Grand Rapids’ Roberta Lee and Denny G have turned heads with their diverse take on Americana. Check out their appearances on Local Spins on WYCE and Local Spins Live on WJRW in podcasts, videos.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This January feature on Roberta Lee and Denny G. has been updated with a new video and the podcast from their appearance March 1 on Local Spins Live on News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW). Scroll down for the video and podcast. The duo performs Wednesday night at SpeakEZ Lounge.
Whatever happened to Roberta Bradley?
That line has been uttered more than once in recent years by West Michigan music fans recalling the singing sensation who fronted the bluesy and soulful Roberta Bradley & Gypsy in the 1990s while making a splash with a much-heralded debut album, “Move Over.”
Well, she’s back – this time as part of the Roberta Lee & Denny G duo that’s started performing regularly across the Grand Rapids area.
“The band was going great with Roberta Bradley & Gypsy, but it really got consuming and just really hard. We did a good nine or 10 years I think,” said singer Roberta Lee, aka Roberta Ten Harmsel, who got married in 2000 and has a 20-month-old son, Wyatt.
“My dad passed away in 1999, suddenly and tragically, and that just started a ripple effect that caused me to reorder and reprioritize my life. I wanted to do gospel music. I wanted to have a family of my own and have time for the people I love.”
Now as Roberta Lee – who also spent time performing with the band Montage and playing drums for Asamu Johnson & The Associates of the Blues – the singer has paired up with veteran Grand Rapids pianist, guitarist and harmonica player Denny Gramza to create a unique duo that meshes soulful covers with original material for live performances.
“We’re having fun. Our leanings are to entertaining and light-hearted good times,” said Gramza, who’s been performing in various bands since the 1960s “from trios to horn bands,” playing everything from classic rock to Tex-Mex music. And the current duo’s repertoire includes Eva Cassidy, Van Morrison, Miranda Lambert, Ray Charles, Delbert McClinton, The Rolling Stones and a mix originals.
The duo showcased its sound for this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE (88.1 FM), performing a couple of songs in Studio X and talking about its music. Watch a video of their performance of “U.S. 59 (I Still Cry)” here, with the full podcast below.
VIDEO: Roberta Lee & Denny G for Local Spins on WYCE
“Variety would best describe what we’re doing right now,” Gramza said. “Having fun and performing regularly has been the current focus. There could be some recording of originals. As our show evolves, our material will be what dictates a move along those lines.”
The duo performs at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday (March 1) at SpeakEZ Lounge in Grand Rapids for the Local Spins Wednesdays series.
For Roberta Lee, the overarching musical approach is Americana: “We do folk, rock, blues, jazz, gospel and country. We try to do everything in our own unique way.”
The duo hopes to “mold and grow our own special and unique sounds” and expand its audience by continuing to perform in 2017, adding new venues and events to the schedule, including playing Buttermilk Jamboree at Circle Pines Center in June for the first time.
This week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE also featured new songs by Seth Bernard, TruthInFiction, The Turnips, Michigander and Friends with the Weather, as well as tracks from Hannah Rose Graves & Justin Wierenga and Real Lazy Genius. Listen to the podcast here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (Jan. 20, 2017)
VIDEO: Roberta Lee & Denny G, “Detroit Slide” (Local Spins Live on WJRW)
PODCAST: Local Spins Live with Roberta Lee & Denny G (3/1/17)
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC