Listen to any song on “Hey Hey” and it’s obvious it is not an ordinary debut album.
Markey Blue is the team of co-songwriters and producers Markey Blue and Ric Latina supported by a vast cadre of band members who are top-notch session players from Nashville. The sound is so good that Jack Pearson, the former Allman Brothers guitarist, and esteemed producer Steve Cropper asked to contribute.
“The minute we sat down to write, everything just flowed,” Markey told Tahoe Onstage. “We knew we were onto something. Everything just came so easily to us when we started writing the tracks and arranging and producing. It’s amazing how this all came together.”
The sound is soul and blues, but Markey and Latina, both longtime performers, had different styles with their respective bands a couple of years ago when they shared a show in a Nashville club. After the gig, they decided to team up.
“We always had the band but never someone to front the thing,” Latina said. “It was just a natural fit for everybody. … My background growing up was a lot of blues and R&B but I’ve mostly played country. Everybody in town here tours with country acts. We didn’t know what direction it would actually go. It started blues-rock thing, then we started writing more blues then added horn to make it more R&B with a blues touch.”
“Hey Hey” was released today (Sept. 16) but it has already received a lot of attention. It appeared high on blues charts for debut albums and has been played on 28 European radio stations. At least five of the tracks have been broadcast on satellite radio in the United States, indicating its variety and depth. A Nashville news channel has used some of the songs for “bump music,” which is played to leads in and out of stories. Randy Chortkoff and Delta Groove Records is marketing the record, which appears on the Soul Sound Label.
“We had the whole thing finished and were getting ready to send it in when (Steve Cropper) e-mailed us in the middle of the night,” Markey said. “He’s a hoot in a hand basket.”
Markey Blue has opened some shows for Cropper, best known for his studio work at Stax and Booker T. and the M.G.’s. Markey and Latina had asked Cropper about contributing liner notes, but they received a greater contribution: Cropper produced the vocals on the song “Baby I’m Cryin.’ ”
“He e-mailed, ‘I can’t get this song out of our head,’ Markey said. “I said, ‘Holy cow, our hero is listening to us.’ He wanted to produce the song and add a vocal on it. It was so unreal watching him rock out to our music. He said, ‘I think this song is going to put you guys where you want to be.’ He brought in one of the original Stax microphones (a Neumann U87).”
Here’s what Cropper wrote on the liner notes: “What do you get when you have a great singer, a great band and great songs? You get a great project. Markey definitely has the chops for this powerful album: Strong melodies, strong lyrics and a strong performance – what a concept!”
“What’s kind of cool living here in Nashville is that you run into people,” Markey said. “Everybody lives here. Like with Jack Pearson. (He lives) five houses down. He showed up at a show that I was doing. We met, and said let’s sit and write. He said he had a song idea, so we wrote ‘Play Me.’ But we do it differently. Ric and I took it and put our R&B sound on it. Jack’s on the track, but Rick and Iproduced it for that Memphis sound.”