Uncle Nef is taking Rhythm and Blues back to its roots. The duo of legendary local drummer/singer Shannon Powell and his musical disciple, guitarist Darren Hoffman, released its debut project, Blues, in November to strong reviews, including a nod of approval from OffBeat’s Geraldine Wyckoff.
Powell and Hoffman are joined on the four-track EP by Sami Stevens, a Brooklyn-based vocalist with a southern soul. Stevens provides backing vocals for Powell on the opening track, John Lee Hooker’s “Shake it Baby,” as well as the third, Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor.” But it’s on the fourth and final track, the standard “Where Did You Sleep Last Night (In the Pines),” that she finally has her moment in the sun. Her sultry voice saunters over Powell and Hoffman’s slow blues, telling a tale of infidelity, intrigue and murder while singing overdubbed three-part harmony backgrounds and the lead vocals. The song also features Kyle Roussel on organ.
“Sami is the type of vocalist that clearly honors the history of the music, while embracing the present moment,” says Hoffman. “She is versatile and reliable. So when it came to recording this classic Appalachian folk song originating as early as the 1870s, popularized by Leadbelly in the 1940s and Nirvana in the 1990s, I felt Sami could pull it off.”
OffBeat’s Amanda Mester spoke with Powell and Hoffman in November when Blues hit the streets. “We want to keep this thing rolling,” Powell Said. “We want to go on tour. The road is where I belong.” “We released the E.P. on a Sunday and we were back in the studio on Tuesday,” Hoffman added. “We started recording an L.P., and we have about half of it done already. No time to waste. We’re only on this planet for so long.”
Blues is available now on all major streaming platforms. Check out the brand new live in-studio video for “Where Did You Sleep Last Night (In the Pines)” below: