was 14 or 15. Robert Johnson taught him how to play guitar. I got up close to watch him play Delta blues on his 12-string. It was amazing,” Mullins said in the release.

“My music influence comes from Cleveland. The weather’s s-----, nobody wants to go outside and girls don’t even shave their legs in the winter because nobody’s going to see them.”

Ouch. Ladies with leg fur aside, Heavy Glow does a pretty good job of deftly mixing those influences on songs such as the simmering, sparse Got My Eye On You with its funky staccato bass line, bluesy guitar licks and groovy handclaps. Fat Cat works a similar bluesy soul/funk vein to toe-tapping effect.

But there are also straight rockers such as 45 Shakedown, which bears a slight resemblance to the aforementioned early Black Keys, though Mullins prefers a cleaner, fatter guitar tone. The album also contains a few tunes that are begging to be bump music for televised sporting events, such as the start-stop riff of Look What You’re Doing to Me and the peppy Domino (Black Flowers). Plus Mullins and company get relatively sensitive on the power (blues) ballad Hello September (Goodbye April).

Also on the Buzzbin bill is Black Question, about whom I have many.

Honoring Hamlisch

Marvin Hamlisch, who died in 2012 at the age of 68, was one of the most celebrated composers/conductors in the modern pop era. He is one of a small cadre of artists to win at least one Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony and a Pulitzer Prize, and he won three of his Oscars in one great night.

Among the many Hamlisch contributions interwoven in the American Tapestry of Song (I didn’t make that up, but feel free to use it) are the title song to The Way We Were, made famous by Barbra Streisand, and the James Bond theme Nobody Does It Better. He scored classic films such as The Sting, Ordinary People, Woody Allen’s Bananas, Sophie’s Choice, A Chorus Line (the stage version of which earned him the Pulitzer) and the 2013 Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra.

To celebrate Hamlisch’s storied catalog, the Cleveland Pops Orchestra under the direction of Carl Topilow will pay tribute with One Singular Sensation: A Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch at 8 p.m. Friday night at Severance Hall. The concert will be made special with the appearances of three performers who worked with Hamlisch: Broadway veterans Donna McKechnie, Jodi Benson and Doug LaBrecque. The collaborators will share personal experiences and conversations they had with Hamlisch over the years.

Since it’s a pops concert, the program will contain a host of hits from Hamlisch’s screen and stage work including What I Did for Love and At the Ballet from A Chorus Line; The Way We Were; Sunshine, Lollypops and Rainbows from the film Ski Party; Through the Eyes of Love from the movie Ice Castles; and The Entertainer, the Scott Joplin song Hamlisch adapted for The Sting.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.

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