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Zach Deputy: Oh, So that’s What You Mean by ‘Gospel Ninja Soul’

We’ve had a steady stream of exceptional artists gracing our stage at the Crazy Horse Saloon but none as high profile as Zach Deputy. The guy has over 25,000 likes on Facebook. He’s not a household name by any means, but as far as one-man-band phenomena go, he is only surpassed by Keller Williams. Inhabiting a tiny market as we do, the Crazy Horse happily settles for booking bigger acts on off nights. But is Monday really an off night in Nevada City? More than most places, the bulk of our population doesn’t match the rest of society when it comes to typical work week parameters. The only other show we hosted on a Monday was very lightly attended so we didn’t quite know what to expect. When people started to trickle in around 7:30, it was apparent that the night was on course for greatness.

Seated behind a station of multiple mics and a fortress of equipment we can’t even begin to list, Deputy wasted no time taking command of the room. When promoting any show, we need to offer a tagline to summarize an artist’s music. For him it was “island-infused drum ‘n bass, gospel, ninja soul.” Perhaps more effectively it could have been, “just get your ass down here and see this guy.” The big bear of a dude gives off a Jedi mystique; full of love, wisdom and confidence. Taking a one-off night from his tour with sax legend Karl Denson, we were blessed to have him in our midst.

Without mentioning all the technical wizardry he uses to add layers of intrigue onto his sound, Deputy’s baseline is his proficiency as an acoustic guitarist with a beautiful voice. His intricate finger picking unfurls upbeat melodies, taking listeners through a scenic voyage of approachable, yet exotic terrain. Much of what he sings sounds like an improvised language all to his own. Apparently he spent a lot of time living in Hawaii and has channeled that influence into a soulful, original foundation. As the night progressed, his vocal performance delved deeper into a display of tone, range and inflection rather than the typical specifics of lyrical precision and song structure.

He is always laying down a heavy backbeat with an element of electronic drum and bass which lends to a tribal dynamic. The dance floor was a glorious sight as bodies synchronized in their expressions. It was a night which saw the Crazy Horse elevated from cozy bar to sophisticated venue as connoisseurs united to bask in the bliss of an undeniable musical visionary. The room was technically close to capacity but with no shortage of space to move to one’s heart content. Thus lies the charm of the Horse. It rarely gets too crowded and there is an intrinsic sense of camaraderie.

Even after two sets and an encore, it felt a little sad to think that we’d be calling it a night already. Much to our delight, it was revealed that he’d be coming back shortly for another set. Venturing further into the gospel ninja labyrinth, we were collectively enveloped within a sonic womb. He was delivering a sermon of sorts with a meaning for each of us to interpret as we pleased. The sound in the room couldn’t have been juicier. This was the epitome of ear candy. People looked at each other with those expressions of understanding, knowing how lucky we were to be seeing something of this caliber in our humble hamlet of Nevada City. When we ran into friends the following weekend, they were still glowing.

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