The Jake Lives Band
by Patrick Dunn
From the April, 2015 issue
"Shakey" Jake Woods' legend is well known among Ann Arborites, but the late street performer's legacy has taken on a surprising new dimension: a tribute band. You probably wouldn't guess at first listen that the Jake Lives Band self-identifies as a "Shakey" tribute-Jake Lives is considerably more tuneful and less talkative than its namesake, and with eight members the band boasts considerably more manpower. But, like Woods, the band has a good-natured spirit and knows how to capture an audience.
Jake Lives covers more than five decades of R&B, soul, funk, and hip-hop, with the occasional dash of rock thrown in. From Marvin Gaye to the Black Eyed Peas, most of the band's covers require a larger-than-life personality to put them across-no problem for a group that has not one star performer, but two. Though front man and founder Dan Carter identifies primarily by his nickname "Dasoulman," he also answers to "Dee-Lo"-a moniker earned not only for his uncanny physical resemblance to CeeLo Green, but for his comparable level of exuberant energy onstage. Carter has the vocal chops to nail anything from the high notes of Prince's "I Wanna Be Your Lover" to the grittier stomp of the Commodores' "Brick House." It's hard for an audience to resist his charm; given a wireless mike, he'll walk around the room (or even into the next one) to get the crowd singing and dancing along.
Although vocalist Hank Davis mostly contributes fine harmonies and backing vocals alongside Sheila Clark Rhodes, he certainly earns his own moments in the spotlight. At well over six feet tall, Davis is a physically commanding presence, and although he's one of the band's younger members he works the band and the crowd like an old pro. Occasionally called upon to demonstrate his fine sense of flow on a rap tune like the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," Davis also shines when tackling a vocal workout like James Brown's "Sex Machine."
Though it's easy to focus just
on the energy of Carter and Davis, the band behind them is a thing of beauty. While the front men are showy and theatrical, the five instrumentalists follow in that great backing-musician tradition: appearing incredibly bored while doing impeccable work. It's difficult not to both marvel and chuckle at guitarist Cecil Johnson, who sits stone-faced in a chair while tearing off gloriously funky riffs. On keyboards, Rodriquez Linson is an invaluable member of the band, filling out the classic soul sound with horn presets on his keyboard and lending graceful piano lines to jazzier numbers. Percussionists Harris Johnson and George Overstreet and bassist Phil Clemons are entrusted with a sacred responsibility as the rhythm section in an R&B band, and they rise to the occasion, laying down a supremely groovy backbone for the rest of the band.
It's tempting to imagine how Shakey Jake would have responded to the Jake Lives Band. He probably would have had a chuckle and more than a few words to say about his own celebrity. But then, even Jake would likely stop rambling to enjoy the big, boisterous sound of this delightful ensemble.
The Jake Lives Band is at the Habitat Lounge in Weber's Inn on Friday, April 3, at Bar Louie on Saturday, April 4, and at the Mash lounge on Friday, April 10.
[Originally published in April, 2015.]
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