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June 24, 2007

Bluestate Band at Tradewinds 6/23/07

I had one hell of a good time with the Bluestate Band at Tradewinds last night. This is one fine band with great musicians.

When I got there there were few people in the house. "Oh, oh, not one of those nights!" The place gradually filled up and the bar got a fine business.

The band sounded great right away, with a sound all their own based on smooth California jump blues, and the smooth vocals and harp of Greg Heumann. They play a bunch of songs that are rarely played these days. Their song selection sets them apart from a lot of bands these days. I swear, they play a Volker Strifler song!

Vince Caminiti is a very strong guitar player without being screaming, he really plays with taste and with an eye to the song. He seemed to consciously keep his guitar level down and not try to ovewhelm the band and audience. Nice vocals and backup too.

George Landreth is a fine keyboard player with strong solos and a great organ and piano tone. He too isn't trying to dominate and really works for the ensemble sound. The song's the thing.

Greg Heumann has really put together his own sound as a vocalist, frontman, and as a harp player. Woof, Woof. Treat me like a dog!

A great rhythm section anchored by crisp drummer Tom DiFiglio always plays inside the song while driving the dancers. Bassist Pat tinling kept grabbing me through the night with his exact groove and spot on support of the band.

By eleven o'clock the place was filled and the dance floor was full without being uncomfortable. Lots of the old 'regulars' were in the house and dancing up a storm. A treat for all of us was when Mike Emerson sat in for a couple of tunes and funked us way up. First time I've seen Shoeless Mike with black socks.

I just went on dancing and dancing and so did a lot other folks. Around 12:30 I sat down for a while and watched. People were really dancing hard. Around 1:00 suddenly a group of Space Invaders (you know the kind) arrived and began to drunkenly step on dancers feet and bump into other dancers. Knowing the signs several of us bailed and went home. My apologies to the band for not staying for the end.

A fine night of the blues by a band that's working on their own sound with roots in all the blues and who isn't afraid to sound like a California Blues Band with jazz and jump influences. I'll be back.

The Bluestate Band's website is here: Bluestate Band

Posted by Rolfyboy6 at 11:01 AM | Comments (2)

June 19, 2007

Russian River Blues Festival 2007

Russian River Blues Festival 6/16 and 6/17/2007

The morning fog was breaking up as I drove down the lower Russian River Valley through the vineyards and Redwoods to Guerneville. It had the look of a perfect but slightly hot day. I was early enough that traffic wasn’t snarled and I parked as always in the lot that the St. Elizabeth’s volunteers run behind the old firehouse. Wristbands and pack inspection were a snap, and I headed to the left side of the gold seating and got up close for a general admission price and set up on the gravelly sand bank. I spread on sun block but missed the sides of my feet.

Elvin Bishop opened the Festival with a great set. He was completely on and so was his band. Very tuneful and very “on.” Elvin did ”Fishin’” directly tied to the crowd who was standing in the water or out in canoes. Top rank slide guitar on a lot of the tunes. Ed
Early’s trombone and vocals sure do make this band sound unique. Mighty Mike Schermer was on rhythm guitar, and keyboard/accordion player Steve Willis really could make the band sound Cajun or Latin at will.

It was an almost full crowd by 2:00, but not packed.

”The Lowrider Band” made up of the members of the classic funk band ”War” (they can’t use the name, somebody else holds the copyright/trademark to it) was just as fine as can be on those great songs like “Cisco Kid He Was A Friend of Mine”, “Slipping Into Darkness”, and “The World Is A Ghetto.” Lee Oskar made his presence known with the ground
breaking funk harmonica playing on top of B.B. Dickerson’s great bass playing and vocals and Howard Scott’s great funk guitar and lead vocals. This is the very heart of the old band and they were magnificent. Women were dancing in the seats and aisles everywhere.

At the Wine Garden Stage, The Blues Defenders were playing hard and sounding really good the first half of the afternoon. Their shows were broadcast in the main stage area between sets. Later Roy Rogers played the Wine Stage just as funky as I’ve ever heard him play. Billy Lee Riley the drummer is a real asset to Roy’s show. In this setting it was really evident.

Wading and dunking in the cool river water was nice between sets and really helped keep body temperature down.

Koko Taylor was just as down home as she could be: a huge voice and no pretense at all. Koko seems back in health now and it was great to see her belting out and dancing on stage. “I’m A Woman” was an anthem and the ladies were boogie-ing with raised fists and the guys were cheering. “Wang-Dang-Doodle” was a treat.

Little Richard announced that it was very strange to be playing on Saturday as he keeps the original Sabbath and this was the first time he’d played on Saturday [side note: remember, this is Little Richard talking]. He proceeded to do almost entirely classic old time gospel numbers that everyone knows like “The Saints Go Marching In”, all
spelled with large amounts of Little Richard mugging and fooling around. It’s still Little Richard and he can make the phone book sound good. I’m not sure he can get away with a poor song selection set like this. It certainly wasn’t as good a set as he did nine months ago at the S.F. Blues Fest. Richard will be 75 this year and he doesn’t do much screaming now. He sure can sing. Like a lot of people, I really wanted much more than this. Guitar player Jerome Engelberts commented: “a set with 5 minute intervals where all he did was say "my, my, my", and not much of anything else, except lot's of "He's got the whole world in His hand" with accompanying booklets for your religious edification is probably NOT what people were coming to hear, and pretty self-indulgent. People were walking out on him.”

I had sunburn on the sides of my feet as I walked back to the car.

Sunday 6/17/07

Roy Rogers was less funky on Sunday on the big stage than he had been on Saturday. I’ve watched him over the years (but not recently) and his Sunday show was his “usual” presentation. Roy plays a lot of very similar licks and there’s not a lot of variation. I fool around with slide playing and it was hard not to notice that Roy was playing a lot of pretty similar sounds. I’ve seen Roy over perform for decades, as he’s a Northern Bay Area resident like myself. Billy Lee Lewis, the drummer, was working hard to add dynamics and variation to the sound.

Back on the Wine Garden Stage for the first half of the afternoon were the Blues Defenders sounding soulful and down in the alley. this band just keeps getting better and works together.

Bettye Lavette had the best show of the day with an outstanding simple soul show of great feeling and a band that had a lot of variation in its sound. Bettye has great songs and a powerful soul voice. A great band with powerful keyboard and fine background vocals playing backed her with great polish. Bettye sure can ache and spit. Her songs about “It Serves You Right” and “It’s Over” had the women cheering too.

The Kenny Wayne Shepard show was a pain with a rock power chord basis that had the casual fans that really wanted to see a rock show cheering and the blues fans beating their feet to the Wine Garden Stage. The show wasn’t much like his recent DVD that’s received a lot of notice. Several people commented on that at the festival, they wished he’d played stuff like on the DVD. While I waited it out I went and looked at the CDs at Blue Beat Music. When Hubert Sumlin was announced I went back to my seat and watched Kenny Wayne play a million notes and Hubert play with economy. It was funny watching Hubert cut him. As one lady said, “Kenny’s really cute, but he belongs on a southern rock show. I was tempted to call out for ”Freebird”! Hubert was great.

Lady Bianca's show on the Wine Garden Stage was great stuff. the great Steve Gannon was on Guitar and another Steve (apologies) was on drums. Bianca is so soulful and so fun at the same time it's a wonderful mix. She sure is a great piano player too, gospel/blues of almost Katie Webster quality. The place was usually full when she played, especially with older fans who weren't going for some of what was on the main stage. I'm glad she's recovered from her health problems, it's good to see her back.

Buddy Guy’s show was of medium strength. I’ve seen him do great and terrible shows. His playing was strong (although sometimes sloppy) early on and he did some good songs.

Buddy announced, "I forgot I'd done this one. It's on a box set somebody put out." He then launched into a powerful slow version of Otis Redding's "I've Got Dreams To Remember." Ice pick guitar licks and a sense of involvement with the tune that really got across to the audience. It was the high point of his show.

The second half of his show devolved into all those cute bits he’s used for years on rock crowds. I really don’t want to watch Buddy show how he taught all the Brit
rockers how to play by doing “Strange Brew” or watch him do the ”playing guitar with the drumstick” trick again. I’ve seen those over the years too many times. Alas, I doubt we’ll ever see Buddy as great as he was in the 60s and 70s. The greatness of the Chess, Delmark, and Vanguard recordings won't be seen again. He’s convinced that the casual fan wants the show flash and not the real playing. As his bits got really
cute I packed up and headed to the car.

On balance it was a good Festival, the new proprietors played it safe for their first time through, and got a bit let down by the headliners. The casual fans that the Festival depends on for ticket sales liked the Festival; the heavy blues fans were more critical.

While I like Little Richard’s fooling around, I also want to hear some of the songs that make Richard the Legend he is. Doing really simple gospel tunes was interesting, but except for the one blues ballad he did it was a pretty lame show for Richard. It appeared he felt he could buffalo the crowd—and it looked from the adulation he received
from the casual fans he could. Buddy Guy did play pretty well the first half of his show, but then the buffalo happened there too. Lots of casual fans were ga-ga over the schtick he’s been doing the last 25 years.

Posted by Rolfyboy6 at 06:36 PM | Comments (3)