AXS ENTERTAINMENT / ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT / MUSIC
Atlanta Blues Examiner
A delightful surprise: Tullie Brae at Darwin's Friday, April 3, 2015
You all know that since I started writing these articles about 6 years ago, I have had the opportunity to review a lot of great shows. I hate to write negative reviews so they are seldom about performances that are sub-par. Out of those many great performances, only a few blew me completely away at first sight. Bobby Messano, Jeff Jensen, Beverly "Guitar" Watkins, JP Blues and Victor Wainwright come to mind.
Add to that list one more name, who just may be my favorite female blues performer so far, Tullie Brae.
This was not a familiar name to me before my husband and I saw her Friday night at Darwin's. We went because we were invited by her associate, Jayme Fallon. Thank you, Jayme! This is why you should go to see people you never heard of. Sometimes you get a truly wonderful surprise.
Brae is immediately striking. She is tall and beautiful and she moves and dresses like a rock star. Dressed in tight black pants, a black t-shirt with a silver cross on the front, and a top hat, she was in constant motion. We agreed that she reminded us of Keith Richards if Richards was a beautiful blonde. It makes sense when you see her.
She had a great band, too, which is absolutely essential when you have a strong and versatile front person.
So now, with all that going for her, what sort of musician is Tullie Brae, really?
The answer is an exciting and powerful one. She plays the Hammond organ and guitar, bangs drums and sings with verve and confidence in a voice perfectly suited to blues and roots music.
The things that make a good musician a great performer are the ability to engage the audience visually and through sound. When an entertainer is having a good time the audience probably will too. When a musician can have real conversations with an audience, that helps too. Tullie Brae has all of that. Her own original songs are powerful as well. She performed a couple of songs that had a very strong anti-domestic violence stance that particularly impressed me. In addition, she did great covers of "Dust My Broom" and "Ball and Chain" as well as just a lot of very good, fun music.
Add to this the free swag provided by Brae's sponsor, Four Roses Bourbon, like the free t-shirts and temporary tattoos, and it was a great night of discovery, fun and music for all.
Tullie Brae is a welcome addition to my list of favorite blues musicians. Check her out!
Arts & Entertainment Celebrity
Memphis Entertainment Examiner
Tullie Brae is most definitely the real deal.The first time I saw Tullie it was at the East End Grill’s the Thrill at the Grill. The first thing you notice about Tullie is how beautiful she is. She’s a tall blonde with amazing blue eyes and a beautiful smile. The second thing you notice is she doesn’t seem to be aware of it.She not only took to the stage, she took it over. Yes, she’s easy on the eyes but she has the stage presence of a veteran. She draws you in like someone who has been performing for decades. She allows you to know her. There’s no wall between her and the audience.Tullie only did a couple of songs that night, one of them was B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone”. When B.B. sang “I'm free from your spell and now that it's over, all I can do is wish you well” you think okay, she did him wrong and he’s moving on. When Tullie sang those very words, it cut through me like a knife. I was thinking NO, don’t move on. The lyrics took on a whole new meaning.I had to see more of Tullie and I did, just a week later. I caught her at the Band Box on Beale, again the following Saturday night in Bolivar, TN for Music on the Square and then back on Beale at Club 152.Tullie isn’t just talented and genuine; she’s a class act too. I noticed that Tullie’s assistant, Jayme was handing out long stem red roses to all the ladies at each show. I thought that was a nice touch. The roses are courtesy of Tullie and Four Roses Bourbon. Gordon Caldwell plays bass and is Tullie’s song writing partner. Her band is one of the best blues bands I’ve heard. They’re like a who’s who of Memphis blues musicians, each one an award winner.Tullie Brae never stops moving and works the entire stage at every performance. While watching her perform, it occurred to me that she is sexier by accident than other women are intentionally. She moves to the music and has a voice of an Angel, albeit a bluesy Angel. As she works the stage she introduces the other members of the band to the audience. It’s not all about her; it’s about all of them. She’s as gracious as she is talented. The Medicine Man Revue also includes: Robert “Nighthawk” Tooms - keys and harp, he has worked with B.B. King, James Cotton, Little Milton, Blind Mississippi Morris, and his own band, the Wampus Cats. “Memphis Mike” Forrest - lead guitar, he is one of the most respected blues guitarist around and is also a member of the Wampus Cats. James Cunningham - drums, he has also worked with the Memphis Sheiks, Blind Mississippi Morris and is another member of the Wampus Cats. Roy Howell - Slide Guitar, Roy is considered one of the best slide guitarist in the world. He is also known for his award winning music for The Discovery Channel and numerous movie scores.So you see, Tullie has surrounded herself with musicians that are also at the top of their game. She has mastered the set list too, each song complements the last. The songs that they cover are not necessarily blues songs. Some are contemporary songs that they give their bluesy treatment to. They’re not a traditional blues band; they’re on the cutting edge. One of the standouts is their version of “I Almost Cut My Hair”, the Crosby, Stills and Nash song.When I had a chance to ask her about how she came up with such a unique arrangement on it, she told me “I had never heard it. My bass player wrote out the lyrics and then played it for me. I heard the CS&N version just recently.”They moved from that song into Tullie playing a sultry piano intro into their original song “Modern World”, it has become one of my favorite songs they do. There’s a great line in the song that says “Now if Jesus was running to be the president, do you think he’d talk to you about your taxes?”They also did a great version of Loverboy’s “Turn Me Loose” and gave it a whole new feel. As Simon Cowell would say they make each song their own.So the good news for blues fans is “Sexy is back” and what makes Tullie Brae sexy is that she doesn’t try to be. She feels the music and allows you to feel it with her. Her stage presence and her personality are one and the same. What you see is what you get. I know, a cliché but it really does apply in this case. Make it a point to see the Tullie Brae Band and you’ll see what I mean.