The Sultanas celebrate CD

Chris Beach, Chad Voight and Chris Vicary - aka The Sultanas - are playing a double CD-release show along with Shermy D Saturday at Common Grounds.

Published: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 15, 2004 at 11:46 p.m.

The Sultanas have plenty to say about life in North Florida. Luckily for fans of this Gainesville trio, it's in the form of a full-length CD, which the band will officially release Saturday night at Common Grounds.

These guys - Chris Beach on vocals and guitar, Chad Voight on drums and Chris Vicary on bass - are all about embracing the past. The Sultanas' sound is in large part retro, recalling early rock 'n' roll, honky tonk, swing jazz and even surf guitar music. Beach calls it Americana, and, certainly, it's that.

But there's something fresh about the sound, too. Something uniquely, well, Floridian.

In fact, the group's full name is actually The Sultanas of Florida, and the self-titled, eight-song CD, produced at Goldentone Studios and engineered by Rob McGregor, is a romp through a variety of styles tied to Beach's visions of the Sunshine State and longings of yesteryear.

"The old growth has been sacrificed for more strip malls," Beach writes on the band's Web site ( "The countryside has been suffocated by suburbia. Advertisements and multinationals have convinced the generations that newer is better. Packaging speaks louder than contents. Regional identity is being ironed into four-lane highways of freedom fries ... In an attempt to soften the transition, modern country music instills complacency among its audience. Images of social arrival juxtaposed with rural nostalgia have replaced true human themes in the music. Cracking voices are orchestrated. Guitars twang in binary imitation. Drums fall into mechanical cadence. The president wears a cowboy belt in its celebration.

"In rebellion, some musicians attempt regression into older media. However, many of these musicians get tangled in nostalgia and forget about their main artistic objective ... to write music that reflects themselves and what they know best. For these reasons, The Sultanas became a musical project."

As for the band name, Beach is equally philosophical.

"My great-grandmother, from Trenton, Fla., grew impatiens in her back yard in coffee cans, galvanized buckets and mason jars," he recalls. "Whenever she was visiting other people's land and saw a new variety or color, she would steal a clipping, wrap it in a damp handkerchief, conceal it in her purse and take it home and grow it. She did this her whole life until she died in her 90s. Nobody in the family referred to impatiens as 'impatiens,' they called them sultanas, after their original and now obsolete name. Our band name is in honor of her legacy and North Florida culture."

Beach is so serious about his nostalgia he often supplements Sultanas shows with 8mm films - usually from the '50s and '60s - from Florida family vacations. He says they'll probably do that Saturday.

"Some of the footage may include 'the educated porpoises' at Marine studios, water skiing at Cypress Gardens, looking at real estate in South Florida and bizarre shots of other roadside phenomena," Beach says.

The band will give its CDs out for free at the show. I've been driving around with a copy the past week or so and, I have to say, it's quite good.

And, as if that wasn't enough, another act on Saturday's bill is Gainesville's "Lyrical Master" Shermy D, who also will be releasing a new album, "Triple Platinum."

The Sultanas will perform first, around 11 p.m., followed by Nathan Brown. Shermy D will close the show. Common Grounds is at 919 W. University Ave.

  • Looking for a great ska show? Look no further than Market Street Pub, my friend.

    There's a skank party going on Sunday featuring King Django, Dr. Ring Ding and Eastern Standard Time, accordion rockers SNMNMNMN, Gainesville ska purists The Usuals and current Hogtown faves The Know How and One And Done.

    "This is essentially seven acts for only $7, and the show is all ages," says local promoter Pat Lavery. "We ain't fooling around here. Every ska fan in this town should be there, or be a square peg in a round hole."

    Music will start promptly at 5:30 p.m. Market Street Pub is at 120 SW 1st Ave.

    Catch you on the flip side.

    Contact Douglas Jordan at

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