By Tommy Comeaux
The music of Redd Skyy is hard to pigeonhole. It's not just Southern rock, or the blues, or country, but an eclectic blend of the musical loves of its five members.
"What we're doing is right on the edge of what's going on here in Baton Rouge," said Lyman Ellerman, the band's lead guitarist and one of its lead vocalists, who admits Redd Skyy defies placement in a musical genre.
However you classify it, though, Redd Skyy's sound is making a lasting impression wherever the band plays. And that's a wide swath through the central United States, from Illinois to Louisiana and the rest of the Deep South, with detours through places like Memphis, Tenn. "We've got people who range in age from 20 to 70 who are loving it," Ellerman said. "Everywhere we've played, they've asked us to come back and play the place again," added "Hoodoo" Jimmy Simpson, the band's keyboardist and one of its newest members.
The band draws on musical backgrounds that are widely diverse, outstanding harmonies and excellent playmanship, and listening to the members of Redd Skyy perform could bring to mind the sounds of classic rockers like The Eagles, The Band, Poco, even the edgier sound of artists like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Tom Petty. And if you listen closely, you'll even hear the influences of some of country music's greatests, including Hank Williams.
The band doesn't mind comparisons to other bands, they even play a few cover songs at most of their gigs that come from their inspirations. But the real talent, the real sound of Redd Skyy comes in the form of their original tunes, which now make up about 70 percent, sometimes more, of their playlist.
Coupling the songwriting skills of longtime friends Ellerman and Chuck Werner, the band's rhythm guitarist and another of its vocalists, Redd Skyy originals talk about life, its trials and tribulations, and about love lost, love gained, love lost again.
"Lyman and me...Our relationship is just great," Werner said, calling Ellerman "a word monster." "As a writer, you have to really put yourself out there...and we're on the same page." "What Lyman and I are trying to do is to break through on the edge," Werner continued. "I like where the songs come from and where they lead the listener," said Jerry Turley, the band's bassist and one of its three lead vocalists. He says Redd Skyy's original music relates to something in everyone's lives. "I can't imagine anybody not being able to agree with what we sing about in our songs."
Turley said many Redd Skyy songs are "somebody done somebody wrong songs, but we're getting some happy songs in there, too." "We do songs about life...our lives and just stuff everybody's gone through," he continued. "The reception to our own stuff is just incredible," Ellerman said, adding they regularly get requests from patrons at clubs they've only played once before for their original songs.
A key ingredient in every Redd Skyy song is the harmonic balance produced by the combination of the voices of Ellerman, Werner and Turley. It's also one of the factors making their music so enjoyable to hear. "Somehow when the three of us open our mouths, it sounds good," Turley said. "The way the vocals blend is just incredible," said drummer Jim George, the newest addition to Redd Skyy. "You just don't get that with bands these days."
After listening to one of Redd Skyy's CDs, George "was just blown away." "Who is this?" he asked. "I want to play with them." Another factor playing into the appreciation of Redd Skyy is the apparent enjoyment the band members get from performing their music. Part of that is the belief of its members that they're working on a good project and "we've got a lot of enthusiasm," Turley added. "I feel collectively we've got a great band," Werner said. "I love making music with these guys." "It's great, absolutely incredible," added George. "There's never been any doubt in my mind about this band since our first sound check together...I knew I was going to thoroughly enjoy playing with them."
The addition of newcomers Simpson and George is something the rest of the band feels good about too. "It was really a great thing," Werner said. "They bring their own talents to it and it really works well." Turley agrees. "We have an awful lot in common."
Redd Skyy only began performing together about a year and a half ago, but they sound like they've been together for years. There's a good reason for that. Three of the band's members, front men and lead singers Ellerman, Werner and Turley, have a long history together.
The three grew up along a five-mile stretch of a highway in rural
Illinois; Werner and Turley still live in that area.
"We'd probably be doing this whether there was money in it or not," Turley
Money issues aside, Redd Skyy is making waves on the music scene.
"We've got a lot of stuff going on," Ellerman said, including piquing the
interest of the representatives of several record labels.
And Redd Skyy's got a new CD, the band's second, on its horizon, "Naked in
Memphis," due for release around the middle of August. Another is already
in the works. Band members say enough fresh material has already been
written to begin recording a new album.
"We're just pushing forward," Werner said. "We're just doing a lot of stuff," Ellerman said. "Some pretty cool stuff is beginning to happen."
Redd Skyy will be the featured performers at downtown Baton Rouge's "Live After Five" outdoor concert series on Friday, Sept. 26, and will play Phil Brady's on Government Street that night. In the meantime, local music fans may have to settle for Redd Skyy's music on CD, since most of their gigs until then will be in Illinois and Memphis, Tenn.
For more information on the band, including upcoming performance dates, visit reddskyy.com. Either of the band's CDs can be ordered online via the website.