Kings of Crownsville - Reviews
". . . sweltering mélange of jazz, blues, and even country." ". . . music as good as this can leave some speechless."
The Kings of Crownsville deliver royal performance on 'Live at Quiet Waters Park'
(Annapolis, MD) Written by Robert Sutton.
Even buckets of rain couldn't stop a captivated audience from hailing the Kings of Crownsville.
As documented on their new album, Live at Quiet Waters Park, the Kings battled Mother Nature and delivered a fiery set of jazzy rock and New Orleans blues. Featuring vocalist/guitarist Steve Johnson, trombonist John C. Harris, keyboardist T. Michael McCormick, drummer Rob Creath, trumpeter Jim Tavener, and bassist Peter Miller, the Kings bestow their vintage Big Band influences with a contemporary sheen, incorporating subtle touches of reggae, worldbeat, and Americana.
Live performance CDs are usually recorded inside of a theater or an arena; Live at Quiet Waters Park, on the other hand, had a troubled birth, caught in the middle of a storm. However, according to Johnson, of the people who watched the show, "nobody left." It's easy to see why. Weather be damned, the Kings were in royal form as can be heard on the Steely Dan-ish contrasting moods of "Dark ‘n Light"; the spontaneously combusting partying of "Hanging with Nat"; and the sweltering roots groove of the Southern-fried "Country Blues." It's almost as if the hostile elements motivated the group to work even harder, to be heard through the pouring rain.
The Kings of Crownsville was formed over six years ago. Part of the Kings' affection for traditional New Orleans music originated with Johnson, who went to school in that area. As a child, Johnson grew up listening to both country and jazz, from Hank Williams to Louis Armstrong, two genres that would later form the stylistic nucleus of the Kings of Crownsville. Johnson bought his first guitar at the age of 13, then started writing a year later. After a solo stint in New York, playing bars and street corners for three years, Johnson relocated to Maryland and started the Kings of Crownsville
. . . play dynamic, accessible music to suit sophisticated tastes. We take great tunes, add a touch of New Orleans, a pinch of jazz, a hint of world-beat, and ground it all in solid alt-rock sensibility.
. . . write perhaps the best original music in the Baltimore/D.C. area and then go on to take a fresh look at songs by everyone from Johnny Mercer to David Byrne.
. . . is a six-piece band making essential music with piano, trumpet, trombone, guitar, bass and drums. Two, three, and four-part vocal harmony is our signature sound.
"The Kings of Crownsville line up behind their eloquent songwriting with guitar, trombone, piano, bass, percussion and some sultry harmonic vocals. Over the years they have developed a sound that can take you from the streets of New Orleans out onto old Route 66. Picking up influences from nearly every page of the American songbook, you"ll want to hear these guys on your sound system as you drive to Anywhere, U.S.A. No kidding, these guys are a great night out."
Adek Productions Annapolis MD
"The Kings of Crownsville were a hit at The Mainstay. This is no small accomplishment in a hall which has hosted some of the famed national acts, especially in jazz . . . Preservation Hall, The Bill Allred Classic Jazz Band, Bucky Pizzarelli, Frank Vignola, Warren Vache . . . and the list goes on. The Kings combine a kind of freewheeling swing with touches of a New Orleans band . . . and the added touch of wonderfully tight arranging. With just two horns they manage to sound like a full line. An added asset to this fine group is the work of singer songwriter, Steve Johnson. Often original songs are the weakest part of an act, but Kings feature his songs and they are solid musically with lyrics that will make you laugh sometimes, and sometimes just quietly think. Altogether, an excellent show. And add to this that they are a nice group of guys."
Tom McHugh, Director, The Mainstay
. . ."home of musical magic" .
"To dance or to listen, that is the question surrounding The Kings of Crownsville, a 6 piece musical surprise! Fascinating original music and lyrics and excellent choices of covers sprinkled throughout the evening . . . former New Orleans resident lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Steve Johnson, offers a straight ahead husky, blues voice full of energy. The Kings play driving blues, jazz, pop and rock and then switch to the perfect use of the lilting reggae beat. The rhythms are right for the dance and the musical antics and twists are cause to pause, watch and listen. Fun and delightful, the on-stage persona of this group is almost humble. The tasteful uses of percussion instruments are just right . . . driving drums yet subtle and in balance. Vocal harmonies, well blended and appropriately placed within the songs, provide a really fun surprise. The Kings horns range from an intense brass blast to tasteful close harmonies giving songs a certain unexpected flair. The group is underpinned by the smooth, agile, highly creative bass guitarist using multiple techniques from slappin' to walkin' and beyond, as well as the talented pianist whose musical ideas flow through his fingers without stopping. I loved this group! They are a must to hear!!! Mostly playing over the Bay Bridge, we hope they will return soon to play in Chestertown."
Barbara Ferris, Entertainment Booking Manager, Lulu's Bar Chestertown, MD -
"You guys sound like Louis Armstrong meets Steely Dan."
Tom Boddorff, friend and fan from Annapolis, MD