The Show: Wednesday, August 27, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Ridglea Theater,

By Ken Shimamoto

For the past few months, it seemed like the Merchants, a Fort Worth three-piece that’s been bringing its ear-friendly jam-band vibe to the Ridglea Lounge on Thursday nights, were worthy successors to longtime lounge stalwarts Scott Copeland and Carey Wolff.

Their sound revolved around John Zaskoda, a squalling white soul singer with a big, ballsy voice who plays economical, fluid, blues-drenched guitar with his bare fingers — not a totally original gambit (anybody remember, uh, Stephen Stills?), but nonetheless distinctive. Their music was funky, raw, organic, and grooving, thanks in large measure to the agile interplay of UNT-trained bassist John Seaberry and drummer Jason Thompson, who once slammed out the shuffles for SRV-inspired blues-rockers Smokehouse.

Although their repertoire contained a fair number of covers (more SRV, anyone?), the Merchants were at their best playing Zaskoda’s own songs, which are heartfelt and accomplished, often gospel-tinged. Their seven-song c.d. sounds at times like Ben Harper, at others like Marc Cohn of “Walking in Memphis” fame. While lacking Scott ’n’ Carey’s wry humor, the Merchants had no shortage of musical muscle.

Then Seaberry announced he was leaving to pursue other musical endeavors. Unfazed, Zaskoda and Thompson recruited their frequent Thursday night guest John Stevens, guitarist from the recently-disbanded Nuthin’ Special. For now, they’ll continue holding down Thursday nights at the lounge, billed as “various artists” (didn’t they used to record for K-Tel?), and will have a substitute bass player when they perform in the theater proper on Friday under their new moniker, Brahma.

Personnel shifts notwithstanding, the future looks bright for Zaskoda and crew. “We’re going to revamp some of the Merchants tunes, and Stevens and I are also writing a lot of new material,” he said. “Very cool, very groovy, and very Texas.” We’ll be listening for it.

Fri and every Thu at the Ridglea Theater, 6025 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW. 817-738-9500.


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