Musicians have generous spirits. There are plenty of performers at our churches, parties and venues sharing their time and talent for lots of important causes. Last week at Nashville Sound, some of the region’s most popular rock bands braved the weather, carried lots of heavy gear and spent the evening performing a holiday benefit for needy children here in the Tri-Cities.

It had been a long time since I visited Nashville Sound on Roan Street in Johnson City. It’s located in an old strip center and has probably the biggest dance floor in the area. It’s usually a club for country/rock music and although there were lots of cowboy hats, dusters and pool tables, tonight was a night for the rock bands and their fans.

Sober Otis, Tragically White, 10,000 Flames and Stompin’ Ground were all sharing the play bill tonight and for $5 or a comparable toy, we were treated to some fiery performances. I was especially impressed with the opening act, Sober Otis, which hit the stage with new modern rock songs, rare covers and captivating original works. In particular, they started the evening off with a song that I truly thought would never be performed on stage in the Tri-Cities.

I discovered Audioslave this year via David Letterman and Internet radio. My mp3 player was playing this new Grammy-nominated band’s music all summer long and I truly believe Chris Cornell, vocalist for the band, has the most articulate and soulful voice in heavy metal today.

That’s why I was so staggered when Sober Otis ignited their set with a convincing version of ‘Cochise.’ In my mind, it was next to impossible that anyone could successfully mirror Audioslave’s style and substance, but Tim Cooper and the newly reformed Sober Otis helped rehabilitate my doubts.

Cooper is the explosive vocalist for Sober Otis and he has a remarkable range of textures to offer up from the mic along with some experienced players that round out a wicked recipe for a band that you’re sure to hear more about in the coming year.

Sober Otis (1.0) split up several months ago. Musicians have more breakups than high school heart breaks, but as we come to know, it’s this type of transition that can lead to exciting new landscapes.

Cooper was on stage with his former band mate and bassist Dave Russell. They are the core of the old band that worked up quite a buzz about themselves in the past few years and tonight they were appearing with two new members, Randy Nash and Terry McCoy (Sober Otis 2.0).

Randy and Terry have been a part of the Tri-Cities music scene for a long time. Their previous band Asylum Suite toured around the country and was one of the most popular bands in the area during the late 1990s.

I’ve known Terry McCoy for years too and the memory of his provocative performance last week elevated him right back to the top of my list as the most illustrious rock guitarist in Northeast Tennessee. His cheeky sounds were alluring and served as the spiny backbone of most of the band’s groovy new style.

I punched my cell phone call button by mistake that night and quick-dialed a friend who told me later that it sounded like I was listening to K-Rock, because Sober Otis soared through a number of exact modern rock songs from Blur to Foo Fighters. More important was their special pack age of sexy new original songs. At one point, Cooper even pulled out a bullhorn and shouted lyrics from their hooky original “Bad Seed.”

As mentioned, there’s a lot of experience in this band and that was never more obvious than during a sensational medley that wrapped up their set. The guys have masterfully blended together the most appealing classic rock ’n’ roll songs I’ve ever heard. It started with a steely version of Phil Collin’s song “In The Air Tonight” and that paved the way for several of rock’s greatest choruses from Kansas, Styx, Pink Floyd, Joan Jett, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin.

It’s great to hear a band like Sober Otis back on the scene and we’ll look forward to their next performance as they continue to refine their music. We learn to love change and this new mutation of Sober Otis is surely a step in the right direction for the evolution of these talented players and powerful vocalists. They’re sporting a vogue new style, too, and that’s sure to charm a crowd anywhere they perform.

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This week’s buzz topics…

  • The Midnight Rambler returns to WQUT in January…
  • New Music from Foddershock: “Can’t Win for Boozin”…
  • New Video from Rob Russell and The Sore Losers

This week’s best bets for live music…

  • Friday — The return of Underline / The Houston Valley Club in Greeneville
  • Saturday — Experimental electronics Red Fades Before Blue at Heathers Hideaway in downtown Johnson City.

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David Cate is director of new media for the GoTriCities Network. Send e-mail to him at dcate@gotricities.net.