Miss Tess & The Talkbacks at Johnny B's

The New York band's original music harks back to the '40s and '50s
The Talkbacks are, left to right, Will Graefe (not on this tour), Miss Tess, Matt Meyer, Larry Cook and Thomas Bryan Eaton (not shown).Photo courtesy of Brian Geltner

Miss Tess' brand of American roots music bears no resemblance to the plaid-wearing, banjo-playing Avett Brothers'. Rather, the label refers to a style of early jazz, blues, country and rock, more suited to a smoky lounge than a county fair.

The songstress, who keeps to her sassy stage name, and her band, The Talkbacks — drummer Matt Meyer, bassist Larry Cook and guitarist Thomas Bryan Eaton — are making their way across the United States from their homes in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Alaska in their van, lovingly referred to as "The Arctic Faux." The foursome will play at 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, at Johnny B's Rockin' Diner, 120 E. Sixth St., Medford.

If you go

Who: Miss Tess & The Talkbacks

When: 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 19

Where: Johnny B's Rockin' Diner, 120 E. Sixth St., Medford

Cover: $5

Call: 541-773-1900

After graduating with a degree in graphic design, Tess began taking road trips to visit friends and see the country. These trips eventually evolved into more organized "tours," and playing for fun turned into two semesters at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

An early configuration of The Talkbacks, called the Bon Ton Parade, featured a horn player and played primarily jazz, sometimes with a New Orleans vibe. Over time, other genres crept into the mix. Last year, Tess renamed the band as a way of acknowledging its new, eclectic soundscape. However, the band still pays homage to '40s and '50s music.

The band has won awards for jazz act of the year, folk act of the year and roots act of the year, Tess says.

"They never know what to do with us," she jokes.

"Sweet Talk," released last October for Signature Sounds, is a testament to The Talkbacks' vintage mix tied together by Tess' bewitching and adaptable vocals and the rhythm of her 1930s archtop guitar.

Of the CD's 11 songs, Tess wrote 10, including the slow country ballad "Save Me St. Peter," the bouncing memoir "Everybody's Darling" and the foot-tapping rocker "People Come Here for Gold." The album also features a Talkbacks take of The Ink Spots' "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire."

The Boston Globe wrote, " 'Sweet Talk' is an unabashed reminder that there's nothing wrong with casting a wide net."

Cover to the show at Johnny B's is $5. Local rockabilly band Step It Up and Go also will play that evening. Call 541-773-7900.


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