SIKESTON - Music is in the air in Southeast Missouri, echoing the sounds of three bands hailing from Sikeston. Shady Deal, Fusion Blue and Slight Return continue to showcase their musical styles and talent as their summer tours kick off.
"It's a great time for us and hopefully the fans. We love playing and we don't want to see the local music scene die out," said Ron Pruitt, guitarist for Slight Return.
Lately, each of these bands have experienced more popularity and are expecting this summer to bring in bigger crowds.
"We are playing in bigger venues and not so many bars this summer," said Jesse Hammock, singer for Shady Deal. "Our summer tour has expanded to cover most of the nation and we are now headlining most of the shows. If you ain't upgrading, you ain't living."
Shady Deal kicked off their tour recently at Cronies in Sikeston. Their tour includes venues in California, Arizona, South Carolina and, of course, Missouri.
Fusion Blue started in the garage of Mason Watkins, bass guitarist for Shady Deal. In last two years, however, they have now extended their reach to include venues at Beale Street and this year will play at CaveFest, a large jam-
band festival at the Shawnee Cave Amphitheater in Illinois.
"In a business sense, we are kind of running in place around here right now, but we love it," said Fusion Blue's Trey Presson. "We really want to stay home-
grown if we can."
Slight Return, whose music is a mix of blues and classical rock, has seen band members come and go. This year they have a new bass guitarist and they say he has solidified the band.
With their new line-up, Slight Return has also seen more crowds.
"We usually stick with local bars and biker functions," said Pruitt. "However, last year we got to play with blues legend Big Mike Griffin, which was quite an honor. This year we will head to the August 19 Root Hog Rally in Grassy which is a huge three-day biker festival. They expect around 3,000 people there."
As the bands mature, not only do the venues change but also the music. "We are now more of a southern rock band telling a story than a jam band," said Hammock of Shady Deal. "It is a little darker with more rock. It is a change, but we think most folks will like it."
Shady Deal is working on a new CD that will feature the band's new style of rock.
Fusion Blue has recently grown from a cover band, playing the songs of popular bands like the Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead. They will release a CD come next fall that includes around 15 original songs.
"We have formed our own style over the years. We call it southern psychedelic," said Presson. "It is a mix between jam-band styles and southern rock."
And although the three groups frequent many of the same venues, they agree there is no competition among them.
"We help each other out as much as possible. There is more than enough business to go around," said Presson. "Shady Deal helped get us started and we have worked with them over the years. We are very good friends with all of them."
Even with help from each other, all the bands acknowledge that the real success lies in the support they have gained from the Bootheel community.
"The crowds have been great," said Pruitt. "I think it is very important that people come to support local artists, whether it be someone who paints or someone who plays music, and we have gotten a lot of support so far."
The men of Shady Deal agree.
"All of us now live in Oxford, Mississippi, but we will always be a part of Southeast Missouri," Hammock said.
The three bands will appear in local venues throughout the summer. Fusion Blue plays at the CaveFest June 24 and the Rude Dog Pub in Cape Girardeau June 30 and July 1. Shady Deal returns to the area July 8 to play at Cicero's in St Louis. The next date for Slight Return is June 30, where they will play at Sikeston Eagles Club.