Smoky Red's relaxed, smooth sound comes from a tight-knit, eclectic crew of musicians whose influences range from New Orleans jazz to blues, rock — and even reggae.
Probably the best way to experience Smoky Red's sound is with some smoky red barbecue sauce and smoky red wine at Roscoe's BBQ in Phoenix, where the band will be playing tonight.
"We have a lot of fun at Roscoe's," says guitarist Brent Norton.
"The ceiling in Roscoe's is right over your head," says pianist Jim Quinby. "So you're up on the bandstand and your music is compressed into this small space, so people can move a little bit away and still talk."
"Smoky Red" also describes the group's lead singer, Marcella Rose Ruikis, with her smoky voice and flowing red hair. Ruikis and Quinby started out playing together as a duo, then expanded the band so they could have a bigger sound and perform more songs.
"My original idea for this band was for it to be interesting enough to do anything," says Quinby, "but I want to have a band who can get on a stage in front of an audience that is sitting down and entertain them for an evening."
Sitting in a circle in Jim Quinby's living room, Smoky Red performs "Sweet Inspiration" for the Tidings Café with Jeff Addicott on bass and Mike Fitch on drums. Quinby guides the musicians silently with head nods and facial expressions like a maestro, and Ruikis' sultry voice takes over in a smooth melody that puts everyone at ease.
A familiar face in many local bands, Addicott is a full-time musician and freelance bassist who performs regularly with Robbie DaCosta and has played with 31 billable acts in one year.
Also popular in the Rogue Valley, Fitch undoubtedly is one of the best drummers in the area, but you wouldn't know it from his shy demeanor. Inspired by his travels to Brazil in the 1980s, Fitch plays with a number of bands in different genres, ranging from bossa nova to salsa and reggae. Fitch is an employee of Musician's Friend and is one of the 200 who learned they would be laid off or relocated about a week ago when parent company Guitar Center announced it would consolidate operations in Westlake, Calif.
"I'll need more gigs, guys," Fitch says to his bandmates. Norton says he, too, has been laid off this week from his job as a lead paint abatement contractor.
"Let the bicycle riding commence," he adds with a laugh.
Only in a safe, loving environment can people come together and share their triumphs and disappointments in life, and their bond adds to the emotion in their delivery.
"One thing people pick up on is how much we like playing with each other," says Quinby. "There are no problems, no conflict, because the friend energy is just awesome."
The band has two original songs that Quinby wrote but plays mostly covers and adjusts its set list for the venue.
"Some of the wineries want dance music, and lots of it," says Norton, "so we'll sculpt a set list with that in mind."
The five members of Smoky Red have been together for more than two years but are just now starting to put some effort into playing shows.
"We just got our website up, we haven't really pulled it all together and made it into a PR juggernaut yet," says Quinby, "but there are a lot of opportunities out there."
Smoky Red will play at 8 p.m. today at Roscoe's BBQ in Phoenix.
Mandy Valencia is a reporter for the Daily Tidings reach her at email@example.com.