Four Play: Artisits That Should Be On Your Radar, Calendar, And iPod

On Tap takes a look at four local and touring bands each month. If you are interested in being featured, please send your CD along with contact information, including your website and a list of upcoming shows, to On Tap Magazine. Attention Four Play: 25 Dove St. Alexandria, VA 22314.

ALBUM: Zemewela
SHOW: Thursday, March 8th at Bossa Bistro in Washington, DC
Washington, DC by way of Abidijan, Ivory Coast band Zieti are an anachronistic funk delight. Afrofunk’s modern take is as a sweetener to house music, as tribal drums and unique African melodies provide a walloping thump to the four-on-the-floor expectation. On latest album Zemewela, the multiple-piece combination turns back the clock, delivering 12 examples of authentic West African folk soul. The most  gripping facet of the act is the sound erring towards honest music that excels at both uplifting minds and moving feet. Lead vocalist Yeoue Glaolou Narcisse is excellent, his heartfelt intonations blending with Michael Shereikis of top local afro-pop act Chopteeth’s hand-selected folk-pop backing orchestra for a pleasant, intellectual-trending sound. – MD
Bossa Lounge: 2463 18th St. NW, DC; 202-667-0088;

Mama’s Black Sheep
ALBUM: Drivin’ On
SHOW: Friday, March 16 at WXYZ Lounge at the Aloft Dulles
Baltimore, Maryland natives Ashland Miller (guitar/vocals) and Laura Cerulli (drums/vocals) comprise effortless pop folk duo Mama’s Black Sheep. The singer-songwriter team likely owe their excellence to years of time spent on the folk rock circuit, a confidence in both talent and material that shines on endearing live album Drivin’ On. Technical competence is also a calling card. This isn’t the typical indie rock tandem where a chord out of place and a few flat notes are treated as an accepted notion.  Album opener “Living Within My Means” is smartly executed and just about as good as it gets. An honest tale recalling Loretta Lynn’s “One More on the Way,” Ashland Miller’s lead vocal blends well with strong support from an insistent acoustic and string melody, par for the course of meeting their top-notch expectation. – MD
WXYZ Lounge at Aloft Dulles: 22390 Flagstaff Plaza, Dulles, VA; 703-723-6969;

Amy LaVere
ALBUM: Stranger Me
SHOW: Saturday, March 17 at Red and Black and Sunday, March 18 at Ram’s Head On Stage
“Right now, I’ll do it right now. Here’s your damn love song and don’t it say it all.”  Those telling words open “Damn Love Song,” the lead track on Amy LaVere’s powerful new record Stranger Me. The album is the first since her breakup with longtime boyfriend and drummer Paul Taylor and the death of her musical mentor Jim Dickenson. Stranger Me serves up big doses of LaVere’s strong but girlish voice and wraps the vocals in a wide variety of instrumental sounds and musical styles. On “Red Banks,” gentle acoustic guitars morph into a slinky electric blues jam complete with an appealing blast of horns. The jazzy “A Great Divide,” propelled by a screaming saxophone, showcases LaVere’s strong vocal phrasing. “Often Happens,” a winsome breakup ballad, has an almost country feel and sounds like LaVere is channeling Cat Power’s slightly sunnier sister. “Candle Mambo,” a Captain Beefheart cover, is also handled deftly as LaVere pays tribute to the jaunty song without sounding slavish. The slow-burning closer “Let Yourself Go (Come On)” sounds like LaVere’s healed and apparently moved on to new romantic horizons. “Do all your tricks that drive me right out of my mind,” she croons. Despite a tough year, this record makes it clear that LaVere will be just fine.-MC
Ram’s Head On Stage: 33 West St. Annapolis, MD; 410-268-4545;

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad
ALBUM: Country
SHOW: Saturday March 17 at 9:30 Club
Fresh to my music library is the latest release from Rochester’s Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, Country.  On this latest album the band ventures through the tracks with a noticeable twang while keeping their progressive, reggae roots in check.  Known for filling the stage with top notch talent, Giant Panda is currently on tour with James Searl on bass, Chris O’Brian on Drums, Dylan Savage on Guitar, Dan Keller on Guitar, Aaron Lipp on Organ/Harmonia with Joel Scanlon as Dub Engineer.  They continue to collectively blend their vocals while individually adding their own musical touch to each song.  Listeners get a bonus Grateful Dead cover on this album which has already been featured on for its genuine tribute.  There are many exciting projects in store for GPGDS this year, including full electric album In These Times to be released this April.  What better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than with Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad’s CD release celebration at the legendary 9:30 Club.  The Infamous Stringdusters headline the evening so stick around and enjoy the after party.   All Ages, doors at 8 p.m.  Tickets $20 –LH
9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-265-0930;

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