Bringing A Little Bit ‘O Soul To The Union

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Fans of retro-soul/old-school R&B are in for a treat when Columbus, Ohio's Nick Tolford & Company return to The Union for a free show on Saturday, June 30.

No strangers to the Athens area, Tolford and his band were the sleeper hit at the 2011 Nelsonville Music Festival, playing two nights on the crowded Porch Stage.

The group also performed last September during the Stuart's Opera House Summer Concert Series and this past February to an enthusiastic crowd at The Union.

Tolford cites Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles as influences. However, his first musical foray was quite different from the retro-soul he plays today.

Columbus scenesters may remember a slightly younger Tolford as the powerhouse bassist for the prog-rock group The Slide Machine. It wasn’t until his demos of R&B solo material started turning heads that he traded his bass for a keyboard and microphone.

If there's one word to describe Nick Tolford & Company's shows, it would be "energy."

Drummer Mike O'Shaughnessy and bassist Brian Travis form a super-tight rhythm section, guitarist Julian Dassai's Steve Cropper-esque flourishes dart in and out between verses before exploding during solos, and the backup vocals from Lara Yazvac, Leslie Jankowski, Katie Hickernell and Cecil Moore III conjure up the spirit of a 1960s soul revue.

On top of it all, Tolford pounds his Fender Rhodes keyboard and sings like a man who's spent serious time with some old Stax and Atlantic LPs.

Speaking of albums, Tolford and band have their own, "Extraordinary Love," released in 2010 and available as a download, CD or vinyl LP.

For more information, visit the band's Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.