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The Alchemystics
Black Eyed Sally’s Pub
Hartford, CT
January 21, 2017

Story and video by Miles Hurley

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Black Eyed Sally’s Pub in Hartford, CT is a cool spot, being the combination of a classy restaurant and an artsy blues-themed joint that boasts a decently-sized floor space to hear and dance to live music. They always have local musical talent, but continually also invite scene favorites from out of town. The place has hosted Northampton-based reggae jam staple The Alchemystics before, so this was a lively night of music welcomed by a grateful, connected crowd.

Before The Alchemystics came on, a group called Keepers of the Vibe treated the audience to an opening performance. Talking with Alchemystics’ lead vocalist, Force, we learned this little jam session was thrown together not too long before this weekend, when The Alchemystics faced a gig-cancellation problem, and the humorous pun spoke to the supportive intention behind it.

The set was a neat little musical treat of impressive jazz playing. This included a subtle wiz of a sax player, and a fantastic drummer and bassist. Interestingly enough, their lurid, jazz style played background for some upfront hip-hop vocal work, from Amanda Sloan and Christopher DonLox Gordon, who boast a really nice pair of voices. But here and there the band was given space to venture out for some super groovy musical moments.

The Alchemystics have never been a clear-cut reggae group, and their unique experimentation with a wide range of styles is something that has cemented the quality of their music over the years. From their set this past weekend, they showed to have a growing hip hop influence, with the vocals from either of the lead vocalists, Ian I and Force, always being the main attraction. That’s not particularly a bad thing at all, as they’re damn good at it. Their rapping, while often set at pretty swift speeds, never sounded unnatural, so that the words just seemed to flow right out of them. Force shined on Biggie’s “Kick In The Door,” a good request from a crowd member readily obliged.

The female vocalist in the group, Ilana Morris, was right there with them, and could also belt it out nicely. She lent some respectable chops on a few songs, including an Alchemystics’ original, “She Goes,” a track about empowering women figures that paid tribute to the pervading spirit of the weekend, and then right after on a cover of Aretha Franklin’s cover of Carole King’s “(You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman” and The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”

Something The Alchemystics always do, attesting to their sense of musical connection with their scene, is bring up guest rappers to trade lines with Ian I and Force. They brought their own for sure on the tune “Herbs Mon.”

Halfway through the set, Force turned around and rallied some praise for their bassist, drummer and keyboardist, who had been providing a solid background to go behind all the vocal work. While they never got too much room to play out, they are a real fine rhythm section, holding down every single tune with tight, albeit minimalist, funky playing. Keyboardist John Corda in particular was on his A-game the entire show, delivering extensively on each of the solos he got to take throughout the night.

Some of the tunes played from The Alchemystics’ most recent album, For The Future, command some neat grooves. “Sparkle Pimp” has a nifty repeating riff, while “Stress Relief” channels the aerobic-dance quality of a Talking Heads number.

The Alchemystics finished out with a couple of classic originals in “Shine Eye Girl” and “Type A Prayer,” bringing things back to reggae roots for an uplifting ending to the night.

To submit an article or review please email us at [email protected]

Check out the Live Music News and Facebook page for updates and announcements.