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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Ahead of the Curve

Original Post date 5/1/2013.

Growing up the son of a bar owner I had a very interesting young adult life as I became employed as a bartender at my Dad’s club, Merlin’s. I had a unique perspective on the entertainment aspect of the business because my father, Mr. Merlin Jones, was the lead singer of the house band. Because of my relation to the owner I got to do a lot of singing myself (luckily, saving much embarrassment, I had inherited some of my dad’s talent).


As my time with Merlins matured the elder Mr. Jones decided to take a break from the stage and began bringing in different bands. Over the next decade my ear experienced some of the best (and worst) musicians the Midlands of South Carolina had to offer. I became quite adept at judging whether a band was good or bad within the first song of a first set.

In the mid-ninties I supplemented my nighttime income taking a job as a graphic artist at Tees Me Screen Printing in Columbia, SC. One summer’s day an amiable Afro-American gentleman with dreadlocks walked into my office bringing me a layout for his band’s newest T-Shirt for their album "No Bones About It".

“This is Walter Hemingway,” my boss introduced him. “He’s lead singer of The Root Doctors.”

I had grown up in the capitol city of South Carolina, spending only my High School years in upstate New York. Every born and bred South Carolinian knew who the exceptional party band The Root Doctors was. They had actually captured the attention of MTV in 1996 after the network taped a frenzied crowd enthusiastically writhing to their music in a concert at Finlay Park. The group was as big a name in the local music scene as Columbia’s own Hootie andthe Blowfish. Shortly after they found themselves playing in front of thousands at a time as they opened up for established acts such as the B52’s, Morris Day and the Time, KC and the Sunshine Band and Flock of Seagulls. Their sound was as diverse as the bands they opened up for.

“Nice to meet you Sir Walter,” I responded shaking his hand.

Don’t know why I added the “Sir” but it did prompt a warm smile from Mr. Hemingway. Maybe it was because I felt I was within the presence of a local celebrity, my thoughts of that day have been lost to time. What hasn’t faded is the moniker. I still hear people refer to the singer as Sir Walter to this day.

The musician had a very congenial air and I found myself instantly taking a liking him. He was untainted by the bands recent famed exposure and I felt as if I was talking to a long time and down to earth friend. On that day back in 1995 I became a huge fan. To this very day he remains very accessible and I am honored to be counted as one of his friends.

These days Sir Walter, in addition to his tenure as lead VOX for The Root Doctors, has put together a new venture. This new band, known by the name Curve, has brought together a plethora of styles and genres performing them with smooth jazzy sophistication and a clean tight sound. From current hits like “Moves Likes Jagger” by Maroon 5 to the classic jazz standard “Summertime,” these musicians play with a precision seldom heard from such freshman efforts. I have seldom heard a band with this abundance of personality nor have I rarely seen this level of energy upon stage. It is as if they have been playing together for decades molding each number into their own unique style and owning it. Anyone who attends a Curve gig will definitely hear something to their liking and become, like me, an instant fan.

Donnie Sowell (Bass Guitar, vox) and Sir Walter S. Hemingway (Lead Vox, Percussion) come from the long-standing Columbia, SC party band, The Root Doctors. Alon Segal (keyboards, vox) is a jazz influenced musician from Israel. James Meredith (lead and rhythm guitars) brings a great jazz tone to rhythm and eclectic styles to his lead improv. Younger members include Rod Johnson(drums) who has a church background and has an extremely musical style. Also introducing diva/songstress Kanika “Kay Kay” Moore. Kay Kay brings a youthful vocal style with flavors steeped in old-school sensuality.

I feel this band has a bright future and is destined to earn a huge following in the Columbia Music Scene in the years to come.