Concertgoers bored with the usual alternapop fare of central New Jersey will find relief on Thursday, August 24, when Jacksonville, Florida, band, the Daeighlies, will stop at the 449 Room in Trenton on their way to Philadelphia during a one-month tour of the east coast.
Finding the current music genre lists insufficient to describe their sound, singer-songwriters Shawn Lightfoot and Jessica Pounds and upright bassist Donovan King have coined the term “Southern Folk Swing” to describe their unique mixture of folk, jazz, swing, and country blues. This aural melange results in part from the mixture of backgrounds of its members. Lightfoot studied voice performance and music education at East Carolina University, falling in love with the music of Schubert and the French impressionists like Gabriel Faure. “I love his sense of melody,” Lightfoot says, wishing he could “imitate that care” with melody in his own writing. While earning his communications degree at the University of North Florida he fell in with the long-standing folk tradition in Jacksonville and developed a solo act, in addition to performing as the front man for a group called the Cowford Tramps.
Donovan King, son of Andy King (whom Lightfoot describes as a “folk fixture” in the tight-knit Jacksonville artist community) also played in the Cowford Tramps. The two have worked on many projects together, cultivating a quasi-anachronistic, 1920s Moulin Rouge sort of aesthetic. In February of this year, Jessica Pounds, a six-year girl band veteran who grew up listening to Johnny Cash, joined Lightfoot and King. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Pounds gained an enthusiastic appreciation for jazz greats like Duke Ellington while playing guitar in her high school jazz band. “[Music of that era] is still so passionate,” she says in a phone interview while the group was literally on the road, driving equipment to that night’s gig in Lexington, South Carolina.
Playing mostly solo as a full-time musician in Jacksonville, Pounds first discussed touring with Lightfoot and King in May of this year. The result is the music of the Daeighlies, a “Southern-tempered blend of jazz and folk with an indie twist,” according to the group’s bio. Also on tour as a part of the Daeighlies team is road manager Sarah Gordon. An active artist and arts promoter in the Jacksonville scene, Gordon is filming a documentary on the Daeighlies’ tour experience.
The band was named for Lightfoot’s great-grandfather, Charlie Lightfoot, a boxer who fought under the pseudonym Billy Daeighly with a brother (perhaps not actually related), Jimmy Daeighly. Nearly a century later, the name and the legend surrounding it are fitting for the band, whose music, like its name, does not so much nod as it does wink at the past.
The Daeighlies began their inaugural tour with their usual haunts in Jacksonville, making their way up the east coast with a heavy, near-daily playing schedule. Following the August 24 gig at the 449 Room in Trenton, the group has a couple of dates in nearby Philadelphia, and they will play at the Lucky Cat in Brooklyn before hitting the 169 Bar in New York City. Following that highlight, the group will make its way to Pittsburgh, playing in at least six more states as they make their way back home sometime in the second week of September.
Some nights, Pounds will take the lead with her mellow, jazzy soprano. Her light, gauzy voice blooms into a strong belt on the track “The Cave,” available for listening on her MySpace page (www.myspace.com/jessicapounds.) In her funky guitar and disjointed melodies, one hears the new (like the latest Fiona Apple) and the eternal (like the Carter Family and grown-up Appalachia.)
Other nights, Lightfoot will be up front, offering his strange-yet-accessible creations like “Orange Blossom Tea,” an odd, morbidly themed ballad with eastern-inspired imagery and melody. Another tune, available at www.myspace.com/shawnlightfoot, titled “Boy Gone Crazy,” was inspired by his, um, coming of age, which was oddly juxtaposed with the events of 9/11. Each has his/her own album, as well. Lightfoot’s is “Nocturnes and Serenades,” and Pounds’ is “Daydreams and Telescopes.” Both were released in July. In performance, the two, who are dating, trade each other’s songs, in addition to performing duets like the Cash/Carter tune “Jackson,” and for most numbers King sets the laid-back swing vibe with his easy bass.
The band seems to be enjoying this tour, unofficially but lovingly called the “Getting Out of Jackson Tour,” and the “Dirty Gypsy Hobo Tour.” The highlight of the trip so far, they say, was the first night at the Three Bean Cafe in Lexington, South Carolina. What began as an intimate, well-received gig at the cafe turned into a late-night jam session at the home of two brothers in the audience. According to the band’s MySpace blog, where the band is tracking their tour experience, “We even played Freebird.” This fun evening of new friends and general musical frolicking was a welcome improvement over the Motel 6 overnight in Columbia, South Carolina, during which the boys slept in the tour van all night because of some shady characters’ apparently stalking the equipment inside. However, the band has been, overall, “impressed with the kindness and generosity” of the people they have met in the first week of the tour.
"Being on tour is a lot more (work) than I expected,” says Pounds, who did almost all of the logistical planning, “but everyone is positive and enthusiastic.” She is talking about the audiences they have met so far, but she could have just as easily be talking about the band’s attitude. For the Daeighlies, the tour is about getting away from home and “getting away from the world,” according to Lightfoot. There is a kind of effervescent optimism in the group. This is expected, of course, from a young ensemble with something interesting to show the world. Somehow, though, from the Daeighlies, this buoyancy is refreshing. Their vibe is completely different from most of the local music in New Jersey. Sure, we have some extremely talented bluegrass bands like New Brunswick’s Otters, but the Daeighlies’s mix of many kinds of American music has just enough kink to keep us guessing.
The Daeighlies, Thursday, August 24, 8 p.m, the 449 Room, 449 South Broad, Trenton. 609-989-7777, www.geocities.com/the449room. Friday, August 25, 6 p.m, Infusion, 7133 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-248-1718, www.infusioncoffeeandtea.com. Saturday, August 26, 8 p.m., the Jumping Bean Acoustic Bar and Stage, South 40 and Spruce streets, Philadelphia, www.myspace.com/jumpingbeancafe