By Nina Griffen
Lost In the Covers
The Howlin’ Wolf Music Club and Den is located on the corner of S. Peters and N. Diamond Streets in the Warehouse District of New Orleans. It’s a no-frills venue with unique accoutrements, like many establishments in the dynamic city. The outer walls are decorated with a mural depicting New Orleans neighborhoods and legends of the town’s rich musical history. Inside, you’ll find a small kitchen right at the entrance offering various bar treats such as gator balls and tacos. Beyond the kitchen is the infamous hand-carved mahogany bar, the shiniest and most inviting feature in the small space, where over 20 tap selections are available. In the rear is where you’ll find the two performance spaces – the Main Room and the more intimate space, aptly named The Den.
Tonight, the Den hosts Brotha Josh and the Quickness, an R&B/soul 6-piece band from Hattiesburg, MS formed in 2016. But, first, the audience is blessed by the funk/soul/R&B stylings of Suzé, a band fronted by Suzé Goddard, a vocal powerhouse with a deep, melodic voice that fills the room effortlessly. Her ease in engaging with the crowd sets a lively tone for the nearly 30 attendees.
Suzé’s band is on point and easily vacillates between musical genres from reggae to jazz to jam and back. Her positive lyrics and vibrant stage presence make the set memorable. You can tell she enjoys her own music, and has a great time performing with the band and sharing her passion with the audience.
After a brief intermission, Brotha Josh and the Quickness take the stage. The band begins with “You Should Know Well,” the first track from their newly released album, Touro Street, and it’s a great place to start. The instrumentation is tight – the bass is heavy and Josh plays some excellent guitar solos. Up next is “Don’t Get It Twisted,” a slower melody that’s more sensual. Chris Miller takes it easy on the drums, kissing the cymbals with the sticks and creating an ethereal vibe. Though the music is soft, the lyrics are pointed. “I’m not your man, mama. Don’t get it twisted,” croons Brotha Josh, asserting his independence to his lover.
And, so it goes with many of the band’s tracks – they are peaceful, but pointed. The lead singer gives us a quick rundown of each song before it’s performed, clueing us in as to what his world might be about. However, not much is learned about the singer himself. He introduces the track “Night Star” as being “open to interpretation” but misses an opportunity to be vulnerable and share his own interpretation. The blurbs are more like summaries, dispassionate and delivered somewhat anxiously.
The exception is his introduction of the covers the band will perform. Josh becomes livelier and seems to be passionate about these songs and the people who sang them. Unfortunately, it appears that he has been overly ambitious with his selections, choosing to cover classics such as Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely?”, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?”, and “Use Me” by Bill Withers. Taking on those hits requires emotion, and, while the band, musically, is delivering its utmost, Josh’s vocal versions are lacking the spirit and energy with which these songs were originally sung.
Rarely making eye contact with this audience, Josh performs lightweight renditions of the tunes, feigning a fervor that doesn’t quite connect. He repeatedly exclaims, “What! What! What” before his “Use Me” cover, in an attempt to amp the audience up, and, while the crowd does respond, the performance is anti-climactic.
Josh’s voice is charming and pleasing to the ear, but it is better suited for his originals – smooth, easy, and melodic tunes that offer a uniquely comforting, yet bold perspective. He has a way with his fan base, and they appear to be loyal. However, a great deal of his songs are written with a theme of disconnection (from the world or from another individual) and this theme seemed to carry over to his stage presence. Brotha Josh and the Quickness, overall, performed well, but I left with a much greater affinity for the opening band – a rare occurrence, but one that was most welcome.
For more information in Howlin Wolf Music Club visit their website
For more information on Brother Josh and the Quickness visit their website