Music in the Country
AT RIVER ROAD FARM
June 11 | The Commonheart
With Special Guest Derek Smith and the New Day
When: June 11, 2023
Cost: $35/ $40 at the door
- Tickets: $35.00 per ticket in advance; $40 at the door
- Children 12 and under are free
- Gates open at 12:00
- Support act goes on at 1:00
- Headliner at 3:00
- Food trucks
- All net proceeds benefit the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore
Headliner – The Commonheart
“This band is therapy for me to bring myself back to being a better person, and I hope people come along with me,” says powerhouse singer Clinton Clegg of The Commonheart. The testimonial begins on August 16th when the 9-piece band issues its most potent and purposeful dose of grittily redemptive rock n’ soul, its sophomore album, Pressure (Jullian Records).
Clinton didn’t grow up in a Baptist church, and his soul machine of a band isn’t pushing religion. Live and in the studio, the Pittsburgh-based collective is offering feel-good positivity, Golden Rule messaging, and sweat-soaked performances that nimbly ease through blues, vintage soul, and rock.
The nonet is bonded by familial-like ties and a desire to foster spiritual uplift. Among its ranks are female backup singers, drums, bass, guitar, a horn section, and keyboards. Out front is Clinton, a lightning bolt charismatic front man with dynamically expressive pipes that effortlessly traverse bluesy pleading, and honeyed balladeering. Onstage and in the studio, Clinton evokes B.B. King, Al Green, Otis Redding, and Sam Cooke.
The Commonheart is known to have transformative powers. Case in point is the band’s own singer. During one gig, while singing “Do Right” from Pressure, Clinton experienced a revelation.
“Seeing the audience’s reaction to the positivity in that song made me feel like I was giving them something they may need.” He pauses thoughtfully, and then continues: “You know blues music is sad as hell, but it makes you feel good. I thought maybe my bad stories could make people feel good, and I could bring a little bit of love to the show.”
Previously, Clinton was in an eclectic indie band searching for some semblance of artistic focus. He had grown up loving B.B. King and soul music, and recognized the strength of his raspy emotive voice. After some soul searching, he and that band’s drummer decided to do a back-to-basics band centered around Clinton’s singing and a vintage R&B-informed aesthetic. At first the band’s name was a casual variant of The Commonwealth, as in “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” but the moniker later accrued significance as the band began to explore the pent-emotionality inherent in its gospel-tinged tunes.
The Commonheart’s latest album, Pressure, is both rugged and refined. The 10-song album showcases raw-nerve soul musicianship pristinely recorded. The opening track boasts soulful sandpaper-y lead vocals, swoops of cosmic slide guitar, a driving Sly Stone groove, and rousing female backup vocals. It’s an up-against-a-wall tune about making a living while raising a family, and it speaks to the album’s title. The bluesy ballad title track, replete with pleading emotive vocals, drips yearning and melancholy redemption. “That’s about the daily grind—what it takes to maintain important relationships while you’re away from home, driving thousands of miles in van to pursue a dream,” Clinton confesses.
A spirit of a new-day optimism courses through the aptly titled “Different Man.” The song soars with stirring group backup vocals punctuated by Clinton’s vulnerable confessions. It’s a rousing and uplifting slice of R&B brimming with warm organs, clipped soul-guitar chanks, and triumphant horn melodies. “That song is about begging for a second chance, and building something beautiful after a sordid past,” Clinton reveals.
Pressure is an album by a band on a mission. “We are willing to take risks and to go at any lengths for this band,” Clinton says affirmatively. “We are ready to spread positivity and make a stretch of this thing.”
Special Guest – Derek Smith and the New Day
Derek Smith and the New Day
Derek Smith and the New Day consists of singer/songwriter/guitarist Derek Smith, bassist Kevin Johnson, drummer/vocalist Alex Clark, and fiddle player/vocalist Jasper Smith. Derek Smith, with the consistent and measured rhythm section of Johnson and Clark released their debut self-titled EP in the fall of 2020, gaining radio play and an appreciation from fans throughout Southeastern Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina. The addition of Jasper Smith, an accomplished violinist/fiddle player and singer/songwriter, in 2021, provides new sonic textures and opens the door to more eclectic instrumental and vocal collaborations.
The spring 2023 single release of “The Fool” illustrates the ever-expanding musical possibilities of this group.