As a trio, Gaslight Street finds new focus

Gaslight Street performed with guests and former guitarist Dan Wright (left) last week at the Pour House’s benefit concert that raised more than $30,000 for the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund.

Gaslight Street, a rock group that’s been around Charleston for about five years, has entered somewhat of a new era recently.

The band decided to put more emphasis on touring about a year ago, and now they’re in a different city almost every weekend, according to lead singer and guitarist Campbell Brown. It was a change of pace that forced the members, and ultimately their music, to find a way to fit the new mold that life on the road demands.

Guitarist Dan Wright stopped touring with the group because “he couldn’t make it happen with his schedule,” Brown said.

So now, Gaslight Street is officially a trio with Brown, Stratton Moore on drums, and Whitt Algar, who once played upright bass, playing keys full time. He carries the bass lines on his keyboard while playing organ at the same time.

In other bands’ cases, losing a key member might have left them short-handed, incapable of carrying their usual sound or staying relevant. Not Gaslight Street. They’ve taken it as an opportunity to simplify, and use their individual talents to explore new avenues of creativity. There’s a lot to love about a band that’s so casually accepting of that challenge.

“It’s been kind of fun, it opens you up to a lot of different possibilities when you have three guys and it’s a little more stripped down,” Brown said. “Whitt is able to produce such a big sound with his two keyboards that it really doesn’t sound like a three-piece. It’s also allowed him to be able to bring a lot of his songs that he wrote on the piano, so we’ve added at least 15 or 20 more songs to the repertoire with his stuff. And it’s a different sound because of that.”

The band has headed back into the studio recently to capture the new energy on another record, its fourth since the self-titled debut in 2009. Brown said their goal is to finish it up by the end of July.

Gaslight Street also recorded a live album at Home Team BBQ on Sullivan’s Island in February over the course of three different performances. The CD, produced by Jeff Leonard and Ocean Industry Studios, hasn’t been published yet, but the group is performing at the popular beach venue at 10 p.m. Saturday as a way to build some hype ahead of its release, which is expected sometime this summer. The cover charge is $5.

“There were a lot of great moments there over three different nights,” Brown said. “I’m excited about it. We’re down to the last couple mixes.”

It seems appropriate for Gaslight Street to be involved in such an intimate, hometown kind of project. Over the past couple of years, the group has become a fixture of Charleston’s music scene. They’ve played many special events and fundraisers around town, including the benefit concert for Emanuel AME Church at the Pour House last week that raised more than $30,000 for the cause.

And like many Charleston-bred musicians before them, they’re ready to spread their wings.

“We’ve been around long enough that we’ve done everything in town and now we’re trying to stretch the boundaries as much as we can,” Brown said. “The festival circuit is really key for bands because that’s where you play for the most possible people ... that’s our goal, just get to that circuit, and stay there if we can. And then to just keep writing, and stay inspired.”

JJ Grey & Mofro is the sort of band that should be seen at a laid-back venue like The Windjammer on Isle of Palms.

While they’re known for their soulful blues rock from the swamplands, there’s often a simple, melodic sound that comes through, like they’d be just as comfortable performing around a campfire on the beach.

Grey, the leader of the group, does most of his songwriting at his grandparents’ pecan grove in Northern Florida, a quiet, swampy region that’s spawned many soul singers before him. He’s recorded most of his music with the funk-blues band Mofro, including “Ol’ Glory” released this year, at Retrophonic Studios in St. Augustine, a beach town where they often take breaks from laying tracks to hit the surf.

Like other Southern soul acts such as Tedeschi Trucks Band and Anders Osborne, JJ Grey & Mofro has become a fixture of the jam band circuit, and as such, the lifeblood of their music is their live performance.

Bottom line, if you want authentic, culturally steeped music in a breezy atmosphere, head to the Jammer at 1008 Ocean Blvd. on Wednesday night. The show starts at 7 p.m. with an opening set by Dylan LeBlanc. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at the door, or online at www.the-windjammer.com.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.