Last year, singers Laiken Love and Trae Gurley wowed the Tybee Post Theater with a tribute to Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Now the duo are returning with a show devoted to two legends of soul and blues.
“Ray & Etta: Father of Soul & Matriarch of Blues” is a swinging tribute to Ray Charles and Etta James. Charles was a Georgia native who was blind since the age of seven. He produced a number of hits for Atlantic Records like “Georgia On My Mind,” “Unchain My Heart,” and “Shake Ya Tail Feather.” His is combination of R&B, blues, and gospel earned him the label “Father of Soul.”
James won six Grammy Awards and 17 Blues Music Awards with her deep, earthy voice and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
It’s one of the great missed opportunities of music that Ray and Etta never recorded together, so this show will be a chance to imagine what might have been. “Etta James was a huge fan of Ray Charles and looked up to him a lot,” Love said. “In one of her songs, she does a swinging version of ‘Misty’ and at the end of her song she would give a shout out to Ray Charles and she would do a little run like Ray does.”
For Love, with her “sweet and sassy” vocals, performing the songs of Etta James is a natural fit. “As a wedding singer ‘At Last’ is my number one song,” Love said. “That’s also one of the songs that made me appreciate music and make me want to do music. Whenever I would go to open-mics or karaoke it became a staple that people loved for me to sing.”
Trae Gurley may be better known for singing Sinatra, but he is looking forward to tackling Ray Charles. “That’s the main reason I said yes when Laiken asked me,” Gurley said. “The last show we did at Tybee was Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and those are both ballpark things for us, so this was letting me get out of my comfort zone a little bit. But, I do love singing that kind of music, so it wasn’t very hard to say yes to it.”
Love says that fans can expect some of the best soul and blues they've heard in a while as well as get a glimpse into the sometimes troubled lives of Ray and Etta.
“Both went through various trials and tribulations through childhood and adulthood, and the demons they fought,” Love explained. “We’re touching on that to give the audience a little background of the artists and a fonder appreciation. We want to sum up how much Ray and Etta put soul into music, how it gives you a feeling you just can’t shake.”
Love and Gurley will be backed again by The Eric Jones Trio.
“It’s pretty easy for us to get together,” Gurley said. “We’re all on the same plane and it’s nice to share a stage with musicians that are likeminded like that.”