The Norman Transcript

Sound Advice by Doug Hill

May 13, 2014

Mama Sweet giving Deli a kiss

Mama Sweet formed in 2002. The current line-up counts from among Norman’s finest musicians; vocalist/guitarist Aron Holt, bassist Boyd Littell, Giovanni Carnuccio III on percussion, guitarist Alan Orebaugh and Daniel Walker on keys. Although Mama Sweet just played Norman Music Festival VII, club shows here have been infrequent because Holt teaches public school in McAlester and Walker is a session man based in Seattle. Fortunately for fans, the band will be playing The Deli at the end of this month.

Additionally, Mama Sweet has a Kickstarter campaign going through May 24 to fund a new album tentatively titled “Terra Firma.” Plans are to record the disc at Stone Gossard’s (Pearl Jam) Litho Studios in Seattle.

“Our engineer there has a few weeks blocked off for Mama Sweet in July,” Holt said. “Dan Walker has worked with him on other projects and it’s through his hard work we got this opportunity.”

Getting everything together for studio recordings has been an elusive proposition for Mama Sweet. They’ve basically had four albums in 12 years. Two were un-mastered, “Welcome to the Well” was the real deal and “Now. Here. This.” was recorded live at the Deli and The Wormy Dog Saloon in OKC.

“We have some songs that we’ve been playing in our shows forever but they’ve never been recorded professionally,” Holt said. “They haven’t received their proper due. It’s our later work and I think some of our better work.”

These include “Siren,” “Second Avenue,” and “Ruby Sue.” The history major in Holt wants these tunes to be properly archived.

“I don’t want my grandkids to only be able to see grainy YouTube videos from 2009,” Holt said. “I want something they can hold on to that showed the work we were capable of at this time.”

As musicians Mama Sweet’s intent has always been the desire to relate to the majority of young club audiences in these parts. That’s with the ability to play rock, country and country-rock.

“We’ve wanted to have something for everybody but as it turns out, we’re too country for the Blackwatch crowd and too rock 'n' roll for Billy Bob’s,” Holt said. “We had our own style and identity and were never able to fit into any particular niche.”

The new album is aimed more for the rock 'n' roll Mama Sweet. Holt believes his days of doom and gloom lyricism is past and he’s now focused on the lighter aspects of life. Their sound hasn’t changed fundamentally, it’s still music they all enjoy playing and that entertains audiences. Everyone in this quartet is an experienced and mature professional, none of whom would be in for just going through the motions on any project he was involved with.

“We’ve always stuck to our guns on the music we want to represent us,” Holt said. “We’re the same Mama Sweet.”

Being from Oklahoma has had a massive impact on what they play. We’re a state with rich traditions in both rock and country. They all listen to a wide variety of music and have other projects besides Mama Sweet. Littell leads one of the state’s premier hip hop outfits. Walker works in one of the world’s most dynamic music scenes in another state. All those influences come together in five gents who benefit from each other’s creative spark.

“We’ve always been good at shutting-up and getting on stage and doing our thing,” Holt said. “Off stage we’ve had differences at times and don’t necessarily hang out afterwards. But on stage we put our hearts into the song. Because each one of has so much love and respect for the music we’re making on stage, we’re willing to give one hundred percent to the performance.”

Holt is undoubtedly the band leader because the group is built around his voice and music. But he’s in the enviable position of rarely having to pull rank because everyone is headed in the same direction. When they hit a snag in the form of an unwieldy bridge or burdensome song, heads come together to work out the issues. He observed that there have been times when Littell’s genius-level arrangements have been superior to his own. Recognizing that kind of contribution and bringing it together with others has made Mama Sweet the powerhouse they are today. It comes to down to one simple concept.

“We’re all down with what we’re doing,” Holt said.

If You Go

What: Mama Sweet in concert.

Where: The Deli, 304 White St.

When: 10 p.m. May 31

Cost: $5           

Mama Sweet's Boyd Littell playing with aDDverse Effects at Norman Music Festival VII.


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Sound Advice by Doug Hill