The Dynamites celebrate soul in Vail
VAIL, Colorado – “Well ya know I guess it was in college when I first started listening to James Brown,” says musician Bill Elder. “It was really then that I had an epiphany of ‘Why didn’t everyone listen to this all the time?'” Elder (a.ka. Leo Black) is the composer and band leader of the modern funk-soul group, The Dynamites, a nine-piece band hailing from Nashville that recently added singer Charles Walker. The Dynamites and Walker will play at Tuesday’s Hot Summer Nights concert at the Ford Amphitheater in Vail. Elder has always had a love for soul, jazz, R&B, and funk and was a music theory major in college. Walker has been singing and performing in the “soul circuit” since the 1960’s. With this addition, Elder says the band’s music is truly reviving all the genres that have sprouted from soul into one amazing show. Vail Daily: Listeners say that your album “Kaboom!” is kicking soul into the 21st century. What were the creative buds that bloomed this evolution of soul for the group? Elder: Well I guess a lot of it lays on the actual players in the band. A lot of it came from how the (band members) found their life on the stage. As a song is written and as it stays on the stage it turns into something different. That was a big challenge; how to take these tunes from the early to mid-60s perspective and then bringing them into the show. The 21st century is hard because a lot of people call this music “retro soul.” But in our view it (soul) never went away it was always there and now it’s just finding new avenues and we’re just one of them. VD: The song “Way Down South” is incredibly political and social in nature. Tell me about the inspiration for that song.Elder: I’m from New Orleans and I grew up in the south. The tune is all about the duality of the south – all the really quirky paradoxes that are down there. I was trying to give the double meaning as to what it’s like to live down south. Things are rough but things are smooth, things are hot but things are cool … and of course in the middle it goes straight to the core of how the whole Katrina disaster hit me.And one of my early-on frustrations after that all hit was that a lot of the music that was coming out to me did not seem very realistic. It all just said “We’re gonna go back and we’re gonna re build” and that’s all well and good but there wasn’t a whole lot of people talking about the reality of how it felt at the time in the context of what it means to grow up in the south and have that kind of a thing happen to your most beloved city. VD: Each of your songs in “Kaboom!” seems to stem from a different era of soul. Would you say that this album is an attempt to return the genre of soul to the American people?Elder: I guess a big approach was to take all of those different styles of funk and soul music that permeated the early to late 60s and late 70s and kind of hit all of those veins. To me it was kind of a sampler of a lot of different sub-genres of real authentic soul music. There’s a couple on there that are classic James Brown grooves. Every song has it’s direct influence and a sub-genre of funk and soul that to me needed representation. VD: Tell me about your newest album, “Burn It Down.”Elder: The new album does a bit of that as well … we’ve got our Curtis Mayfield song and our Bobby Bird-sounding song and our Lee Dorsey-sounding tune. We’re hitting some more veins of soul. This one however has a lot more of a cohesive nature to it while taking on an even greater of a variety. As soon as you’ve listened to the record front to back it’s taken you to so many places.There’s quite a bit more of the social consciousness tunes. We just try to dig deeper into that. It’s heavily inspired by all the mess that’s happening right now. Soul music has always been around to offer some positivity if not concrete solutions. By the end of the whole thing there’s a big celebration. I’m really really really proud of it. VD: What is it like to work with Charles Walker?Elder: It’s a great honor and privilege to be able to work with Charles. He’s been doing this since 1961, and he came up in the golden era of soul. Just to be able to stand up next to him and do this live – as a lover of soul music, to have the real thing standing by you night after night, is a really amazing thing. An even deeper thing is that we are basically partners in all of this, and as Charles makes another step forward in his career as a soul veteran and I kind of get started on mine is really a great thing.VD: What can Vail expect from a live show?Elder: Lots of energy, lots of dancing, and lots of celebration. You can expect to feel taken back to the golden era of soul and funk music while at the same time feeling its strong presence in a very real way in the current time. This trip to Colorado we are debuting the whole new show with all of the new songs with some of the ones from “Kaboom!” We’re looking forward to getting out there. I’ve heard that the venue is just breathtaking.
What: The Dynamites featuring Charles WalkerWhere: Ford Amphitheater, VailWhen: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Gates open at 5:30 p.m.Cost: FreeMore information: Call 970-949-1999 or visit http://www.vvf.org
Participants attached protest signs to ski poles and hockey sticks in Vail Saturday at the 2020 Women’s March.