Grand Rapids’ Serita Crowley and Jon Hayes lead the bluesy, soulful and funk-infused rock band Serita’s Black Rose, which unleashed a spine-tingling in-studio performance for Local Spins Live.
Serita Crowley is full of surprises.
With a powerful voice inspired by the likes of Big Mama Thornton and Koko Taylor, Crowley can raise the hairs on the back of a listener’s neck with her resonant, passionate delivery of classic blues.
But Crowley, guitarist Jon Hayes and their bandmates in Serita’s Black Rose also crank out delicious helpings of funk and soul, not to mention covers of unlikely tunes by hard rock bands such as Led Zeppelin and Def Leppard.
Crowley, a Ravenna native who started singing in church at age 4, also plays a pretty mean harmonica, especially considering she only recently started teaching herself how to handle a blues harp.
She’s a singer-songwriter who has embraced the music of popular gospel, funk, rock, blues and R&B stars, and shared stages with artists ranging from rock’s Brian Vander Ark to soul’s James Brown (at Muskegon’s Summer Celebration), yet has created her own style and sound as demonstrated on the “Serita’s Black Rose” debut album.
“That’s all I can be is me and it comes out naturally, so I just do what I do and however I feel,” she says. “It works out. I get the point across.”
She certainly does, especially in the confines of the News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW) studios where Crowley and Hayes heated up a blistering acoustic rendition of Thornton’s “Ball and Chain” during this week’s Local Spins Live segment. You can listen to the full show podcast here, and check out a video of their performance at the bottom of this post.
Crowley insisted that Thornton is one of music’s “greatest voices,” a performer who “put it out there, she laid it down for you. She gave it to you just how she felt it.” And so does Crowley.
“If you’re performing, you want to bring some energy,” she says. “You just get out there and do what you do … and do it to the best of your ability. You’re just there to bare your soul, and what’s in your heart and your soul and your mind, and you need to project that out on the audience to feel what you’re feeling and understand where you’re coming from.”
Formed about five years ago, Serita’s Black Rose released its self-titled debut EP last year, a recording that also features bassist Robert Pace, guitarist Melvin Clark, keyboard players Paul Lesinski and Anthony Raglin, drummer Mark Weymouth and percussionist Mike Dollar.
Crowley first met Hayes, a native of Muskegon who grew up in Sparta, while working at Monster Burrito in Eastown about 10 years ago. She writes the songs that Hayes helps shape and polish, with the band already working on a follow-up album that will be released later this year.
Before that, however, the band will play at Taste of Soul Sunday at the Grand Rapids Public Library downtown Main Library, 111 Library St. NE. The event celebrating African-American History and Culture takes place from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday and will feature the music of Grand Rapids’ Karisa Wilson, Serita’s Black Rose and Greg Peacock, plus the storytelling of Miz Rosie as Coretta Scott King, along with food and more. Details online at grpl.org/tasteofsoul. (Serita’s Black Rose is expected to perform around 1:30 p.m.)
And on Feb. 22, Serita’s Black Rose will be among nominated bands playing the Jammie Awards show hosted by community radio station WYCE-FM (88.1) at The Intersection. In all, Crowley and band are nominated in seven different categories, including best soul/blues album.
Fans can also catch the band live at 9:30 p.m. March 2 at Founders Brewing Co.
For more about Crowley and the band, and to purchase their music, visit their official website.