Nov. 30 2016 11:18 AM

Jamie-Sue Seal, John Latini host dual album release show

Jamie-Sue Seal (left) and John Latini host a dual CD release show Friday at the Hannah Community Center.
Courtesy Photo

After years of working behind the scenes, local singer/songwriter Jamie-Sue Seal is stepping back into the spotlight with a new album — her first solo effort in 12 years.

Seal’s performance career has been on the back burner for several years as she focused on her business, Smokin’ Sleddog Records, where she manages, books and promotes a variety of musical acts.

“It’s like that old saying, mama comes last,” she joked. “I’m a passionate supporter of the artists I represent. That keeps me busy; I’m a workaholic.”

Seal’s new disc, playfully titled “The Post-Victorian Woman’s Guide to Reckless Flirtations,” was released earlier this month on her own label. She’s teaming up with three-time Detroit Blues Challenge winner John Latini, who also released a new album this month, for a dual CD release concert Friday at East Lansing’s Hannah Community Center.

Seal has assembled an impressive, nearly all-female backing band, the Come Hithers, for Friday’s show.

“We have an honorary girl, because my bass player dropped out,” she joked. (Detroit-based bassist Keith Malinowski is filling in for the show.)

The nine-piece band features several faces that will be familiar to local folk fans, including Jo Serrapere of Stella, Lansing folk mainstay Sally Potter and Siusan O’Rourke of folk duo Siusan and Zig.

“I thought it would be fun to have an all-female band,” she said. “I was able to assemble an all-star group of women.”

Seal, who turned 52 earlier this year — “I tell people I’m as good as two 26-year-olds,” she quips — was a busy performer through the ‘80s and ‘90s. But in the early 2000s, she didn’t see a way forward as a singer.

“Women aren’t thought of as sexy bombshells when they’re in their 40s,” she said. “I thought maybe it was time to try a different avenue.”

Seal transitioned to the business side of music, working as a booking agent and promoter for local acts.

“I had a good eye for business, for seeing what needed to be done,” she said. “I learned to enjoy that side of it.”

Jamie Sue Seal’s “The Post-Victorian Woman’s Guide to Reckless Flirtations” and John Latini’s “The Blues Just Makes Me Feel Good” were released this month on Seal’s Smokin’ Sleddog Records label.
Courtesy Images

She also founded Smokin’ Sleddog Records, though, in the early days, it was little more than a logo.

“By that time, technology had made it possible for people to release their own records,” she explained. “That was originally just something to put on the first few CDs.”

But Seal continued to sing and write songs with other artists and even started a duo, Bottle Rocket Cabaret, with Latini. Then about five years ago she started to get the itch to record some new songs.

“I started writing, and I thought, ‘Maybe I’m not done with this yet,’” she said.

The result of that project is “The Post-Victorian Woman’s Guide to Reckless Flirtations,” a humorfilled throwback to the music of the early 20th century.

“It’s like a cabaret — it’s got horns and a vintage, retro feel,” she explained. “It’s a tip of the hat to the ‘20s and ‘40s, but it also has a contemporary bent to it.”

Latini, 58, was one of the first artists Seal worked with as an agent. The two met at the Grand Marais Music Festival in 2005, where Latini was serving as emcee and Seal was performing with her band, the Radio Town Flyers. The two struck up a friendship and eventually started working together.

“I thought he was so talented; he has that great big growly voice,” Seal said. “I thought, ‘This is somebody I can get behind.’ He was a good, patient guinea pig.”

For his part, Latini was happy to hand off the non-music side of his work.

“I’m not a keen business person,” he said. “I don’t have the patience to make cold calls and talk about how great I am. It really helps to have someone in your corner.”

Latini’s latest album, “The Blues Just Makes Me Feel Good,” is his third release on Smokin’ Sleddog Records.

“It’s my first full blues CD,” he said. “It’s not straight blues — the changes aren’t the same every song. But my voice is bluesy, and the content is a little risqué, like the old blues tunes.”

Latini pulls influences from iconic songwriters like Paul Simon and Elvis Costello, as well as classic rock bands like Little Feat. He will be backed Friday by his band, the Flying Latini Brothers, augmented by a full horn section and a complement of background singers. Despite the familial name, only one member — drummer Jim Latini — is an actual brother of the singer.

Seal and Latini will perform their new albums live Friday, but there are also some twists. They will debut three music videos at the show. Guest performers, including a quartet of dancers, will pepper the performances.

“It’s not going to be just a concert,” Seal said. “It’s going to be very entertaining. And John has a great suit.”

John Latini and Jamie-Sue Seal

Dual CD release concert
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2
$25/$20 adv. Hannah Community Center
819 Abbot Road, East Lansing
(517) 651-5487,