Soko’s evolution

    Two veterans of the local music scene release their second CD this Thursday night at The Gravity Lounge. Keyboardist Mike Sokolowski and bassist Houston Ross have been playing together as Soko since 1990. At last count, Sokolowski estimates that more than 20 musicians have cycled through the band at various times, including Leroi Moore. There was an enduring three-piece configuration with drummer Johnny Gilmore that culminated in 1996 with the release of their first CD, November Sunlight. (That CD, by the way, which also featured cameos by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, has sold upwards of 16,000 copies). The upcoming Gravity show will include a talented group of musicians: drummer Will Coles, reedman Bobby Read, and trombonist Mark Maynard. The band will be playing an even split of tunes: half from their more improvisational first CD and half from their new disc, which was five years in the making and features a more fully-developed take on the band’s tunes. Sokolowski says that he sees composition as the future of his musical relationship with Ross. You can see an uncommon live event by the band with Ezra Hamilton opening.

    Ross has recently been on tour with Corey Harris and seems like the 5×5’s steady bass player as Harris continues to experiment with lineups and musical styles. Harris’ new band also features Guinean guitarist Mohamad Kouyate. Look for 5×5 during the second half of Fridays After 5.
    Sokolowski was also recently part of a band that submitted a demo for Fortune magazine’s corporate Battle of the Bands. Crutchfield fielded a crack band, picked and rehearsed three tunes, and recorded, mixed and sent off their demo within two weeks, just under the deadline. Although contest rules did not require 100 percent participation by active employees, Crutchfield’s band raised the bar. Along with Sokolowski, the band features Charlie Pastorfield, Mike Colley, Jim Ralston, and a number of singers. Sokolowski mentions Andy Owens in particular, who is a “strong vocalist, and can hit those high harmonies.” Owens was featured on the Finnish goth-metal tune “Nightwish.” Pastorfield suggested Toots’ “Monkey Man,” and the third tune was a Donnas’ tune sung by Stephanie Shelton, who has “lots of range, a powerful voice.” Winning two regional events sets the winner up in the finale at The R&R Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
    It seems like The Blue Ridge Irish Music School will occupy the Prism Coffeehouse space on Rugby Road through this year. A BRIMS spokesperson pointed out that “BRIMS will not be taking over the Prism, and certainly no one could replace the Prism.” BRIMS is planning to combine forces with Westminster Presbyterian Church and offer “a rich schedule of community- oriented events.” Although they will present concerts, it will not be a fulltime concert venue, at least for now. In pursuit of that goal, BRIMS is interested in any community musical partners who would like to contribute to their efforts to offer a vision for the venue. To find out more about BRIMS, go to, or contact BRIMS administrative director at
    Former Prism Director Fred Boyce is said to have a stockpile of recorded audio from past Prism performances that he would like to put out in some form.
    How lucky is Eli Cook to open for bluesrock legend Johnny Winter? Winter’s first record was released when he was 15, and he is still alive and rocking in his early 60s.

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