Deland Florida is a sleepy college town between Orlando and Daytona Beach Florida. It is home to Stetson University and great music festivals. I was attending the Songwriters Showcases of America last November in Deland. The city’s all day music festival hosts over 160 acts on 28 stages placed around town on street corners and inside in the local clubs.
I was on assignment for an artist that was up for “Song Writer of the Year”. While traveling through the streets to her stage, I pasted multiple musical acts. But, I was literally stopped in my tracks when I heard a remarkable guitar riff. My companion, my wife, warned me to hurry up as we still had a ways to go. But I was frozen, and my attention was on the band that was playing at the end of the blocked street on a small open stage. I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough to take a few pictures. The performer was playing his ax behind his head; shades of Jimi Hendrix. I was flabbergasted. Who is this band? After the song, my wife and I got back to our journey heading to our stage. At the end of the day, our artist won Songwriters Showcases of America “Songwriter of the Year”. What I had witnessed earlier was the Songwriters Showcases of America musician of the year, Jay Umlauf of Grindstone Sinners. The band was also up for “Song of the Year”, “Live How You Love” from their 2017 self-titled CD and “Band of the Year”. All I knew was that I had to see this band again and soon.
Well, Saturday night, April 14, 2018 I had a chance to head to Delandapalooza once again. The previous two years were all day affairs, but tonight I was on a mission to see just one band, Grindstone Sinners. They were going on the mainstage for their final set at 10pm, the last performance of the festival on the main stage. Upon arrival, the main stage was backed up an hour. This was great, as I really wanted to speak with the band and see if they had a few minutes for an interview. We met in the parking lot while they were unloading their gear. Members include; Jay Umlauf (guitar-vocals), Jeffrey Hunt (bass guitar-vocals), and Daniel Conner (drums). Ashlyn Weidemiller (vocals) was absent as she had not yet arrived.
The band, all but Jay are 18 years of age, with Jay recently turning 19. What I experienced was a tight bunch of friends. The three young men met in kindergarten and have been playing together in this band for 5 years. Ashlyn’s vocals were added just three years ago, and their sound came together.
There wasn’t any sign of pretentiousness or entitlement even after early success on their first offering just five months ago. These were great young men eager to help me write my review about their band. When I asked who were their influences, Jay spoke up and said “Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and The Grateful Dead.” At the time it was obvious to me that these young men, and these influences were what I would expect to hear from of my generation. I was taken back. But, if my children would have grown up to be musicians, they may say the same thing as that’s what was played in the home as they grew up. So, I actually felt a sense of pride that the heritage lives on. Folks, this band doesn’t play 80’s pop, or 90’s rap. They perform soulful rhythm and blues from the 1960’s and 1970’s. A heavy rhythm section of Jeffery and Daniel keeping the beat, Jay wailing riffs on extended solos, and finally the soulful angelic voice of Ashlyn brings it all together. These young adults have old rock-n-roll souls. I couldn’t help but smile the whole set as I watched through my viewfinder clicking away. I got so into it, I took twice the number of pictures I usually do of any band.
The set started with “I’ll Be Damned”. Followed by “Because of You” from their 2017 album. The set contained only one other prerecorded single “Faded Love”. This tells me that eight of the 10 songs played tonight are a great start on a new CD. But, when I asked if they had any plans on heading into the studio anytime soon, they said no. The band is contemplating a live album. I can say, after seeing a complete set, this band needs to be seen live. This is where the magic happens. One might categorize them in the future as a jam band with the likes of The Grateful Dead if their fondness of tie-dye is any indication.
The name Grindstone Sinners is a play on words. Going to work in a traditional way, with nose to the Grindstone, is far from the aspirations of this group. And, Sinners go against the grain. So, there you have it. They want to earn their living doing what they love to do; just play music and don’t have any desire to work 9-5 jobs.
You can hear their first CD on Reverb Nation, Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, and Amazon.com: Prime Music. This tight knit group of friends are something special and with the right manager and producer, they will be a household name in the very near future. My grandchildren, if musicians, might possibly sight Grindstone Sinners as their musical influences.