Friday, July 25, 2014
By John Benson
Keith Smith is a veteran of the Northeast Ohio music scene. For decades, dating back to the old Akron Agora days, the singer-bassist has been in bands playing everything from ’80s hair metal to classic rock.
However, over the past decade it’s been country music in his life, which he said changed three years ago while judging a karaoke contest in Streetsboro.
“After hearing this girl sing a Carrie Underwood song, when the contest was over I walked up to her and said, ‘Do you want to sing in a band with me?’” Smith said. “I’ve been at this for a lot of years. She was very excited and that’s how it started. That’s when I started building things around her and her vocals and talent.”
That girl was Tiffany Hill, who Smith said had a vocal and stage presence that transcended karaoke and needed to be in a working live band. The result became Dixie Soul.
Currently, Dixie Soul is hitting on all cylinders as Smith and Hill finally rounded out the lineup with Jeremy Fletcher (guitar, piano and vocals), Matt Bretz (guitar), Mike Woolard (drums) and Bob Herro (keyboards).
Dixie Soul is predominantly a cover band performing the tunes of Miranda Lambert, Skynyrd, Brantley Gilbert, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard and Hank Williams. However, the outfit does have higher aspirations.
“It’s so hard to get a following when you’re doing all originals from the get go,” Smith said. “We still do the bar scene and covers but we’re getting our originals mixed in there now so people are starting to find out who we are.”
In fact, Dixie Soul will be releasing its debut self-titled EP at a Saturday gig at the Dusty Armadillo. The five-track effort includes the title track billed as country with a crunch, as well as the ballad “Whiskey Whispers.”
“We played in Warren, but we’ve been trying to venture out that way more,” Smith said. “It’s really cool. For this show the Dusty Armadillo came to us, which is very enticing. They don’t hire very many local bands. They’re more of the national scene, grabbing those artists right on the verge. The fact they called us tells me we’re doing something right.”
Considering he’s a veteran of the music scene, Smith admits Dixie Soul could be his last chance to fulfill a lifelong dream.
“I believe it is, yeah,” Smith said. “And it’s definitely the best shot. It’s great group of musicians and the music just fits perfect.”