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Local blues band The Juke Hounds will bring blues, rock and a whole lotta' soul to the Water Street Tavern, 132 S. Water St. in Kent, from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday.
Bob Gardner, the band's lead vocalist and guitarist, formed the band with harmonica player Jimmy Kormanik in 2006 after several years in business together.
"I played with Jimmy in a blues based band in Akron for years," Gardner said. "After a while, we thought it was a good idea to start our own project. I think we musicians in northeast Ohio all run in the same circle. We all know each other and have played together."
The Juke Hounds do a modern take on the standard blues sound.
"We're called The Juke Hounds because we wanted to have a name where people would immediately know what kind of music we play," Gardener said. "We are respectful of the traditional blues, but we also bring something new to the table."
By adding a high-energy approach, an uplifting twist to the songs and upbeat musicianship, The Juke Hounds bring a new meaning to the blues.
"The thing about the blues is it's simple," Gardner said. "There's no real chorus or sing-along element, so we try to introduce choruses and hooks in our songs."
Gardner said most people don't realize there's an upside to the blues.
"We think the blues is upbeat," Gardner said. "We want the music to make people feel good and want to get up and dance."
If there was a theme to The Juke Hounds music, it would be defiance.
"Over the last few months, we have been developing a theme in our music that makes us The Juke Hounds," Gardner said. "We want our music to be about defiance. We want to defy the blues, our problems and our pain. We all have our own problems and we have all had bad relationships, but we can defy it. We can conquer whatever is in our path. That's what the blues means for us."
The Juke Hounds-Gardner, Kormanik, bassist and backup vocalist Gerard Dominick, keyboardist and vocalist Doug Barber and drummer, percussionist and vocalist Mark Smallwood finished their first full-length release titled, "Low Man On The Totem Pole" in May 2012.
"That was just a really fun record to do," Gardner said. "As a singer and songwriter, I'm always working on new songs. We're working on a new album right now."
This year, The Juke Hounds represented Akron, Canton and Cleveland at the International Blues Competition in Canton. The band won the regional competition and will be showcased in the final competition in Memphis, Tennessee in January.
"This weekend, we will be playing a lot of the songs that allowed us to win the Blues Challenge," Garnder said. "We will play some songs that people will expect to hear, some songs they haven't heard very much of and some songs they haven't heard at all."
Gardner said The Juke Hounds are far from the image some people have of blues bands.
"We are a tight band," Gardner said. "We play music with enthusiasm. Everyone really gets into the music. We're not a bunch of old guys sitting around on stools. We're up the whole time."
The Juke Hounds made their first appearance in Kent at the Kent Blues Festival four years ago. The Jukes are regulars at Water Street Tavern, playing there every six months on Friday and on Blues night on Wednesday's.
Mike Fuller, director of business operations at Water Street Tavern, said this weekend a great time for The Juke Hounds to play Kent.
"It's the perfect time for them to play here with it being Friday right after finals are done," Fuller said. "Everyone wants to unwind and hopefully the weather will be nice. We'll have a lot of people. They just rock. I can't love them enough."
Fuller said The Juke Hounds are everything you would expect from a rock band.
"It's a lot of energy," Fuller said. "There are a lot of people dancing and moving around. Not a lot of people are sitting down in the booths after they are done eating. Everyone stands and treats it like a rock show, and that's pretty much how it is."
For more information, call 330-677-0700 or visit waterstreettavern.com