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Salt Lake City Weekly

Tom Bennett & Sweet Salt Records 

Tom Bennett starts local folk-centric record label

RUDY VAN BREE
  • Rudy Van Bree

Sweet Salt Records founder Tom Bennett had music in his blood all along—he just didn’t know it. In April, his grandmother told Bennett that his great-grandfather, Roy Ferguson, had been a folk singer who made a one-time appearance at the Grand Ole Opry. The night of his final performance, she said, he died in a Holiday Inn parking lot at age 53.

Coincidentally, just before Bennett received the news about his great-grandfather, he’d begun learning how to play acoustic guitar, exploring “the resonators, slide, Delta blues [and] folky style of playing, the music I grew up with,” he says. Playing guitar became a way to explore his own musical abilities as well as to connect with his great-grandfather’s legacy.

But merely playing the same instrument and styles that Ferguson had wasn’t enough, so in June, Bennett journeyed to his home state of Georgia (he originally came to Utah as an LDS missionary). His quest was to find people who remembered his great- grandfather or had stories to tell about him, or “track down maybe recordings or a guitar of my great-grandfather’s,” he says.

“I wanted to know more because I’d never heard about him growing up, which shocked me because our family’s pretty close and very, very small,” Bennett says.

In Cedartown, in northern Georgia, Bennett met an 86-year-old man named C.R. Martin, who had not only known Ferguson, but was related to him through marriage and remembered the songs he used to play, which were mostly covers of “Hank Williams songs and old gospel standards,” Bennett says.

And Martin held another key to Ferguson’s lost past. “He said, ‘Before you go, let me give you a gift, because I can tell you really mean it. And you’d do better than an 86-year-old man having what I’m about to give you,’ ” Bennett says. “He went up to his attic and he came back about 30 minutes later with an old, dusty Walmart bag, and inside was a very destroyed 8-track tape, and he said, ‘This is the only recording I’m aware of of your great-grandfather.’ ”

Thrilled with the find, Bennett returned to Utah and enlisted the help of a musician friend to painstakingly restore the tape inch by inch. “We were able to get a handful of songs off it,” Bennett says.

Bennett continued to play acoustic guitar, and would often play in Pioneer Park with homeless folks. His music caught the attention of several employees of the nearby historical Peery Hotel, who invited him to come play there. He gathered a few other musician friends to perform with, and eventually they “were able to form a little folk-music scene around that,” Bennett says.

Inspired by the talent of his fellow folk musicians, it was then that Bennett realized that his long-held dream of starting a record label could become a reality. He founded Sweet Salt Records in November, and moved the growing folk-music event—now called a Good Ole Time—to Zest Kitchen & Bar (275 S. 200 West), where it happens every Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m.

Currently, the folk-centric record label represents a troupe of about 10 solo singer-songwriters. Artists from Sweet Salt Records also play regular showcases at Piper Down, The Garage and Bar Deluxe, and a weekly showcase at Metro Bar will start at the beginning of January. On Dec. 17, Bennett released his three-song debut EP, The Man Who Shook the Trail of the Devil’s Hounds.

But perhaps the most exciting development is the venue Bennett plans to open in the spring, on 300 South next to the Tavernacle. “We just basically want to create a place where people can come—once the sun comes back out—sit on the sidewalk, drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, write poetry [and] listen to folk music,” he says.

Sweet Salt Records might be new, but, rooted in the same grit and soul as its founder, it has the potential to become a Salt Lake City folk-music mainstay.

“It’s an authentic record label, and it’s authentic Americana folk music,” Bennett says. 

 

Southern Utah Independent

Tom Bennett is a vagabond, harmonica wielding, soul-bearing musician without a permanent residence. Tom Bennett is a traveling one man band. 

Tom’s story starts in a haunted house. Now, you don’t have to believe in ghosts, per se, to appreciate the genesis of Tom’s adventure. It was the events that transpired in that gorgeous old log cabin in Salt Lake City that lead to Tom’s decision to become a musician, and a nomadic one at that. The year was 2013. He and his girlfriend moved into a new neighborhood with her best friend. It was an odd, yet quiet place; a strong little farming community defined by cooperation. But Tom said the house had a weird energy. 

“It seemed like any girls who were in that house started to have weird feelings,” Tom explained. “As soon as we moved in, all this trouble started.” 

First the arguments. Then their friend’s relationship soured with surprising speed considering that they had never really butt heads before. They broke up. 

Tom said it was the energy of the house, but at first they didn’t understand it. There seemed to be no reason for it. Then they started finding weird objects to accompany the weird energy. Mutilated dolls hidden in trees, and tucked away inside the house. Strange symbols carved or drawn on walls. It was no help to learn that a previous tenant was suspected of being a serial killer, one who had terrorized women in Sugar House. 

Soon, the arguments turned to fights. Then the fights became physical. Violent. Domestic abuse. Tom was the victim. So he left. He abandoned his possessions, and he fled, not knowing where he would go. 

“I ended up in this really depressed place,” Tom said. “I figured that I’ll probably just drink this away...but I had already dealt with alcoholism, and I didn’t want to slide back into that.” 

So he borrowed a guitar from the Boys and Girls Club where he worked, and tuned it to what he says he thought was in tune. The tuning was something close to a drop D, a tuning meant for the blues. 

Four months later Tom was asked to write and perform a song for the "Clean Air, No Excuses" rally in Salt Lake City. But instead of the hundreds of attendees that the organizers expected, Tom performed the song for 5,000 spectators. 

“I honestly don’t remember it,” Tom said. “I wasn’t intoxicated or anything, it was just so scary. I basically played as fast as I could and then got out of there.” 

He did well enough to be invited back to perform that same song again for the 2015 rally. What’s more, he was asked that year to go on tour with another blues musician from the valley. Tom was the director of his chapter of the Boys and Girls Club at that point. It was a steady job, but as much as he wanted to claim that he wasn't ready to be a musician, all of his friends were telling him that it was what he was meant to do, and he wondered if maybe they were right. Maybe if that log cabin could be actually haunted, maybe if that kind of thing was real, then maybe fate could real too. And maybe it was calling him to hit the open road with his guitar. 

“I had enough people reassuring me that it was what I needed to do, so eventually I gave my work six weeks notice,” Tom said. “I gave them that long because I really felt like I would change my mind and just rescind the whole thing and stay, but things just lined up perfectly.” 

So he hit the road and fell in love with it. 

“The travel itself, to me, is equally or more important than the music,” Tom said. “The music is a vehicle, and I do love performing it, but I love the travel, driving for 12 hours through blowing tumbleweeds and past abandoned buildings."

For Tom, there was no paycheck, no apartment, no comfy bed to come home to, but there was something undeniably romantic about it. A life free of the constraints of a work schedule. More or less, anyway.

Tom started planning his tours with enough time between shows to follow his whims when it came to scenic breaks. A two hour detour for Anasazi ruins wasn’t out of place in his new life. The ghost town or abandoned mine after a show was totally within the bounds of reason. 

In his mind, why wouldn't he do these things? For Tom, the world is filled to the brim with incredible things to see, so why not make the time to go see them?

 In fact, it seemed to work to his advantage. 

“It’s good for writing,” he said. “After you spend a certain amount of time alone, driving, you tend to revert to your subconscious mind a little more and the songs seem to come out easier.” 

In addition, those experiences gave him both the inspiration and the stories to share with others. This new life, one on the road between towns, was Tom’s childhood dream. 

“I always said that I want to be the guy that travels the world, then comes back and tells stories,” he recalled.

Not all of the experiences since going on the road have been dreamy. Sometimes it has been hard. Isolated. Tom admits that loneliness has been the biggest obstacle. He says that when you’re not bunking down in one place for very long, and with so much time spent in solitude between towns, it can sometimes be hard to connect.

But that’s changing too. Just because his life somewhat resembles one of a gypsy, or a bohemian nonconformist, doesn’t mean that he rejects social media, email, or phone calls. 

“There are some people who realize that you’ll be back, and they still invest the time into getting to know you, and you them,” he said. For Tom, these people make it easier. He said that recently somebody came up to his table and jokingly asked if it was the fan club, but Tom said that it wasn't. It was just a bunch of friends hanging out. 

Not fans. Friends. This might be especially true here in southern Utah, where he’s been spending more stationary time than usual. He’s dating a girl down here now, which he said is admittedly a big part of that. Beyond that, it’s the sense of spirituality, the vastness, the sense of connection, that he feels here. 

“On the East Coast, or in the South where I’m from, there are so many buildings, or so many trees that something huge could be happening around the corner and you’d never know unless you saw it on the news or someone told you,” he explained. “Out here you can see the smoke in the distance, and you know that you can go find it.” 

Tom said that the same is true for the people that he has met here. He said they’re attuned to that spirituality. 

So spending time in this part of the country helps him to feel grounded, to set him going again in the right direction. On the right road, he’s going to have the right experiences. To him that’s important.

“I think there are plenty of folk singers who sing about things that they’ve never experienced," he said. "I don’t think there’s any more room for that. So many are going to get up and say, ‘this is a song about riding trains.’" However, Tom said he doubts many of them have ever done such a thing.

But that’s Tom’s story. One of freight trains, native Americans, reservations, ghost towns, coyote bones, haunted houses, harmonicas, and hitchhiking. Exactly the makings of a good folk roots and blues song. 

Tom Bennett can be found on Facebook and YouTube by searching Tom Bennett Utah. You can also follow his adventures as they happen, or at least sometime shortly thereafter, by following him on Instagram.

Ogden Standard

Tom Bennett, folk singer and bluesman who is based in Salt Lake City, but currently lives in his van in St. George, is the living definition of a one-man band. While playing live he incorporates either resonator guitar or mandolin with harmonica, vocals and foot percussion. Bennett also books all of his own shows, creates and sells his own merch and drives all around the country himself.

Although self-taught, Bennett wouldn’t call himself completely self-made. He said he received a lot of help from musicians far and wide. In other words, Bennett has friends, not fans.

“I put in a lot of work, but because of that people see it and I get a lot of help from people and it would be really impossible to do it without all the help,” Bennett said, taking a break from performing on a street corner in downtown Salt Lake City.

“I’ve got friends I've made on tour that have helped me find shows in different cities and that is the only reason I’m able to do what I do, just the friendships you make on the road and the people that hear your music that it resonates to.”

Bennett is continuing to make friends on his tours, and because of a connection he made earlier this year, he is booked for a show in Ogden at D&R Spirits with Brad Rizer and Danny Wildcard. Bennett is kicking off his Pacific Northwest tour at the Ogden show on Monday, March 2.

Busking in the city of salt

Bennett only recently picked up the mandolin, and he’s only been playing guitar for about two years. His hope for this year is to improve his skills on both instruments. He practices and performs around the clock, but one of his favorite venues is the city streets.

“That’s where a lot of times I write my songs, on street corners. That’s where ideas come to me most,” he said. “The instrument is in your hand, you’re playing for people as they walk by so you want it to sound good, but it’s also a good opportunity because there’s not a captive audience to try out different things. So I was playing mandolin a lot today.”

Although music has always played an integral part in his life, Bennett didn’t pursue folk and blues as a full-time lifestyle until after he created his own record label, Sweet Salt Records. Bennett was asked to perform at the Peery Hotel in Salt Lake City; the only problem is he didn’t know how to play. With the help of some musician friends, Bennett booked the show and started a weekly folk music night that continued on for six months.

Bennett started up Sweet Salt as a way to thank the musicians who helped him that night and in a way, unite the Salt Lake City folk music scene.

“It became very popular and was a really good show. I wanted to put out a compilation CD to help ... unify the Salt Lake music scene.” He wanted to help all the talent get publicity. he added. “I wanted to put out this album and have everyone sell copies of it, use it to record and just use it to fund the label basically.”

With the label, Bennett recorded and produced his full-length album, “The Man Who Shook The Trail of The Devils Hounds.” The album features Bennett on vocals, guitar and harmonica, which is why he’s working on re-recording it now.

“It came out really good, but I was only playing guitar, singing and harmonica on that album, so it doesn’t catch the energy of the live show,” he said. “It just makes for a bigger sound, it almost sounds like a full band at times. You’ve got the percussion going, the harmonica, the guitar, and vocals all at the same time. So I can usually do what three or four people can do just by myself.”

Ain’t no rest for the wicked

On his Pacific Northwest tour, Bennett is traveling alone, save for his puppy lil’ Oakie. He’s had bad luck booking tours with other musicians in the past, and dealt with last-minute cancellations. Soon enough that shouldn’t be a problem. Bennett is currently working on creating a network of like-minded traveling folk musicians who can share vital information about life on the road.

“There’s a lot of people that play music that’s called folk music, but people who really do it the real way just staying with the people, and touring with the people and working with different activist groups and doing all that good stuff, playing music based on what they see,” he explained, noting the lack of “authentic touring folk singers” out there.

“I’m working on building an actual formal network for those guys and all of us so we can share our information and all the friends that we’ve made and the places to stay and play music at.”

Bennett’s seeking other folk singers and musicians who want to use their music to help people and change lives for the better. During the Clean Air No Excuses Rally at the Utah State Capitol in January, Bennett could be seen performing his song “Governor, We Cannot Breathe.”

“Now whenever I’m around I try to get involved with different activist groups in the area,” he said. “I’ve done stuff with gardening, I’ve done stuff where we feed the homeless and put on concerts for the homeless. I enjoy all that stuff.”

Hard-working musicians like Bennett have seen it all, and he said the only thing that’s tough about being a musician is getting folks to come out and support local musicians.

“Some of the shows are surprisingly well attended and others are surprisingly unattended,” he said. “I played a show last week, there was one paying customer and that happens, that happens.”

In music hubs like Ogden, Salt Lake City and even St. George, Bennett is leaving his mark and making it known that he’s trying to build up the music scene wherever he travels to. He said Ogden was unique in that people help each other out and musicians spread the word about shows and events.

“The last time I played in Ogden I recognized in the audience six or seven local musicians who just came out to hear the music and that’s really cool,” he said. “I always have a good time in Ogden.”

Salt Lake Examiner

It was an unexpected treat this week when the duo, Latter-Day Bard, from Chattanooga, TN, arrived in Salt Lake City to perform with Tom Bennett and others at two different venues. The first, at Mod A Go Go, was providing music for an awards ceremony for modern lighting designs. The venue is a store that specializes on modern styling and has some art works by local artists including Kristi Lauren, as well as furniture and lighting.

Tom Bennett and Latter-Day Bard at Mod A Go Go
Martin Willcocks

Tom Bennett opened the music with a set of folk songs mostly from his recent album, "The Man Who Shook the Trail of the Devil's Hounds." He was followed by the upscale performance of Latter-Day Bard, comprising Kate Mae and Devin Metzger, who are on their way to record a brand new album in Los Angeles, CA. Devin is also an actor. Kate provided vocals, along woth Devon, who accompanied them on a resonator guitar. Later, Tom Bennett joined them, playing harmonica in keeping with their style.

The other event later that evening was at Burt's Tiki Lounge, a few blocks south on State Street. The opener, Mark Engel, had some rousing and energetic ditties which he performed with his guitar and percussion one man band. He was followed by Tom Bennett, who was later joined by Latter-Day Bard. The occasion for this performance was J. P. Whipple's birthday, and John performed as the final act of the evening, with a three-piece band.

These two events rounded out an excellent evening of enjoyable and exciting music, and we hope you will look out for the currently available album by Tom Bennett and the upcoming album from Latter-Day Bard that should be released shortly.

SUGGESTED LINKS

Southern Utah Independent

Tom Bennett, the one-man band, will perform this Saturday, Aug. 29, at the Kayenta outdoor theater at 8 p.m. The outdoor theater is the perfect venue for the harmonious folk, country, and blues Bennett creates with his blend of guitar, mandolin, harmonica, and foot percussion.

Bennett is an authentic folk-blues one-man band. Born and raised in the rural north Georgia countryside, he was given his first harmonica by an old lady from West Virginia at age nine. Many long hours were spent on the hayfields of a ranch in Eagle Crest learning the blues. At age 19, he left the South and headed west seeking religion. He fell in with Mormon polygamists, studied Tibetan Buddhism, and eventually became a cocaine dealer in Salt Lake City. He was arrested at 26 years old, and after going through rehabilitation and the legal system decided to make things right and began working for the Boys and Girls Club. He was a club director when he began playing the guitar at age 32. He was discovered by a touring blues band and invited to join them on the road as the opening act. He has stayed on the road since, completing many national tours after having recorded his debut album, “The Man Who Shook the Trail of the Devil’s Hounds” on Sweet Salt Records. When he is not on tour, he rests in the southern Utah desert near the town of St. George. Bennett is a local favorite and has created quite a fan club and following.

The theater is located in Kayenta Coyote Gulch Art Village at 800 Kayenta Parkway in Ivins. Tickets are $15. For more information, visit Bennett’s webpage, or find him on Facebook. For more information on the event or to purchase tickets, visit the Kayenta Arts Foundationwebsite.

Laughlin Entertainer

Country Showdown Finals

Country Showdown

For the past several years, the Riverside Resort has played host to a locals section of the national Country Showdown talent contest. This was a section showcasing talented musicians from the area within the extensive reach ofHighway Country (KIXW/KIXF). This is no small stretch of “country” for the contestants have come from all along the 1-15 corridor, from Barstow to Las Vegas, as well as local communities.

Last June, the Riverside once again hosted this local competition, and in the normal run of things, once completed, it was to be “wait until next year” with this contest. Well, this isn’t the normal run of things and you don’t have to wait until next year because the Riverside has been offered a promotion and they are running with it.

On Fri, Aug 28 (7 p.m.), Don’s Celebrity Theatre within the Riverside Resort hosts the 34th Annual Country Showdown Desert State Final, the next step toward the regional contests which is the last step before the National Final on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and competition for$100,000 and the coveted title of “Best New Act in Country Music“. This means the talent at the Riverside show on Thurs, Aug 28, is another level up and includes contestants from Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada; Lake Havasu City, Yuma and Prescott, Arizona; Blythe, California; and St. George, Utah.

The contest itself…

This biggest of all national country music talent searches has had various sponsors since it began. It was once the “Colgate Country Showdown” and the “Texaco Country Showdown“—but for the past few  years it has simply been called “Country Showdown.” By whatever name it is presented, the format is the same. It is a national contest designed to find the most aspiring country music talent in the United States.

You could say the formula has worked when you see the list of some of the alumni of the “Showdown”. Does Garth BrooksBilly Ray CyrusSara Evans,Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley and Leann Rimes sound familiar? Yep. All former contestants in contests similar to the one taking place at the Riverside Resort.

The contestants in this “Showdown” win because they get to put their show biz side in front of an audience and panel of judges in real time drama. The audience wins because they get to hear singers to which they would otherwise be unexposed, creating pleasant and rewarding surprises along the way.

The winner of the Desert State Final not only wins $1,000 cash but also advances to one of five regional contests in the fall. As stated,the final five regional winners receive an all-expenses paid trip to the National Finals in Nashville to compete for $100,000 and the national title.

The contestants..

The contestants for the Desert State Final at the Riverside, and radio stations they represent, include:

• J’RoseKIXW/KIXF, High Desert, California—J’Rose is a singer, songwriter, actress out of Southern California, who won 2013 Best Teen Artist at theMalibu Music Awards2014 Comikaze Anti-Bullying Award for her song, “Stand Up,”; and 2015 Indi Original Song Contest for her song, “Goodbye.”

• Joleen Dedmon—KDDL, Prescott, Arizona—Joleen Dedmon enlisted in theUS Air Force and was stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona; she has won numerous contests including Lucky Break Season 3 atDesert Diamond Casino in Tucson; she sang with the group Grind with bookings throughout Arizona and California;

• Anne Phillips—KOWA, Henderson, Nevada;

• Trey Odom—KTTI, Yuma, Arizona;

• Brittny Milacki—KJJJ, Lake Havasu, Arizona;

• Dannie Marie—KJBM, Blythe, California—Dannie Marie had her own Dannie Marie Band in San Diego before moving to L.A., where she has appeared in music videos, commercials, TV shows; she lists as her influences Taylor SwiftCarrie Underwood and Florida Georgia Line; last year, she went to the 515 Studio in Nashville to lay down tracks to her latest CD, Anything I Wanna Be (single available now on iTunescdbaby and at danniemarie.com;

• Tom Bennett—KCIN, St. George, Utah—Tom Bennett is considered a folk/blues singer more than a country singer though he has plenty of miles logged in the latter genre performing with his resonator, harmonica and suitcase drum; he has performed at every major music festival in Utah and Portland, Oregon; he is founder of Sweet Salt Records and has a CD out called The Man Who Shook the Trail of the Devil’s Hounds.

Each of the contestants will be singing their selected songs to the back-up band, Southern Caliber out of Southern California. The band will also perform sets of country music on their own throughout the evening.

There is no charge to catch the “Country Showdown Desert State Final” on Fri, Aug 28 (7 p.m.) in Don’s Celebrity Theatre within the Riverside Resort. All ages are welcome to attend.


 

COUNTRY SHOWDOWN DESERT STATE FINAL

Riverside Resort, Don’s Celebrity Theatre

The Spectrum

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Zangiev takes gold in Jazzy's Rock and Roll Rumble

, bpassey@thespectrum.com6:32 p.m. MST February 29, 2016
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One of the best ways to get to know the local music scene is through a good old battle of the bands.

For 11 years now I’ve followed the Southern Utah music scene to some extent. But since I got engaged nearly a year ago and then got married in August, I’ve fallen off the scene a bit. I just don’t get out to see local bands like I did in my single years.

So even though I knew the names of all three finalists competing in the Rock and Roll Rumble on Saturday night at Jazzy’s Rock N Roll Grill in St. George, I had only seen one of them perform. And the last time I saw Zangiev it was a duo without vocals, not a trio with a singer.

As I walk toward the venue Saturday it still feels familiar. I’ve seen many a great show here through the years, from local acts like Wirelefant and Nick Adams to touring bands like Fictionist and The Moth and the Flame.

Tyler Sevy of Zangiev pounds his drums Saturday duringBuy Photo

Tyler Sevy of Zangiev pounds his drums Saturday during Jazzy’s Rock and Roll Rumble in St. George. (Photo: Brian Passey / The Spectrum & Daily News)

The door opens and a wall of sound pours out into the parking lot. Zangiev is already on stage and the joint is hopping.

Because the performance space is narrow and the stage is low, it’s not always easy to see the bands when they play here, especially if the audience is crowded around the stage like they are tonight. But I see a flash of white as the singer thrashes around, lunging toward the crowd with explosive energy.

Typically the lighting here is a mix of darker red, blue and green tones, but I notice a brighter, white light flashing every time the singer moves toward the audience. As she is illuminated I’m surprised to recognize her as Kaitlyn Sevy, one of my favorite local vocalists.

I’ve been a fan of Kaitlyn’s vocals for a few years, from a Billie Holiday-style sultriness on jazz standards to moody takes on alternative rock songs from the likes of Radiohead. For a time, however, it seemed she struggled with a little stage fright.

Kaitlyn Sevy of Zangiev steps on a lightbox at theBuy Photo

Kaitlyn Sevy of Zangiev steps on a lightbox at the front of the stage to create a glow around her as she performs during Jazzy’s Rock and Roll Rumble in St. George. (Photo: Brian Passey / The Spectrum & Daily News)

This Kaitlyn Sevy is a very different performer. Her vocals are ferocious — volatile and biting. And it would be difficult to believe she ever battled stage fright. She not only looks completely at home on the stage, she owns it, stalking around like she’s been fronting rock bands for years and stomping on a foot-activated lightbox that is responsible for the white light interspersedly beaming up at her face.

Contributing to this furious salvo of rock ’n’ roll noise is Kaitlyn’s brother, Tyler Sevy, pounding away on the drums. His animalistic style makes it appear as if he’s growling through the performance.

Then there’s Ryan Groskreutz on bass — an instrument that typically falls into the rhythm section of most bands. But Zangiev is not most bands. Zangiev doesn’t need a guitar player because Ryan’s bass lines are both impetuous and melodic.

The band tears through a series of originals and a Smashing Pumpkins cover before wrapping things up in a concussive blitz of bass-drum-vocal firepower as Tyler kicks over half of his set and storms off the stage with his sister. Ryan lingers, wallowing in the feedback of his bass before exiting.

When the band returns to hear comments from the judges, one of the judges mentions how they will be a hard act to follow. I have to agree.

Megan Huard and Shane Stewart of Morning Sexy performBuy Photo

Megan Huard and Shane Stewart of Morning Sexy perform Saturday during Jazzy’s Rock and Roll Rumble. Morning Sexy took home second place in the battle of the bands. (Photo: Brian Passey / The Spectrum & Daily News)

But Morning Sexy is up to the task. This young quartet features Megan Huard on guitar and vocals, Shane Stewart on bass and vocals, Jake McCall on guitar and Brenten Canfield on drums.

While Morning Sexy is more subdued than Zangiev, almost any band would be considered more subdued than Zangiev. Morning Sexy is all about the contrast.

Shane and Brenten bring the energy with them as the bassist throws his head around, his long hair obscuring his face as it flies back and forth in front of the green glow of his guitar strings, and Brenten works up such a frenzy that his shirt can’t contain the beats.

Yet the appeal of Morning Sexy is how they balance the vigor with serenity. Jake hangs out stage left, his longish curly hair falling over his round glasses, often concealing his Lennon-like looks as he brings a quiet intelligence to the band’s look and sound.

Megan Huard, Shane Stewart and Jake McCall of MorningBuy Photo

Megan Huard, Shane Stewart and Jake McCall of Morning Sexy perform a moody set Saturday during Jazzy’s Rock and Roll Rumble in St. George. (Photo: Brian Passey / The Spectrum & Daily News)

Then there’s Megan, who balances Shane in both mood and music. Her dark hair conceals her face in shadows but the light occasionally hits it, glimmering off her nose piercings as she brings a haunting vibe to the mix.

Together their sound is a mix of catchy alt-rock numbers with chiming guitar tones and darker, more enigmatic pieces. All of it has the epic feel of a band bound for something bigger than Southern Utah.

Two for two, and so far so good.

Tom Bennett performs Saturday during Jazzy’s Rock andBuy Photo

Tom Bennett performs Saturday during Jazzy’s Rock and Roll Rumble in St. George. He took home third place in the battle of the bands. (Photo: Brian Passey / The Spectrum & Daily News)

The final act of the night is Tom Bennett, a solo performer who’s been making a name for himself in recent weeks with the publicity around his upcoming performance on March 18 in Colorado City. He believes it’s going to be the first public concert since 1998 in the Arizona town known for its polygamist residents.

Based out of Springdale but originally from Georgia, Tom’s music is probably best described as honky-tonk blues. While it’s obvious he’s grounded in the blues, there’s a rootsy, outlaw country vibe to what he does.

And he does it all one-man-band style, singing and playing guitar while operating a suitcase kickbox with one cowboy-booted foot and shaking a tambourine with the other. Oh, and he intersperses his vocals with frenetic bursts from a harmonica.

It’s obvious Tom puts a whole lot of heart in his music, especially as he sings a song dedicated to his great-grandfather, a Georgia country singer who died in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn following a gig.

When he’s finished, I’m glad I’m not among the judges because I would have had a hard time choosing. Zangiev was terribly fun to watch while I really got into the groove of Morning Sexy and Tom Bennett’s songwriting was spectacular. It’s not surprising that these three acts were chosen as the finalists.

In the end, the judges go in the performance order, awarding Zangiev with first place, Morning Sexy with second and Tom Bennett with third. I’ll be looking forward to seeing more from all three.

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