Sound Check: Selah kicks off Hartville Kitchen concerts

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Contemporary Christian trio Selah will perform at the Hartville Kitchen on Friday May 31, 2013.

I hope you had a nice Memorial Day weekend full of food, your drink(s) of choice, and friends and family.

I ate other folks’ (much better than mine) food for three days straight, and took a moment to remember my mom and dad who served in the Navy and Army, respectively, as well as a few of my favorite uncles.

Moving on, if you have never eaten at the Hartville Kitchen, then you’re missing out on some delicious and hearty comfort food.

But a lot of folks don’t know that in addition to making fried chicken so good and juicy that a plateful could probably turn Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods into lunch buddies (yeah, I said it, what!?), but the restaurant has also been playing host to Southern Gospel concerts for about a decade in its 500-seat room.

For 2013, Hartville is adding contemporary Christian artists to the more traditional fare. The series begins on Friday evening with Nashville-based vocal trio Selah. The group — Todd Smith, Allan Hall and Amy Perry — has been around since the late ’90s and is known for taking traditional hymns and adding a contemporary spin without losing the song’s spiritual essence, and perhaps more importantly, without offending the old-guard traditionalists who still believe pop/rock/rap/R&B-based Christian music is a dubious enterprise, at best.

The five-time Dove Award-winning group has released eight albums and a greatest-hits collection; the most recent album was 2011’s Hope of the Broken World.

The album is a fairly eclectic collection, featuring the group’s tight harmony applied to folk-flavored odes to the Almighty such as the title track, forays into the blues with a surprisingly raw cover of Buddy and Julie Miller’s Shelter Me, as well as string-laden take on Hall’s “greatest musical mentor” Dolly Parton’s popular Coat of Many Colors.

There’s also plenty of 95.5-the-Fish-ready, adult-contemporary-style, soft-pop/rock in tunes such as Be Still and I Turn to You, and Perry’s original He’ll Hold You. And, of course, there are a few ballads, including a version of the R. Kelly-penned, Whitney Houston-recorded I Look to You and the rootsy, gentle, acoustic album-closer When Love Was Slain.

Hartville Kitchen has a few more contemporary Christian shows lined up throughout June, with singer Sandi Patty up next on June 6 and 14-time Dove winner Mark Schultz on June 7.

Random acts of live music

• Nelson Ledges Quarry Park will be playing host to Sublime tribute band Badfish’s biannual concert/music festival. This year’s spring edition will include Badfish, naturally, along with Shrub, Tropidelic, Scotty Don’t and others.

It’s interesting that Sublime affected a sizable enough chunk of a generation to sustain a tribute band for 13 years. The ska-punk-pop trio released only three albums between 1992 and 1996, and had three bona fide Top 5 hits with the lightly funky What I Got, Santeria and Wrong Way before the overdose death of singer/songwriter/guitarist Bradley Nowell.

I suppose you try to make a similar argument about Jimi Hendrix (three albums, a few hit singles, then dead), but Hendrix’s influence wasn’t just a few songs that a generation of kids got high and underage-drank to. His guitar playing influenced his peers, several of whom were already “geetar gods” themselves, as well as a few generations of six-string-slinging acolytes. I’m not knocking Sublime, I’m just saying you never can tell what will stick with folks and why.

• The Blossom season is under way and the Dave Matthews Band will make its annual trip on Saturday. The venerable pop/jam band has a newish album out, the back-to-basics Away from the World, released on Sept. 11 last year.

I haven’t heard it, because as I’ve documented in this space many, many, many times, I don’t like the band’s music. But the album was critically well-received as a comfortable return to form after a few years of musical stretching, and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Plus, having seen the DMB entirely too many times (it may be five, it feels like one loooooong show) over the past decade, I can say that its outdoor concerts are like a big backyard frat party.

The serious fans sit under the pavilion and sing and dance along, while the more casual fans basically hang out on the lawn and only rip their eyes and thumbs away from their phones (or whoever they’re flirting with) when one of their favorite tunes is played.

• If you want to check out some of the best jazz players/educators in the area doing their thing, head to Pub Bricco in Merriman Valley for a special Saturday night show featuring pianist and Cleveland Queen of Salsa Jackie Warren, leading her well-seasoned trio of bassist Peter Dominguez, drummer Ron Godale with special guest singer Helen Welch.

The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 and seating is reserved.

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

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