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The Right Now in Iowa City

BY TOMMY MORGAN JR. | APRIL 15, 2010 7:30 AM

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In a time when rap and R&B dominate the airwaves, Chicago-based The Right Now delves deep into music’s past, bringing soul to the forefront of its repertoire.

Though it’s not a cover band, The Right Now does take cues from the soul classics the band members love, while adding a contemporary spin to give the genre a fresh look.

The Right Now will offer this blend of soul and modern pop at 8 p.m. Friday in the Blue Moose Tap House, 211 Iowa Ave. The band will be joined by Grey Street, and admission is $7.

The group will also perform at 2 p.m. Friday at the Java House, 211 1/2 E. Washington St., as a part of the “Java Blend” series.

Guitarist and vocalist Brendan O’Connell said that when the band started, it lacked a coherent sound, instead opting for a blend of many styles.

“I started this project originally as more of a bluesy, jazzy, funky kind of band,” he said. “It was a little bit all over the map.”

When more members joined the group — which includes guitars, bass, drums, and tenor and baritone saxophones — the band began to narrow its focus and settled on soul.

O’Connell’s interest in the genre stemmed partly from a job he held at a college, doing clerical work for a professor who maintained a large collection of soul records.

“When you listen to Stax or Motown records, they just make you feel good,” the guitarist said. “It was something most kids grew up with.”

O’Connell and lead vocalist Stefanie Berecz point to such artists as Curtis Mayfield, Sam Cooke, and Aretha Franklin as classic soul musicians who influenced the band, also noting the work of contemporaries such as Alicia Keys, Sharon Jones, and the Dap Kings.

The group doesn’t just play classic soul sounds; it adds its own modern take to the music.

“I try to stay as current as I can,” Berecz said. “I don’t feel that what I bring to the table is all old soul.”

The Right Now’s blend of the contemporary and the classic can be heard on the group’s new record, Carry Me Home.

“There are a lot of vocals; they’re very upfront,” the guitarist said. “If you listen to those older Aretha records, the background parts will be kind of sparse.”

In addition to Carry Me Home, the group went to Memphis to record a vinyl 7-inch record.

“The CD has a very contemporary sound, but we wanted to tip our hats to the older soul stuff, and that’s what we did in Memphis,” O’Connell said.

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