Last year Beachcomber readers bestowed one of their highest honors on Donnie Sundal, who was voted into the Beachcomber Music Awards Hall of Fame. He joined previous honorees Duke Bardwell, Jones and Company, Billy Garrett and Franko “Washboard” Jackson.
With the 2013 awards ceremony fast approaching—be there Monday, March 3, at Destin’s Funky Blues Shack—it seemed fitting to catch up with Sundal and get his take on this year’s Hall of Fame nominees.
Sundal is the voice and keys behind Boukou Groove. The Neptone Recording Studio owner-engineer is nominated for Best Keyboardist again this year.
“We’ve been moving around with an emphasis on New Orleans,” says Sundal of Boukou Groove’s recent adventures. “That’s been fun. We’ve been trying to move around a bit more.
“Once you’ve got a little following in New Orleans, it’s a lot easier to get into other places just because New Orleans has such a name for music. Once you get your name out there, there’s a lot more chance that you can tour over in Japan of Europe.”
Makes sense that Boukou Groove, a band that pulls strongly from New Orleans’ traditional music, is getting a lift from the Big Easy.
Sundal says international touring is in the works, as well as a new album. “We are kind of at the sketching phase, where we sort of lay down a rough, scratch version (of the songs). Then we are going to bring in a few guests. We’re trying to get it out by summertime.”
As for this year’s Hall of Fame nominees, Sundal speaks highly of them all.
“Both Rusty and Jabbo (of Banjorama) have been good friends of mine since I moved here in ‘94. I play with Jabbo at (Miramar Beach’s Faith Assembly Church), and sometimes Rusty will show up with his banjo.
“I’ve known Jim Couch since I first moved here. He was playing in a band called the Naked Gunmen at the Hog’s Breath that used to be out on the island. He’s another really good friend, musician, and a funny, clever guy. He has a new band project, Attention Deficit.” That group includes vocalist Tanya Roberts, drummer-vocalist Tim Bali Prescott, and guitarist-bassist-vocalist Tim Morinelli.
“Joe Fingas is a great piano player,” says Sundal. “We’ve run into each other over the years, and I always enjoy hearing him play. He has that nice boogie-woogie style.”
Sundal calls Smilin’ Fritz Froeschner “one of the best guitar players in the area—and everybody is now taking their guitar work to him. He’s a guitar repairman and he’s fixing everybody’s instruments for them. As you can tell by his name, Smilin’ Fritz is one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. He’s always smiling and never has a bad thing to say about anyone.”
When asked what tips Sundal had for this year’s winner’s speech, he says, “If you heard my acceptance speech, you probably wouldn’t be taking advice from me!
“Most of those guys are pretty funny on the mic. Jabbo and Rusty, part of their show is to be characters on stage. Jim Couch is very witty. Joe doesn’t talk too much, so he might not say a whole lot. And Fritz might just smile at everybody. But yeah, you might have to take the microphone away from Jabbo.”
Keep up with Sundal’s musical adventures at www.boukougroove.com.