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Al Holliday & The Eastside Rhythm Band Celebrates St. Louis' Soulful Roots

Courtesy photo

Al Holliday & The Eastside Rhythm Band will perform at Barleycorn's Saturday, Jan. 13 from 7–9 p.m. The soul-inspired group features Holliday's signature blues-based vocals—which have earned him acclaim from the St. Louis-area paper, Riverfront Times—as well as plenty of southern-inflected piano and horns.

You can hear plenty of what has listeners across the region excited via the album Natural Remedies (2015) or through the collective's live shows.

Jedd Beaudoin: When was it that soul music first entered your life?

Al Holliday: I always listened to music.At an early age, I heard Stax records and Motown, stuff like that. I'd always been drawn to it. It wasn't long before I figured out that it was music I really wanted to play. It was music that really spoke to me.

What about singing? Was that something that came along early? I know, for a lot of people, it's a matter of being in a band and somebody says, ‘OK. Somebody needs to sing.' And it's the person who's least afraid of stepping in front of the microphone who does it.

I always had wanted to sing since I was 12-years-old. That's something that comes really natural to me and something I'm really lucky [to do]. Singing in front of people is something I've been doing almost 20 years.

You're originally from right on the Missouri-Illinois border. Was it always in the back of your mind that St. Louis was right there and maybe the perfect place to go when you wanted to start playing in bands?

Absolutely. It's as cool as a city like New Orleans or Memphis or even Nashville or Austin. The name of the band, The Eastside Rhythm Band, pays homage to a lot of the people who had come up playing music around there [East St. Louis]. My biggest inspiration is Ike and Tina Turner, but Bonnie Bramlett, Albert King, Little Milton, Chuck Berry, Johnnie Johnson had all come up playing music in clubs in East St. Louis. It's really just a nod to the musical heritage of my region.

It's interesting because you're talking about Chuck Berry, the man who many people feel is the father of rock ‘n' roll, but it seems like St. Louis is often times overlooked in favor of Memphis.

Without a doubt. A lot of people talk about our history and say we're north, south, east and west here. You've got the city and the country. I think that's something about Chuck Berry. He's got that twang in his sound. I think we've got as cool a regional thing as anybody else.

You've earned some accolades in the press, positive reviews. Did that happen right away or was there a period where maybe people would come to see the show and go, "I don't get it." Did you have that?

People have been pretty cool for the most part. It's been a slow burn to get where we are now for sure. I think that we've been doing things the right way in building our following. We're not inauthentic and advertising ourselves in any way that we wouldn't like. We just try to do our thing and do it the right way and put a lot of feeling in what we do. I think people have been drawn to that.

I'm curious about the live show itself—is this something where you've worked on a dynamic for the night? There's stuff to dance to, maybe stuff to slow dance to, and then there's stuff to stop and watch the band.

We'll definitely play some ballads. We'll play some slow dance music. We'll play all of our songs. We've got a lot of new music that we've been working on. We like to say, "If you like to tap your feet, tap your feet. If you feel like clapping your hands, clap your hands." We'll be bringing some energy for sure.


Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.

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