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Thursday, October 22,2009

Two-in-one oil

Musical duo lubricates life with ‘soul rock’

by Megan Peters

It is eerie listening to DeShaun Snead and Larry Neuhardt finish each other’s sentences.

Nooked in a corner of the Chrome Cat in Lansing last Thursday night, the music duo Mighty Medicine even spoke as one.


“DeShaun is the jazz background, and I am more of a rock background, and, ah, she likes rock and I like jazz so—


“—why not mix them—” Snead started.


“—stick them together?” Neuhardt finished.


It happens off the stage, on the stage, and probably telepathically. More interesting, though, are the differences between the two. Snead is 27, a school-trained vocalist in the MSU Jazz Studies Department who moved to Lansing from an East Lansing cooperative. Neuhardt is 43, a former teacher and self-taught musician. Inspired by Snead, Neuhardt picked the guitar up after a hiatus of nine years.


Brought together by a mutual friend, the duo started jamming on and off last year, and became official three months ago.


“The first time we played together it was like we had been playing together for years,” Snead said. “I was just making up words, doing a lot of free-styling over his chord changes.”


Snead explained their chemistry as voice and instrument “becoming one” on stage. Neuhardt defined it as a “third element” that fills their music. Like their conversations in the dimly lit bar, their music just melts together naturally.


They call their music soul rock, and liken it to the personal touch of The Beatles or The Doors — individual and original, but “with that down-home blues feel that everyone can relate to,” Snead said.


Snead’s positive philosophy befits the band’s name. “Sometimes with my song writing I’m thinking about different people that I’d like to give a message to, that I’d like to encourage and help keep going.” Snead said. “Vibrational healing through music, you know.”


She is deeply attuned to the way music changes a room. “You can hear a great song and it changes your whole day,” she said.


Now it was time to gently vibrate the Chrome Cat.


As the crowd of 20 got louder, Mighty Medicine jumped onstage and warmed up, only to be thwarted by sound issues.


 


“You can’t hear the Christmas of her voice,” publicist Candice Wilmore winced. She motioned with her upturned thumb to pump up the volume.


As the music began, even with audio issues, the “Christmas” in Snead's beautiful voice could be heard. As her voice rose and fell, the passion behind her words traced the melody of Neuhardt’s acoustic guitar, deepening with an Amy Winehouse twang, but softer and less raspy. The performers’ two languages seemed to grow from the same root.


No doubt this is what Wilmore noticed when she approached the band with ideas after a show she saw in the summer. She wound up handling everything from dressing the duo in hip ‘40s attire to editing band pictures to posting events on MySpace and Facebook. She dresses and exposes them with an eye toward launching them beyond Lansing.


The duo is already developing a strong local presence. They have performed at Gone Wired Cafe, Allen Street Farmer’s Market and Old Town, have serenaded a blind persons’ group and have a date with a nursing home in April.


“Can I get you now, or must I hesitate?” DeShaun cooed to the crowd when the volume issues were fixed.


Mighty Medicine covers songs like “Hesitation Blues,” “People Are Strange” and a perennial favorite, “The Locomotion,” spicing up the mix with originals like “Bloom” and “All My Love” from their album, “Bloom,” which came out last July. The band is determined to create their next album by December.


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