Alexis P. Suter Band roars back through the North Country

UPPER JAY – Powerhouse singer Alexis P. Suter and her band will return from New York City to the North Country this weekend, playing shows in Upper Jay and Chateaugay.

They’ll perform at Upper Jay’s Recovery Lounge at 8 p.m. Friday, for a suggested donation of $10. Saturday they’ll play at the Chateaugay Town Hall starting at 7 p.m., joined by special guests Russ Bailey and Franz Pope of Essex-based blues-rock band Crow Party. Tickets for that show are $12 in advance or $17 at the door.

Expect a road-tested blend of blues, gospel, soul and Southern rock, with Suter’s baritone evoking Ma Rainey and guitarist Jimmy Bennett calling to mind Warren Haynes. Backup singers Vicki Bell and Linda Pino pour on extra energy, which is solidly grounded by drummer Ray Grappone, bassist Peter Bennett and keyboard player Benny Harrison.

Their sound is full of the South, although they’re from New York City. They play mostly original songs, written by all seven of them. They have three albums out on Hipbone Records, a Brooklyn-based label owned by Bell and Grappone.

They received a huge boost from a famous patron and mentor – the late Levon Helm, formerly of the Band. They met him in Brooklyn through his daughter Amy Helm, and he invited them to one of his Midnight Rambles, concerts he stages at his home in Woodstock. Something clicked, and they opened for him at the Ramble at least 93 times – more than anyone else.

They have also opened for B.B. King and the late Etta James – R&B royalty of the highest order.

They played up this way once before, on opening night of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival in February 2012.

Since then Suter was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the Soul Blues Female Artist category. She didn’t win, but she did visit Memphis for the ceremony and got to perform at both the awards dinner. The band took the opportunity to play some other gigs in the South as well, in Memphis, St. Louis and Chattanooga.

They have a busy summer concert lineup and, according to promoter Ginny Buckley, are “madly writing and rehearsing new material, and the plan is to have a new release in September.”