Charlotte Taylor and Gypsy Rain perform Friday during the Live@5 music series, held monthly at the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
Blues, soul, funk, jazz and rock emanated from the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas during its monthly Live@5 music series Friday, as Charlotte Taylor and Gypsy Rain took to the stage.
Blues performer and singer-songwriter Charlotte Taylor fronts this dynamic original blues band from Little Rock. Performing since an early age, Taylor sings a wide range of styles including blues, soul, jazz, rock and country. Singing on real stages since age 16, she was influenced by all the great female vocalists like, Billie Holliday, Aretha Franklin, and Janis Joplin, but also the blues rock band frontmen, Robert Plant and Stephen Tyler.
Getting hooked deeply on the blues, Taylor formed the blues band “Project Blue” in 1995, which opened for Blue Oyster Cult and Nazareth at the Arkansas Jam before landing a recording contract in Memphis with the famed Hi Records. Recording her first CD entitled “Taylor and Martinez” with George Martinez on guitar, “Taylor and Martinez” was the first new act on Hi Records in 25 years. The CD features 10 original songs written by the duo, plus an outstanding version of “Cry Me A River”, produced by the late great Willie Mitchell and is available on iTunes, Cd Baby and more.
Taylor’s vocal style and performance have been compared to Ann Wilson of Heart, blues legend Etta James, and even pop blues singer Maria Maldaur. A songwriter at heart, she enjoys writing and performing her own songs, and also works as an acoustic duo with Matthew Stone on guitar while she sometimes plays harmonica or guitar.
After several changes in the line-up of Charlotte Taylor and Gypsy Rain, the band has continued to perform on a regular basis. CTGR has had many great shows since their beginning in 2003, playing the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival (King Biscuit Blues Festival) many times, Blues Eureka, The Spa City Bluesfest and the Riverwalk Blues Fest in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. They have also played in clubs in Memphis on Beale Street, including B.B. King’s, The Rum Boogie, and Blues Hall and in Little Rock at Juanita’s, Sticky Fingerz, Cajun’s Wharf, cornerstone pub, and regularly at Parrot Beach Thursday Open Jam.
With a show that includes tunes that range from hardcore soulful blues and jazzy numbers to singer-songwriter/Americana styles, Charlotte Taylor and Gypsy Rain play mostly original material with their own take on some classic blues, soul, and R&B hits .
Gypsy Rain features great players such as skillful and hard-hitting drummer John Roach, a 30-plus year veteran of the Arkansas music scene. “John has real soul”, Taylor said, “and great dynamics. He plays with a lot of feeling, totally getting into the groove.” Roach’s influences include John Bonham and Buddy Rich.
Guitarist Matthew Stone moved to Little Rock from Nashville a few years ago and joined the band after a chance meeting at a local performance. Way beyond his years in ability, Stone is a seasoned musician with talents in all genres, including blues, soul and jazz. Stone plays with a lot of passion combined with knowledge that is great to see and hear. Whether playing his Gibson 335, a Tele, lap steel, even a mandolin or banjo, Stone is always burning it up on a stringed instrument.
Lead guitarist Phil Link, self-taught and inspired by such guitar legends as Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana, began playing in Little Rock during the early 70’s with classic rock bands and then the hotel circuit playing a variety of styles including blues, rock, country, funk, and jazz. Link has developed his own tasteful style that is enjoyed by all who hear him play.
Arkansas native Joel B. is the latest add-on to the band on bass. Playing with true blues chops, Joel B. adds the soulful bottom to CTGR.
Live@5, sponsored by M.K. Distributors, has been offering live jazz, blues, rock and roll, and country performances for more than six years from 5-7 p.m. on the first Friday of each month at the A&S Center. The cost of the evening is $5 for members and $10 for non-members. For more information, contact the center at 870-536-3375, email@example.com or visit the website at www.ArtsScienceCenter.org. The center, located at 701 Main St., is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 1-4 p.m. Saturday, and is closed on Sunday.