Tybee City Limits is a family affair this week.
Featuring Savannah’s bluesman Eric Culberson and his sister, country songwriter Kris Youmans, the show July 7 at Tybee Post Theater will be the first time in over a year the native siblings have played together.
Culberson has been a staple of the Savannah music scene for nearly three decades. For the past five years, he’s hosted the Tuesday night open mic Blues Jam at Bayou Cafe. He plays in and around Savannah about five times a week these days.
Backed by his faithful rhythm section, Jonathan Hill (bass) and Larry Duff (drums), Culberson’s mix of Texas swing and Chicago blues has regularly earned him notoriety in and outside of his hometown as a top-notch bluesman.
But the blues was not always his favorite. When he was 10, he recalls that the only band he listened to was KISS. He adorned his walls with photos of the glam rockers until his sister took notice.
“I remember her coming in and saying, you know Eric, there are other bands out there beside KISS,” Culberson recalled of his older sister. “I got a lot of help from my brothers and sisters.”
Culberson would eventually find Hendrix, The Doors and Led Zeppelin, which all led him backward in rock ’n’ roll time to the roots music he now plays. The songs of Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Freddie King and Albert King became etched in his memory and formed the foundation of influence for his own music.
In the early 1990s, Culberson garnered the attention of Kingsnake Records, which signed him and released two albums, “Blues is my Religion” and “No Rules to the Game.” Through the mid-1990s, Culberson toured clubs and festivals until he opened his own club in Savannah in the latter part of the decade, called The Savannah Blues Club. In 2011, he independently released his third album, “In the Outside."
After more than five years with his seasoned trio, they no longer need rehearsal time, opting instead to use open mic nights to break out new material.
“The last album, I paid for myself,” Culberson said. “I have other things that demand my attention, so I haven’t been able to cough up the money to support a new album. That’s all changed now. I have what it takes to go into the studio and record whenever I want. I’ve been writing music nonstop. I have a bunch of stuff in the idea can.
"The cool thing is, I’ve been working it out onstage with the guys. We’ve never had one rehearsal. They’ve learned everything on their own and on stage.”
Youmans, who lives in Atlanta now, took a break from music while raising her family. In recent years, she returned to songwriting. While the siblings each share an affinity for roots music, Youmans' influence draws more from the Americana/folk and old country stylings of Bonnie Raitt and Loretta Lynn. Youmans won the 2016 Georgia Country Award for Traditional Artist of the Year.
“I think it’s going to make a nice contrast, country and blues,” Culberson said of the Tybee City Limits show. “For this show, it’s going to be mostly original material. I have a couple cover tunes I want to play. It will be a family affair.
"Kris has been writing some amazing original songs. She’s way more of a natural at writing songs than I am. I think we’ll get together at the end for an encore. We’ll all be up there jamming on something.”