Donny Hathaway is so esteemed his cover songs are covered.
With Hathaway's 1972 "Live" in mind, the Denver trio the Congress made a record of soul songs from the late 1960s and early '70s.
"That (Hathaway) album is probably one of the biggest inspirations for our record," said Stratocaster guitarist Scott Lane, who for the first time recorded without using a pick or any distortion or delays. "Straight clean into an amp."
Often described as a southern rock band in the vein of the Black Crowes, the Congress' homage to soul music is authentically solid. Lake Tahoe Action once compared vocalist Jonathan Meadows to Radiohead's Thom Yorke. Make that Stevie Wonder with a ballcap and a bushy red beard.
"The Loft Tapes" was recorded on an early '80s reel-to-reel mixer in at an old Masonic temple building in a meeting room constructed for superior acoustics. Only one microphone played into vintage amps was used for each instrument and one-take vocals were added "to keep it as honest as possible," Lane said.
In the spirit of Hathaway's covers of Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On" and James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend," the Congress recorded those songs along with the Impression's "Fool For You" and "People Get Ready" (celebrating Curtis Mayfield's falsetto register) and Van Morrison's "Into The Mystic." And Meadows brazenly goes into uncharted male-dominated southern rock territory with heartfelt renditions of Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly" and "Que Sera," made famous by Doris Day.
The album stylistically contrasts the band's outstanding debut, "Whatever You Want," a sincere rocker.
The seven-song "The Loft Tapes" will be released on vinyl only on National Record Store day April 20. A spring or summer in-store performance at Mad About Music in South Lake Tahoe is in the works.
Meanwhile, the Congress will perform Friday, March 8, in the Himmel House, the former Christiana Inn, Tower of Power's Roger Smith's old haunt.
The Colorado band has played several shows at the Crystal Bay Casino but it has an even greater following at South Shore with an unusual mix of natives from Virginia, Colorado, Mississippi and California.
"We are definitely building something down there and are happy to get into a new spot," Lane said.
- Tim Parsons, Lake Tahoe Action
Who: the Congress - Jonathan Meadows, vocals and bass, Scott Lane, guitar and Mark Levy, drums
Opener: Dad's LPs with Jay Seals of Blue Turtle Seduction
When: 9 p.m. Friday, March 8
Where: Himmel Haus, 3819 Saddle Road, South Lake Tahoe