Sativa Gumbo at Mom's

By David Lilly

Tom Waits is a tough act to follow. However, even though some recordings of Waits's music were used as pre-show entertainment, New Albany's Sativa Gumbo very successfully did just that at Mom's Music in Jeffersonville in late November. Lead guitarist and vocalist Tommy Potts; bassist and lead vocalist Jared Williamson; keyboardist extraordinaire Ryan Pickhardt and the enthusiastic and close-to-flawless drummer Shawn Williams can pretty well inspire listeners to wonder why their group's name isn't a household name. The answer would be that they're too progressive and too good.

With a quasi-Tiki-lounge atmosphere - a rectangular cloth with a psychedelic, tan, orange, turquoise, brown and white Southwestern theme hanging behind them - for ambiance, the band began by cruising straight into "Guacamole," several minutes of excellent driving music. It sounded like a revamped and psychedelic version of the Allman Brothers' "Ramblin' Man." "The Gorge" is aptly titled, as the beginning of the upbeat song evokes a reggae hike under a hot sun, to soon get funked up into a honky tonk rave with a taste of jazzy keyboards and vocals. Another song sounded like a Midwestern take on Pink Floyd's "One of These Days," including a steadily galloping rhythm section, dancing keyboards and winding, bending and soaring guitar.

Overall, their sound evokes an image of working-class folks, tired at the end of the week, ready to cut loose, knock back a few drinks and get their ya-yas out with somewhat countryfied (but great) rock `n' roll jams. The surprises that Sativa Gumbo tosses into the mix at the drop of a hat often include tastes of jazz or heavy metal, and they do so effectively and seemingly without effort.

I had to make my exit at intermission, but the first half ended with a boogying train smoking down the musical tracks for several hardworking and sweaty minutes, ending in a lightning and thunderstorm of percussion. You really had to be there to appreciate it. The good news is that early in 2002 you'll have your chance, as a recording of the show is scheduled for release. In the interim, check out