Non-native soul: Plainly audience favorites

The Allison Fletcher 5
at Dürty Nelly's
February 4

Though shows at Dürty Nelly's are usually well attended, I have never had any trouble getting a choice seat a little while after the band starts performing. Things have never reached the point where my view was blocked by rows and rows of gyrating glutei max·i·mi.

Thank the Motown/blues/pop quintet The Allison Fletcher 5 for ending this streak, though in a way that I have to say made up for my only recently healed vision.

Composed of local well-knowns Charles Davis on bass and vocals, Ken Hymes on keyboards, guitar, and vocals, Jaye Urgo on guitar, and Steve Urgo on drums, the group also includes the vocal talents of Australian native Alison Fletcher, a new addition to the Charlottesville scene.

When she began with a blues number I didn't recognize, I was immediately struck by Fletcher's unusual voice. It seemed like one untrained and one trained vocalist had decided to form a group and take turns. Blues tunes were where the trained half of Fletcher had a chance to shine, her soulful and occasionally vibrato-inflected voice fitting like a glove within the confines of this decidedly American tradition.

The untrained half took on the pop tunes, and though it lacked the soul and flourish of trained-Fletcher, it still put on a good show.

From the first ringing notes of one of George Harrison's finest guitar parts, "You Can't Do That" yanked on my good-time lever and wouldn't let go. Fletcher let her pipes take a break, instead banging the heck out of her cowbell as the number, sung by Davis, proved once again that even The Beatles' B-sides were better than the As of most other groups.

"Everybody's greeeennnnn...." sang the backups during the song's "middle-eight," while a combination of band revelry and audience huckstering threatened to uproot the stodgiest attendees and bring them to their feet.

Otis Redding's "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" continued the good time vibe of the crowd, who'd taken to dancing at this point in the evening– or at least moving in a way that mirrored the beats. Fletcher took the vocal reins again, and the song's soulful and bluesy vibe was the best fit for her singular singing stylings all evening.

Guitarist Ken Hymes ripped out KC & The Sunshine Band's classic "Do A Little Dance" to audience amazement, and his white-soul voice created a mood that was five times as funky as I've ever before seen at that venue.

A table of Australians toasted Fletcher's heritage, but the sound of The Allison Fletcher 5 is rooted squarely in America.

The Allison Fletcher 5