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May 14, 2007

Daniel Castro with Volker Strifler at the SBS BITS Benefit on 6 May 2007 by John Hulsman

Blues in the Schools (BITS) is a worthwhile program and Daniel Castro
is great guitar player, but I was undecided about going to the
Sacramento Blues Society's (SBS) benefit. First there is the drive
and then there is the thought of an afternoon that involves kids (not
high on my list of favorites) and, finally, the fact that I have
heard Daniel several times. But then I heard part of an announcement
on Mick Martin's Blues Party on KXJZ that led me to believe that
Volker Strifler would also be performing at the benefit. I decided
right then that I would go as it had been several years since I had
heard Volker and his recent performances had been getting good

So on a bright Sunday morning I left the Sunset Side of the
Sacramento Valley (as R. Crumb referred to these parts when he lived
in the area) and headed toward our capitol city, over county roads
(through farm country that is becoming increasingly suburbanized) to
I-5 and on to I-80. As I approached the Watt Avenue exit on I-80, a
bright blue rocket streaked by on my left. It was a Japanese
motorcycle of undetermined make. Its fairing, the size and shape of
the rear tire and the engine note screamed high performance. The
rider was a small woman with long blond hair streaming from the base
of a black full face helmet. Hauling the rocket down and angling
across traffic to the Watt Avenue exit, she stopped at the traffic
light and I pulled up alongside. From the shape of her thighs,
revealed by close fitting denim jeans, to the way that her breasts
hung down in her tee-shirt and caressed the fuel tank, I could see
that this young woman was built every bit as well as her motorcycle.
When the traffic light turned green, she turned to the left and
places unknown and I turned to the right and on to the benefit.

Two of the SBS BITS teachers, Jimmy Pailer and Lew Fratis, backed by
a drummer and bass guitar player whose names I can't recall (proving
once again that the rhythm section never gets the credit it deserves)
were the first to perform. Both Pailer and Fratis are yeomen guitar
players and stalwarts of the Sacramento blues scene. Their guitar
work was as impressive as ever. A series of other artists sat in
with them as they progressed through the set. Dana Moret sang a
couple of songs including a slow and sultry number that was a welcome
change from the louder and faster songs that I have previously seen
her perform. Mick Martin played several songs along with his young
protégé, Kyle Rowland. Between songs Mick talked about the history
of the blues, blues performers and their impact on subsequent music,
as he does on his Blues Party on KXJZ. This was a very enjoyable set
and it set the stage for the BITS students.

The Hiram Johnson West High School students performed in several
traditionally sized blues bands. The students from Rosemont High
School performed in one large ensemble, with various students taking
the lead on various songs or parts of songs. Overall, their
performances were pretty impressive considering the relatively short
time that they have been playing. However, the only name that I can
recall from the performance is The Orgasmatron – one of the Hiram
Johnson West bands. The name got me thinking that these kids were
bolder and older for their age than I was way back when. Like most
endeavors that involve kids and proud parents, there was audio and
photographic overkill. Someone was recording the student's
performance via a pair of microphones placed in front of the pair of
speakers that faced the audience. One photographer had three camera
triggered, wirelessly activated, self-contained flash units elevated
eight feet over the stage on telescoping tripods. They provided an
unanticipated light show of sorts, but I really thought it was too

After a relatively brief intermission (unfortunately the audio
recording equipment was removed at this time), Daniel and his band
took the stage. Daniel stated that Mike Emerson (the band's keyboard
player) wasn't at the benefit because he was still coping with the
effects of a family tragedy [Ed. note: Family car accident. Not life threatening] that had occurred a couple of weeks earlier. Thus, the band for the first set was Daniel on lead guitar and vocals, Tim Moran on drums and Dave Masterson (and I may have misheard and have probably misspelled this name) on bass guitar.
They opened the set with "Let the Good Times Roll" and followed
with "Crosscut Saw", by which time the dance floor was full. The
dancing continued with "You're Sweet" and a version of "Rock Me Baby"
that featured a cooking guitar lead-in, a scat vocal segment, and the
afternoon's first use of Daniel's wah-wah pedal. With "Let Me Love
You Baby" the intensity of Daniel's guitar playing went still higher,
eliciting screams from the audience. At about this time Daniel
called out to Volker, who was standing next to Don Bassey at the back
of the room, and said, "I saw you tell Don that you can do that too
and I know that you can". Daniel's version of "I'll Play the Blues
for You" was slow and bluesy, with the opening notes of the long lead-
in giving me goose-bumps. Appropriately enough, the set closed
with "You're Gonna Miss Me".

At the start of the second set, Daniel introduced Volker as "a bad
mammer jammer", one of the best guitar players that he has ever
heard. Daniel opened with "I'm A Tired" (the title may actually
be "Tired Man", except I don't recall hearing the word man). Daniel
played part of the way through the song and then Volker played and
then Daniel and then Volker and on and on. This thrust and parry
between the two telecasters set the stage for the rest of the songs
in the set. Both Daniel and Volker were really cooking. Dana Moret
seemed visibly impressed. Nobody was on the dance floor. The entire
audience seemed spellbound. The spell continued into "Sweet Little
Angel" which, like the other songs in this set, started with a long
instrumental lead-in and concluded with another long instrumental.
The lead-in on this song featured some searing guitar playing by
Daniel and an equally searing reply by Volker. It seemed to me that
Volker's telecaster produced a slightly richer or fuller sound than
Daniel's, but that could just be me. During one of Volker's segments
in this song Daniel walked over and pretended to kick Volker in the
shins, as if to try to knock him out of his groove. Volker played
on. I doubt that he even noticed. When Volker really gets into his
playing, he seems to be someplace other than this world. Volker took
the lead and sang on "Woke Up This Morning (My Baby's Gone)", with
dancers finally returning to the floor. Don Bassey relieved Dave on
bass guitar and Daniel took the lead on "All Your Love" and "Start It
Up". On these songs Volker's riffs tended to jazz and the expression
on Tim's face sometimes looked like he wondered where the riffs would
lead while Daniel's face wore a smile. Volker had the vocal lead on
a very danceable "Movin' On". Unfortunately, the number of dancers
and the audience in general had thinned considerably by this time.
Only two of the BITS students remained, but they were glued to the
front of the stage at the feet of the masters. The show closed with
an up-tempo version of "Shake Your Money Maker" that had a really
thumping beat. I can't prove that anyone was moved to orgasm by
this song, but judging by the twitching and jerking of one of the
female dancers I would say that it was in the realm of possibility.
Had the members of Orgasmatron stayed, they would have gotten a great
lesson in audience arousal. This was one of the most enjoyable and
memorable shows that I have attended. Why anyone would leave such a
performance before the last note was played is as much of a mystery
to me as the destination of the young woman on the blue motorcycle
that I saw on the way to the show. I will be thinking about this
show and the young woman for a long time to come.


Posted by Rolfyboy6 at 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2007

Welcome back, R.J.! By: Mo (4/07)

Aaaaah, man.....am I on a cloud today!
I could've worked a twelve hour today on one hour of sleep if I didn't put in for the day off already. That's how good it was. I am high as a kite from this show. I don't know why I bother with the beer and such at his shows because one surely does not need it with this guy and whatever band he throws together- it's all natural-high blues at its best.
RJ Mischo is worth using one of my paid holiday-credit days off for sure.
Shoot, I'm thinking of using one of my sick days just to go see him again tonight at Biscuits & Blues. At least I think he's there tonight.

From the starting gate to the finishing line, it was incredible.

RJ had "Kid" Anderson on guitar, Johnny Ace on bass, and Walter Shufflesworth on drums.
Just standing back and looking at this band, I quickly realized that this was gonna be one of those nights full of magic. It was.

It was great to see Walter again. I didn't think he was playing anymore because I hadn't seen his name around at all. The guy is the shuffle master.
Johnny on bass and this was a very solid rhythm section.

The Kid is soundin' really good these days. To listen to all his bits while backing RJ is a trip in itself. And then when they pull together to build the song up, it's just down right euphoric. One of these days your gonna catch me crawling on the floor because sometimes my knees get so weak from that shit I can barely stand. I've come close to it with a few bands and almost everytime with this guy- RJ and his bands.

You know me....Blues guitar junkie, but to hear RJs harp makes me love that Mississippi sax all the more.
He really played alot lastnight. More than past shows, it seemed. He really featured that harp playing and singing of his....and his voice is just about as sweet as it gets. The guy is just so smooth...so suave...so cool.....and speaking of "cool".... I picked up a CD of his lastnight and it is "Cool Disposition".
I love this CD of his and he has many!!
We were trying to listen to it on the way home and that damn player in my van is really acting screwy these days. But what I did hear was enough to make me say...."who the hell is that on that piano?!"

It was jumping out at me and we guessed Sid Morrison but come to find out this morning it's none-other-than Barrelhouse Chuck!!

What an awesome CD and my favorite by him thus far. But that don't mean much because I have only a couple of his out of the many he has. The guitar is really good on it too and it's Jeremy Johnson- WOWSERS!!!!

I don't know what else to say about RJ except .....RJ...I love ya! You are an awesome blues player, your stage presence is warm, your shows are genuine, and your bands are always the best. You can blow me the blues any ol' day. And then when you start singing and that band starts to jumpin' it's....it's....well....like I said before, don't be surprised if you see me crawlin' across the floor to you one of these ol' nights.

The house filled up with some very notable musicians but you know what.....?
only one guest would get up there all night and it would be Steve Kaufman to play harp and sing a couple. That was it. The momentum kept strong all night. They didn't need anybody although like I said....the musicians in the house were very notable. It was just too cool on stage, the chemistry and all, and to interrupt with guests would be a cryin' shame. I don't give a shit who sits in, on nights like this, and with a band like this, don't mess with a good thang.
Although, Steve Kaufman was great!!!

It ended all too soon and I was wishin' it was still goin' on as I sit here and write this. I'm listening to my new CD and number 14 is on and the guitar playing soundin' very famirial, I looked and it's Nick Moss playing!!
What a great CD!
Nick is on one track.

I'm outta here....I'm going to join some others on the street to welcome home a fallen soldier from our hometown of Rohnert Park here in Sonoma County. They are bringing him home today. When they do come home to Sonoma County, I always try to be there. It's a very sad thing but I feel I must. I just wish all our soldiers were coming home right now, on their feet, alive, and not in flag-draped caskets.
This thing they call "a war" (I like to call it an "occupation").... well...it really sucks.

RJ...thanks for a wonderful evening. It was the best and most satisfying evening I've had in a looong while.
I always feel this great after your shows and for that...I love ya!

Thank You Auggie, Gregg, and the Saloon crowd. The bestest, funkiest, smelliest, blues dive anywhere. Always one of my favorite places to hear the blues.


Posted by Mo at 04:08 AM | Comments (0)