Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

July 11, 2013

Jenna and her Cool Friends to perform at the Palace Aug. 2

By Beth Sager
Chronicle contributor

— Jenna is just plain fun. She's down-to-earth, charming, gregarious, and a natural performer. And did I mention talented? And sexy? When you see and hear Jenna and her band interact, it's as if you're hanging out at an intimate party with old friends. Then add the festivity factor of the blues (there's just something about the blues!), and you've got a case of the warm and fuzzies.

Work on the band's new CD is moving right along. "The Coolio's have laid down 10 tracks. Now I get to lay down the vocal tracks. Four more new original songs have been written last week so we are excited about it all. We're still projecting mid-September as our release date so stay tuned for more updates," said Jenna. “Find us on Facebook.

"I don't have a favorite-every one is different, each a melding of our personalities and life experiences," is how Jenna describes the tracks of the all-original CD. “We were a little bit behind due to some health issues of one of the band members, but we are back on track. We wanted to create an edge, but still keep true to the blues, and I think we have done that. Dave (‘Detroit Dave' Meer) and I wrote 'Just When I Needed You Most' in the tradition of Mavis Staples."

What first attracted Jenna to the blues was the black gospel singers of her youth. "When I was about ten, I used to sneak out of my church and go over to theirs. It's just 'feel good music,' the tambourines and the energy; there's nothing else like it. So soulful and spiritual, so electrifying; it has a way of connecting.”

Jimmy Buffet's own Doyle Grisham is a guest steel guitarist on "Table for One,” Jenna said. "'I'm What You Get When You Didn't Get What You Wanted' has a unique twist that makes it stand out." The band has been together for almost three years. Their name was born when they played a premier gig for the Smoky Mountain Blues Society, which included blues history from 1928 through the present. “The name stuck. It’s a bit on the cheesy side, but it fits,” Jenna laughs.

Jenna and Her Cool Friends were recently voted Knoxville's Best Blues Band. Harpist Michael "Crawdaddy" Crawley has just been named Trop-Rock Player of the Year. Other band members include keyboardist Ben Maney, drummer Kevin Redding, bassist Glyn Loyd, and Keith Ford, acoustic guitar player and fiance. (Yes, you read it right!) Jenna and Ford are getting married in October "at the farm" in North Tennessee. Jenna is a self-proclaimed "country girl" from Tennessee's hill country, Cumberland Gap.

Jenna has been influenced by Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, and Aretha Franklin. Her voice has the throaty quality of Janis Joplin, but her style has morphed into a sound all her own. As she describes it, "It’s up to you to dig down deep and bring out the power of your voice."

This is a Palace Theatre encore performance for the Knoxville-based seven-piece blues band. Be sure to get your tickets early for this popular show. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for students and are available at the door. Seating is assigned, and free parking is ample.

PAART (Performing Arts Alliance Rural Tennessee) is a 501©3 non-profit presenter whose mission is to enrich, educate and entertain while providing support to talented performing artists. Purchase tickets at 931-484-6133 or find out more about them at www.palacetheatre-crossville.com. Other upcoming First Friday concerts include Montana Skies (Cello/Guitar Fusion) on September 6; and Shannon Wurst (Americana) on October 4. All shows are at 7 p.m. Friday. Doors open at six.

The Palace Theatre is located in the heart of Crossville at 72 S. Main St. The renovated "retro" theater's historic ambiance is an ideal venue for a night out with friends or as a weekend destination, music included.

August’s performance coincides with the World’s Longest Yard Sale weekend. Find treasure during the day and discover the blues at night!