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Highland's Soul Pride is an original young band that has come quite a long way since I last wrote about them 13 months ago. They went from being a somewhat obscure band, which was generally booked as a support band, to being an in-demand headline act at clubs across three counties.

Since coming together in the summer of 2001, Soul Pride quickly has moved on from playing backyard parties for their friends, to become a favored band with regional club owners.

Its rapid rise on the scene came through collective hard work, determination and the kind of enthusiasm for its live shows that prompts frontman-vocalist Tommy Mayer to state -- "I'll jump up on your table barefoot and dance to get your attention!"

And dance barefoot he does. Mayer is a spirited bohemian and the soul of this pride of musical lions. As the pony-tailed singer jumps about in his loose-fitting shirts and bell bottom pants, while twirling about and shaking a tambourine, he keeps all eyes fixed on the stage. Mayer is equal parts rock 'n' roll shaman and hippie hold-out.

Add to his showmanship and character the simple fact that this thin, young man houses a gravelly bluesman's voice that recalls former Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson. Mayer can belt out bluesy rock with the best of them, which helps explain why Soul Pride is starting to get noticed well outside of their hometown turf.

Mayer's rootsy vocals are well matched to the powerful and chugging backing instrumentation supplied by his four soulful compadres -- bassist Chris "Karp" Karpinec, drummer Billy Mayer and guitarists Scott Tucker (rhythm) and Mike DeChantal (lead). Together the quintet has written some very tasty original music that draws upon such soulful '60s and '70s icons like The Faces, Humble Pie, Free and Bad Company for musical inspiration.

"I just finished up my vocals yesterday," said Mayer, speaking of the 10-song CD the band has been tracking with producers Mike Sheffield and Jim Hillegonds.

"It's taken a long time to get the band into the studio, but once we got there, we've all gotten our parts down pretty quickly. It's gone very well I think."

Mayer credits his cousin Hillegonds (vocalist of AC/DC tribute group, Bonfire) with helping move things along in regard to the studio situation.

Hillegonds' keen ear was the objective input Soul Pride needed during recording.

Mayer believes Soul Pride's album should be ready for public consumption by early fall.

The roots of Soul Pride stretch back to when Mayer and Karpinec were Highland High School classmates who strummed guitars and sang at backyard parties to meet girls. They eventually brought a few other school friends on board and took to calling themselves, Devine Right.

Things began taking shape and getting serious, when the singer's older cousin, Billy Mayer, a former drummer with region club bands Alison's Mailbox and Dope Sick, happened upon a backyard jam and sat in.

"That was when we actually became a real band," Karpinec recalled.

Tommy Mayer thumbed through a dictionary and came up with the new "less metal sounding" name of Soul Pride, as Billy Mayer drew on his past bands and started whipping the group into shape, and Karpinec assumed the role of public relations man making flyers and putting together a Web site.

Eventually, they added guitarists Mike DeChantal and Scott Tucker (ex-Transmission), for a lineup that has been rock solid for 18 months.

With the band's membership in place, and Tommy Mayer brimming over with lyrical ideas for new songs, the collective focus of the band in 2003 was writing is own music.

Originally, Soul Pride had the novel idea to release a collectable 45 rpm vinyl singles featuring two songs not included on what was planned as an eight-song CD, but prohibitive production costs and practicality won out. All 10 songs now will be found on the forthcoming CD.

If you go

Soul Pride

When: 10 tonight (21-and-older show)

Where: Ricciardi's, 9400 Indianapolis Blvd., Highland

Cost: $3 for general admission

More info: Call (219) 922-9999 or visit www.soulpride.freeservers.com

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