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Fred's Variety Group

 

photo by bob reuter

Fred's Variety Group is...

 

Sherman S. Sherman - stand-up bass, vocals

Mark Stephens - electric guitar, vocals

Sunyatta Marshall - acoustic guitar, vocals

 

The debut CD from Fred’s Variety Group could be a masterpiece of a movie soundtrack. The disc has songs to make you laugh, “Birdlelou,” songs to make you cry, “Barbed Wire,” and songs to make you fall in love, “Purest Heart.” The movie would be melancholic and full of troubled characters, just like the disc.
 

“I really like how sparse we can sound,” Sunyatta Marshall, vocalist and acoustic guitarist, says of the group’s tendency to let its songs breathe by not cramming in too many elements.  The group also includes Mark Stephens on electric guitar and Sherman S. Sherman on stand-up bass.
 

Fred’s Variety Group recorded “Pretty Blue Pills” during the spring of 2000, but the disc wasn't released until June 29, 2001, because the group wanted to do everything itself, including mixing the disc and creating the artwork.  The album opens with “Route Six-Six,” a song Marshall wrote about Stephens before the two were in a relationship and the band. Sherman, whose first name actually is Mark, and Stephens also contributed songs and vocals to the album.
 

Marshall’s voice is most prominent on the disc. Her warm, soulful vocals are invigorating against the heavier, dirtier feel of Sherman’s bass and the comforting, folksy feel of her own strumming.  Stephens’ bluesy guitar lightens up the mix.  Songs, such as “Pillowcase,” that feature the low-end combination of Sherman’s baritone vocals and bass picking are the darkest moments on “Pills.” His songs add an intriguing dimension to the disc.  Several drummers have offered their services to the band but all have been refused, says Marshall.  “I don’t feel like (our sound is) lacking a drummer,” Stephens adds. The band uses its guitars and bass for rhythm.
 

Fred Friction, one time owner of Frederick’s Music Lounge and the drummer in Highway Matrons, was part of the group’s original lineup, but he was never replaced when the Matrons parted ways with Fred’s Variety Group.  Friction’s father, Fred Boettcher, Sr., who died in May 2000, played in a band called Fred’s Variety Group back in the Gaslight Square days. Marshall and company adopted the moniker after Friction’s mother gave him a banner printed with the band’s name.
 

- Sarah Settle, Post-Dispatch Online Music Editor (adapted)

 

Pretty Blue Pills

1. Route 66

2. Slow Car

3. Birdlelou

4. Cold Wind

5. Barbed Wire

6. Clean Liquoring

7. Purist Heart

8. Waiting For Fall

9. Pillow Case

 

Recorded at Brickhouse Acoustics.

Produced by Mike Hellebusch.

Copyright 1997 - All Rights Reserved.

 

Page Last Updated: January 19, 2010

 

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