It’s Friday, and that means it’s time to give your weekend a shot in the arm with a heavy, heavy dose of rhythm ‘n’ blues rock ‘n’ roll care of Barrence Whitfield & The Savages who’re playin’ The Continental Club Friday (Jan. 17) and Saturday (Jan. 18).
Barrence Whitfield (whose real name just happens to be Barry White, by the way) was born in Florida, and grew up in Newark, where he cut his teeth playing in rock ‘n’ roll and funk bands. In 1977, Whitfield moved to Boston to attend Boston University (he later transferred to Emerson College to study journalism). Whitfield was working at a record shop when he met guitarist Peter Greenberg, former member of Boston outfits The Lyres and DMZ. Greenberg heard Whitfield sing, and the pair decided to start a band. Barrence Whitfield & The Savages’ raucous R&B sound and their frontman’s outsized stage presence (not to mention impressive set of pipes made for turbo-charged soul and rock ‘n’ roll) made a big splash on the Boston scene. Whitfield landed opening slots for acts like Bo Diddley, Tina Turner, George Thorogood, Robert Cray, and Solomon Burke.
In 1987, the band released their third LP Ow! Ow! Ow!, and the U.K. came a callin’. BBC journalist and DJ Andy Kershaw fell in love with the group, and brought them across the pond to play a set of shows in England (Brit rock stars Robert Plant and Elvis Costello became big fans). Things cooled off a bit on the Savages front, although they did release a pair of live records in ’89 and ’90, and Whitfield got the band back together in ’95 for a spell. In the meantime he recorded a pair of records with singer and songwriter Tom Russell. Later in the 90s he worked with Boston blues outfit The Movers. Whitfield also contributed to the score of the 2007 film Honeydripper (which featured Austin’s own Gary Clark Jr. in a role).
In 2011, Whitfield reconvened the Savages once again, and earlier this summer they released their latest album Dig Thy Savage Soul. It’s a rough and tumble rhythm and blues party start to finish. It kicks off with the one-two punch of “The Corner Man,” a garage-rockin’ Sonics-ian blast of TNT. Whitfield’s years as a soul shouter sure as heck ain’t hurt his instrument. On “Corner Man,” his voice can still out rock ‘n’ roll and out soul dudes more than half his age. The band plays lean and mean, making for one hard-chargin’ track. If you needed a jolt to get your weekend started right, look no further.