« June 2007 | Main | August 2007 »

July 19, 2007

Wednesday Night Blues by: Mo (7/07)

Went down to Biscuits & Blues lastnight for one of my favorites around here- Ron Hacker & his Hacksaws!
It was a pretty good night. The drummer was the same as last time I saw them at Grant & Green a couple of months back. I heard this would be his 2nd or 3rd time playing with Hacker. In no way am I saying this was a terrible drummer like some will translate outta this. In all actuality he was good but just doesn't have that sound needed for this trio. Not yet anyway. I'm hopin' he can stick it out, lock himself in room with Hacker's Cds and just find that Hacksaw groove. Maybe some more gigs on a consistent basis or something.

Needless to say....I'm still on the prowl for that ultimate Hacker fix. Don't get me wrong....it was a pretty good night but to be honest, since Hacker's been back, I've yet to get that fix I'm so desperately looking for. I'll keep trying.
I do know the last time I saw Ronnie Smith on drums was when Hack just got back from back east. It was at Biscuits. Hack was a bit tight yet and needed to loosen up some. Since then I've seen Hacker 2-3 other times (one rare solo performance which was awesome!) and he's been on it with his guitar playin' but where's Ronnie?

People look at me like some crazy naggin' you-know-what when I continue to say this but there ain't nothin' like that magic that happens when you get AJ, Ronnie & Ron up there together on stage. There's no comparison. There's a chemistry, a magic that happens. A trio that needs nuthin' more. Ron's a unique individual with a unique sound and it ain't the same ol' 12 bar blues here. It takes a unique drummer that really knows this guy to fill them shoes.
All I can say is get a drummer that will be consistently there at the shows, make him listen to your CDs 'til he/she can't stand it no more and they come out playing that Hacksaw magic. I believe it's time to pullout the ol' rusty Hacksaw and do some Hacksaw initiation.
I do know one thing..... it don't take no massive drum kit to get that sound. The simpler the better. It just takes someone who can tune into the Hacksaw madness and that knows Hack & AJ.
AJ got in one his killer trademark bass solos lastnight. Now that guy is amazing!! I swear it seems he carries the whole show at times.

As the night was ending there, I was hopin' for a solo song or two from Ron to take us home. I was thinking of that solo set he did at Last Day Saloon not so long ago and it was so cool to hear him in that setting. A rare treat.

We left there and headed for North Beach. It was Chris Cobb. I think we got a few songs in before they took a break and we left. All I've got to say is that song "Laundromat Blues" was what I'm always on the prowl for. Chris' guitar was yankin' at my heartstrings and then he cut loose into his trademark million notes a minute and let 'er rip!!!
The guy is amazing but when he slows it down and takes his time- it's euphoric. It's so sweet it'll bring a tear to your eye. It pulls and tugs in all the right places. Then he'll rip into the aggressive style that'll bring you from tear-jerker broken hearted blues to pissed off "get-the-hell-outta-my-life" blues. It was incredible listening to all the emotions wrapped up in just one song.
Great song and it was the take of the whole night for me.
Stan Erhart sang it and Chris played it.
Man can that guy play!!!

Pretty good night of blues.
I'm hopin' to get out and hear John Nemeth today at the KRSH backyard party in Santa Rosa. After that....not sure what to do as far as the blues goes. We'll see.


Posted by Mo at 04:07 PM | Comments (0)

Tuesday Night Blues in San Fran! By; Mo (7/07)

Got the boy home on leave for two weeks from Iraq and it's been great. Sort of like a big load has been lifted off of me if not just for two weeks. I took a couple of weeks off to be here at home with him. Not that he's home hardly but just to see him runnin' in & out, getting out of bed at noon, his mess everywhere, I thought I would never be happy to have it all back again! I hug him every chance I get.

So, after cooking some of Brian's favorite foods, he was gone for the night and I decided to get on out and down to the City for some weeknight blues, baby!
I tried to get him to go with us but no go. I really want him to see Daniel Castro at least once. I just know he would like him a lot.
Daniel was playing at Lou's and a set was in order before we headed for the Saloon for Lisa Kindred. I was very excited to finally catch up to her once again. It had been too long.
Got to the wharf, parked down the street and around the corner from Lou's, and I'll be damned if you couldn't hear Daniel's guitar ringin' through the salty air down Jefferson street. It was most inviting. Like following the Pied Piper, we walked as if in a trance, following that magical guitar to Lou's.

Walked up and scoped out the band.
He had a couple of new people with him. The drummer, Michael Messin'....Messinger...I can't remember but I do know that he was makin' a "mess" outta them drums!! And I mean that a good way. the guy was great!!
The keyboardist was even more awesome just don't ask me his name. I do know he was bald and his playin' was beautiful! Yep...Bald & beautiful.
I wanna say John Hancock?? Maybe Jim?
We had the tried and true Glade on bass and this band here was soundin' great!
Probably the best make-up band I've heard with Daniel yet.
Real nice sound and needless to say we stayed for just one more set after the first. Just couldn't pull away. Daniel was on fire as usual.

After that we went to the Saloon for Lisa Kindred. The place was a hoppin' on & off while we were there. The band sounded great, Lisa's singin' and stage presence even better.
Need to get down there more on a Tuesday night for her. Always a great show. There's a real nice down-home feel with her. Her band is always tops but mainly the show is about her. Her voice- it's calming, soothing and just feels good. She's Angelic or something. Maybe it's the aura that surrounds her. I think if she put her hand on my head, looked at me and told me everything was gonna be alright, I'd believe it, I would feel it, I would be healed.

Had some real fun dancers on the floor. A bunch from Minnesota and what a crazy bunch they were. Not too many can pull my attention away from the band stand area but one managed. I think I feel in love for moment there. Ok...Ok...maybe it was lust I'm not sure, but the mood was right, the music, the company, the closeness, it was just what I needed. Very comfortable. Then before I knew it, he hugged me tight, kissed me on the forehead, said "I Love You, Thank-you & have a good life", and then he was gone. I felt so abandoned for a second and then I snapped out of it and got back to reality and to the business at hand- The Blues!!
Never, in all the times I've been out, had that happen before.
I think his name was Ken ;-)

Didn't get to hear much of Lisa except for one awesome set. Gotta get down there again soon for more of her and that great band.
What a nice evening in the city. Gonna try and do it again tonight. Get it while the gettin's good or at least while I'm on vacation.


Posted by Mo at 04:06 PM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2007

Ron Hacker & Daniel Castro in Santa Rosa by: Mo (6/07)

So here it is Friday. Made it through that burn-out work day, stopped for a sandwich, got home and tried to take a nap before the "show we've been waiting for" started with Ron Hacker and Daniel Castro!!
It was just up the corridor a few miles and was a must.
I hate when you're so tired that you just lay there, wheels spinnin', plus the excitement of the show that was coming, all those factors that won't let you sleep were happening to me at that moment.
Did manage an hour or so, drank a pot of coffee that wasn't touching me except for a racing heart, and headed north to the Last Day Saloon for the show.
So, anyway...I saw the listing a few weeks back and it was careful to say, "Daniel Castro with special guests".
Ok...ok...I've been warned.
But I had a feeling about this one. Especially with Ron Hacker opening with a solo set!!
That alone is reason enough for me to go.

I know I'm not the only fan to say that a whole night of just Daniel Castro and band is something we hold dear up here in the North Bay. Shoot, the Flamingo is not everyone's favorite places to go dancing, and probably not the favorite to play, but those nights there with Danny and band were the best!!
I loved those shows.
Something healing about them. Maybe an occasional guest but it was mostly Daniel and band. Man, is he amazing.
Yep, I had a feeling it would turn out great and it was.

Starting up was Ron Hacker. He sat in the chair and sitting next to him were his guitars. He pulled out his little wooden duct-taped one and that was my favorite of all. He went through all them, a few songs off each, but that little woody was the best!

What an airhead I am, huh?
Sorry, but as a music appreciator and just a listener, I can't explain what guitar is what. I leave that up to the musicians, wanna- be's and techie people. I just like to hear it and watch the way it all comes together on stage. The feeling of it all. I would never, or want be, a performer but you can bet I sure am a listener and appreciator.
It amazes me how each person in a band can play something and then everybody comes together to make this music. The way it just flows to create this tune that is saying something without speaking. There are no language barriers or nothing. Not just blues of course but all music. Can't imagine life without. I'm sure all around the world agree.

But this guy here didn't need a band to say what he had to say. Just his guitar and him up there sittin' all alone. Must of felt lonely up there with the crowd seated way in the back where you couldn't see them because of the lights, so I went up close to watch and sorta dance.
Rolf came soon after and a few others. Hack- you are amazing. To hear you in a solo setting is a real treat. It's not so crowded and one can hear it all clearly and you have much to say on that guitar!
There was one point when he was really tearin it up and he came unplugged!
It was so cool. The guy was just a tearin' it up so much he knocked it out. I think that's more impressive than breaking a string, don't you?
I remember the days when we kids thought that really showed what a badass they were when they broke strings tearin' it up on stage. Pretty funny thinkin' about it now. Gotta love that live stuff.

But ol' Ron just went with it, we all cheered him on, he plugged back in and almost jumped right back to where he was tearin' it up. I say "almost" because it would be impossible to instantly go back to where he had built up to. He always goes somewhere when he's playin but it's not here on earth. Almost trance like. I always wonder what's going on in his head when he goes there.
That's all I can say about Hack. Gotta love the guy. Hopin' to catch him with his Hacksaws (AJ & Ronnie) real soon to get that other side of a Hack Attack!

Up next was Danny and company.
He just so awesome. But before I forget and I know I won't, but that Glade on bass is becoming quite the bass player extraordinaire these days. WOW!!
The way he plays off and on with Daniel is a blast to watch and hear . All sorts of fillers all the while keeping that big bass beat going in the foundation.
He has really gotten good. I especially notice it with just the trio bit and that's what we had on this night. Daniel had a different drummer that was good. Totally different style than T Moran but it worked just fine. A bit faster and man was he anxious. He sounded good but I can't remember who he is. I know Shauna mentioned him in her post.

They were having a lot of fun up there and catching some of that energy was just what I wanted.
Hacker sat in for a few songs in the first set and that was it. They were tearin' it up up there the two of them. I loved the chemistry between them.

What a great night. Even as tired I was I stuck it out. Headed to In & Out because I was starved. Sat in the Drive-thru with a car load of drunken kids in front of me. One kept getting in & out to collect change off the ground or something. Then they opened the hatch and out fell a kid who just started puking everywhere!
That was appetizing. The driver seemed sober so I laughed it off.
Why anyone drunk would lay in the back of a hatchback is beyond me. No seatbelt, no seat, just layin' back there. I would be carsick without drinkin'!

Had a great weekend of blues and I thank you fine musicians out there for it. Thanks to the venues that hire them and as always, it's always great to see all those familiar, and not so familiar, blues lovin' faces.

Posted by Mo at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)

Thursday Blues-Freund Style! by: Mo (6/07)

A Freund fix was much needed. It had been awhile and I hear his Saloon gigs are incredible these days.
Couldn't get Friday off but I decided I can do this. Hell, used to do it all the time goin' out on school nights sleeping two hours before going into work. That's exactly what happened too. Got to bed around 2:30 am just to wake at 4:30 am and do a full days work. It went smooth with the aide of Freund's guitar still ringin' in my ears.
My partner at work wasn't offering much sympathy saying only, "Sorry Mo. if you play you gotta pay".
"Gee, thanks pal. Next time I'll call in sick on your ass", I said jokingly. I could never do that though. I hate calling in sick although I've got the days. Just too much guilt. But my partner was right and I wasn't looking for sympathy because it was well worth it!
I can handle it if the show turns out so good that just the adrendiline rush from it keeps me going through out the day. Nothing worse than losing sleep over a crappy show.

I didn't send out the roadtrip call to the gang cuz I wasn't even sure if I was going. Rolf was interested and I figured if I cancelled at the last minute, he would understand. But we went and by golly I am so glad we did.

What a great night of blues guitar and one awesome band to back him.
He had Robi Bean on drums and Burton Winn on bass. What a trio!!
I'm sorry but Robi is absolutely one of the best drummers around.
Sure, there are many great drummers but that Robi is just phenomenal.

Steve's playing just gets more interesting with each time I see him. It has all this unpredictable stuff going on. All the twists, turns, doing stuff that stops you dead in your tracks just to catch a glimpse of it. He just throws stuff out there and takes all sorts of risks these days. It's refreshing. I say , "these days" because I remember some years ago, a few of us went to see him at the Boom Boom Room. I do believe it was my first time seeing him but had heard of him. We went and it was OK. Just OK.
The crew I was with thought he was too melancholy, too laid back, too tired. It just didn't reach out and grab ya. Let's just say it was a totally different Steve Freund than the one we hear today. And yes, to a certain extent, I had to agree with them. But I always loved going to hear him. There was something about his playing, his voice, it was just so relaxing. So, I kept going to his shows and then one night it happened, I think at the Ivy Room, he just stepped up and started throwing in some really different licks. I can't explain this stuff but he just started bringing it up a whole nother level. It became more intense, he was taking more risks that always paid off. It was a transformation happening before my very own eyes, and ears, that was exciting. Now, I'm just talking his Live shows.
There's much to be said about live shows for all bands. It's more spontaneous, players stretch it out more and take more risks. There are many a live shows I wish I had on record. Something about the studio makes musicians feel they have to be more restrained. I don't know, just an observation.

At any rate....what a great night. The crowd was attentive and appreciative. Some fun dancers and well behaved.
Steve Kaufman got up and did some really good harp playing and singing. I love his style. With each time I see him he gets better and I don't think it's just from "growing on ya" kind of deal. He really seems to be getting better and better.

I was gonna bail after the second set because it was waaay past my bedtime and 4am was approaching fast. I sat at the bar enjoying my water when Jack sat next to me and we got to talkin'. Needless to say, I was still there for the third set. I am so glad I stayed because three songs into the third set he did a KILLER instrumental that was to die for. He then invited Shauna up to sing and it was great to finally hear her. That was it....I found Rolf and asked if it was OK to go now and we left. I felt bad pulling him away from his sitting out outside the door and carding the pretty young ladies deal but I was dead on my feet at this point.

Thank you Steve and gang for one healing evening.
You are the best.
Thank you Saloon for you are the bestest, funkiest, blues dive around!


Posted by Mo at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2007

Gettin' My Blues Groove Backwith Bluestate! by:mo (7/07)

It feels good to be gettin' out to hear some live blues on a regular basis once again. At times, it's like kickin' myself in the ass to get out the door but once out.....it's great.
Big things have been goin' on at home, and in my head, that has more or less kept me at home other than working. We won't go into it because it's a lot of Non -Blues content although it's filled me with plenty of blues. So, I stayed home for a year and a half or so just to get my head back. It's been hell but we all have our own little hell so I'm not complainin'. Things are getting better and now it's time to do some final healing with this great blues scene we are fortunate to live in.

I never felt like I needed to get out there and "Save the blues" or try to "keep the blues alive" because it'll never go anywhere. How can the blues die? It's just not possible.
I know it'll always be there when I'm ready to get out again. That's the beauty of it.
Nope, the blues will never die.

This band I saw a couple of weeks ago at Tradewinds reassured me of that!
I noticed they emerged during my hiatus this last year and a half or so ago and I kept seeing their name everywhere, and yes....I even heard they were "decent". So, this being their third time or so at the 'winds, I decided to venture the mile down the road to check them out!
Did I forget to mention the name? if you haven't guessed already who they are the name is..... Bluestate.

What a refreshing band! From the opener to the end, it was non-stop blues.
What I loved most was their song list. The kind of stuff that had you really diggin in your head thinkin, "oh yeah, I know that song. Who does that again?'
Songs you don't hear covered very often, if ever.
To hear them cover Volker's song was awesome. That clepto song by Larry Garner was fun. My favorite was the opening number because "how can the blues make you feel sad when it's the best ol' feeling I ever had". I just love that song. Couldn't tell you who does it, but I've got it on a compilation cassette someone gave me years ago.
( I have since been reminded that it's Albert Cummings' 'The Blues Makes Me Feel So Good' - Thanks ;-)

The singing was tops. I love that guy's voice. His harp and sax was done with style too. The keys were right on and he even did some horn section bits on those keys.
The guitar was superb although.....and you know what I'm gonna say.....not enough of it.
Actually, there wasn't enough of anything and too much of all.
Let me clarify here....
There was never a moment when the players got to really stretch out. EACH song featured a tiny solo from EACH player and that was it. Mini-jams, if you will but much tighter. There were a few times when the guitar was just gettin' there, built up, almost there and then it ended. Just like that!
It's like being dropped off a cliff or something. I guess you could call it a "cliff hanger".
Like getting ready to climax and your partner says...."That's it, I'm done". Talk about frustrating!!!
The same for those awesome keys and even the harp playing, that was superb.
Then, as I was standing there, I was saying to myself that this is one restrained band. Rolf later told me that his theory was that it's about the song, not the hot guitar solos so on & so forth....I say, that's cool but at least feature an artist for a song every now and then just to let them cut loose and show us what they've got. I don't know about you but I really want to see.
Other than that....tight, tight band with nice arrangements, great vocals, nice song list, but just another cover band unless they step it up a notch and feature some of that awesome talent they are fortunate to have in this band.

The buzz during breaks was, "Who are these guys and where did they come from?". Many blues regulars were there and I had thought everyone had seen them before and that I was the only one who hadn't. After all....this wasn't their first time up here. But come to find out, a lot of the blues regulars had never heard this band before. Everyone loved them and they made some new fans on this night no doubt.
I know one thing....restrained or not, I'll be out seeing them again!
Thank You Bluestate. You have reassured me that the blues will never die when bands like yours emerge and take the reigns.
Thank you Tony of the Tradewinds for having them.


Posted by Mo at 08:51 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2007

Hayward/Russell City Blues Fest, Sat. July 7, 2007

“How long, baby how long,
Has that evening train been gone?
How long, how how long, baby how long?

Went to the station, didn't see no train.
Down in my heart, I felt an aching pain.
How long, how how long, baby how long?”

The hair rose on the back of my neck and I was transported back to those flatlands and the sound of the IC train trains in the night. Pinetop Perkins took me way back to Down Home, Daddy’s 78s, Daddy noodling on the piano, the juke boxes in the stores and restaurants, WLAC in the night. I don’t even know whose version I heard first, Ray Charles or B.B. King, or Jimmy rushing or Joe Turner?

“How long, Baby how long
Must I keep my, my watch in pawn?
How long, how how long, Baby how long?

It’s a Blues Festival Rule: It’s either too hot or too cold. As I drove south out of the interior valleys of Sonoma County the Pacific was striking back against the hot air of the interior of California. Pearly fog clouds were scudding in through the Golden Gate and the low passes of the coastal mountains and the air was fresh and cool and the sky was gray. From experience I knew the ripples in the clouds meant they’d break up and as I went south the clouds began to break up. The sun was shining and warming in Hayward as I pulled into the municipal garage.

Grabbing my pack I heard the Gospel opening act sounding mighty good and the “festival music mode” came over me. The ticket sellers and takers at this festival are always fun and easy to flirt or josh with. My pack was somehow checked without a big deal being made. I slipped easily into the front grass as the place wasn’t packed. I’d been afraid of this: the fantastic lineup was made up of stars of Chicago that a lot of casual fans didn’t know. The crowd would grow over the day, but it was never a mob scene.

The Gospel group “endurance” has a powerful pair of lead singers and they were going hard at pumping the crowd with great success. They did fine inspirational numbers with festival-appropriate low denominational content and stirred the crowd. I kind of kicked myself for being late to their show.

Craig Horton in a smashing yellow gig suit got right to the point with the blues. His guitar playing was really biting and he did some of his best tunes. Fronting a great band of the mighty Henry Oden on Bass, veteran Steve Gannon on guitar, and “Peanuts” on drums it was a lot of fun and the crowd responded to “Elizabeth”, “I’m Leaving You Baby”, and his other songs, especially “Find Another Fool”. A great version of “Every Day I Have the Blues” kind of set the mood of being in the grand tradition of the Blues the whole day would have. Craig had that Arkansas juke joint feel.

Next up was one of the artists I’d made the long drive for: Taildragger. I’d wanted to see him for a while. I’d read of him playing the bars of Chicago and got that he was one of that second tier of Chicago blues performers who’s claim to fame was showmanship. “Howlin’ Wolf is said to have given him his nickname (the
Wolf wasn’t using it at the time). I was pretty sure this was the only chance I’d get to see him. A wonderfully powerful and joking YouTube video of Taildragger working a Chicago bar (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aw2FyVzj3Kw) had further whetted my appetite to see him. Resplendent in a taupe Western cut suit and cowboy hat; he made it clear that ham with red eye gravy was on the menu today. The man on the video had come to perform Live And On-Stage.

Having moved around the stage and schmoosed the crowd with the mic as the Sons of the Blues set up behind him (more on them in a minute), his grandfatherly body just a bit stiff, he was handed a folding chair and he sat for the next few songs. The opener had a really, really deep Muddy Waters/1950s Chicago pulse, the band was slamming it. Taildragger sang, “It’s So Easy To Be Misled.” The pulse never let up. After a few fine numbers Taildragger proved you can’t keep a natural ham down and proceeded to crowd walk with the wireless mic. “My Head is Bald” got a big workout and the Taildragger received the kind of laughing acclaim he came for.

The Sons of the Blues Reunion were Billy Branch’s band at the start of his climb to fame and what a band! Lurrie Bell and Carl Weathersby are one hell of a pair of guitar players and the other members were also Chicago stars with Nick Charles on bass, Mose Rutues on drums, and someone I hadn’t heard of, Ariyo on piano. Ariyo (http://www.gapersblock.com/detour/blues_with_a_feeling/ Sumito Ariyoshi ) is Japanese, played in Jimmy Rogers’ band, and now plays a lot with Billy Branch. I’m impressed; he played the rhythm parts and let the guitar players and Billy roam.

Who was I going to watch was my problem—Billy on harp? Lurrie on really deep rhythm guitar with switching off to some leads? Carl Weathersby playing leads, showing off, playing slide guitar some times, switching off to rhythm? I tried to watch everybody all at the same time, I was afraid I’d miss something. I’ve wanted to see Lurrie Bell a long time and here he was. Carl Weathersby is a favorite of mine. And since seeing
Billy Branch last year I just can’t get enough of his harp playing (I’m not an automatic harmonica fancier).

The SOBs stayed up on the stand and backed Big Time Sarah, another mainstay of the Blues in Chicago. Sarah made it clear from the beginning that she wasn’t the shy retiring type. A huge alto voice delivered from deep in her trunk (just the way vocal teachers tell you) delivered “Wang Dang Doodle” and other big songs like “I Don’t Need no Man (telling me what to do)” were in the classic style going all the way back to Ma Rainey. “I’m a Woman” was hot too. I guess I’d really missed something the night before at the Bistro Jam since she said she wasn’t gonna do “Hootchy Kootchy Woman” like she had the night before -since there were kids in the audience. I still had to fan myself after she was done.

I was beginning to see that there were simply too many great musicians on stage at the same time for those big moments to happen for each. Lurrie Bell was powerful, yet looked like he was a bit restrained by the format. Carl Weathersby was also not really pushing for any sustained solos or front time; there simply wasn’t space for too much of that. I contented myself with the knowledge I was at least being able to see them at all, and enjoyed those moments when they were able to bring their best to the fore.

John Primer was another one I’d made the long drive for and it was completely worth it. A veteran of the Chicago bars and Willie Dixon’s, Muddy Waters’ and Magic Slim’s bands, John was just as witty and pointed in his playing and singing as I’d hoped for. Backed by members of the Caravan of Allstars, he had what was probably the best set of the day with a solo performance that was all just plain blues done right. Songs, singing, and guitar playing -all put together just right. I’d wanted to see him for a long time and he delivered. Great stage presence without hamming it up, he has a wry way or bringing it to the audience, just like he knows and we know that it’s all life’s joke on us all. I want to see him more. This was probably the best set of the day; -it was the one that was the least musically crowded—though the level of the day’s sets was very, very high throughout. The great Willie “Big Eyes” Smith on drums, and Henry Oden on bass enhanced the high quality of this set. A great rhythm section.

“How long, Baby how long
Must I keep my, my watch in pawn?
How long, how how long, Baby how long?

In the open back stage area a tent had been put up as the Artist’s Lounge “Green Room”. Many of the musicians had gone in and out of the tent. This Festival has no real restricted backstage area, it’s always been open and friendly and the artists hang out and talk to people a lot. The “green room” tent is near the beer and food concessions and there’s a lot of through traffic. A lot of the musicians talked to friends and sold CDs and signed autographs around the stone sides of the little garden/fountain the stage projecting back out from under from the stage scaffolding.

Pinetop Perkins had been quietly delivered to the green room tent from a car and was in a wheel chair. Pinetop had been on the road for several days and had just flown down from Portland. He rested in the tent; most of the other musicians went to the backstage sides of the stage. When it was time for the next set his manager Pat Morgan wheeled him out of the tent and started for the stage. Pinetop looked limp, very worn, 93 years old, and worth worrying about. He had on a nice suit and hat. As his manager wheeled him toward the stage two fans of the hyper-enthusiastic type fastened upon him and didn’t listen to the manager’s protests that Pinetop needed to be left alone for a few minutes to gather energy to play. The fans were oblivious. “I just want to talk to Pinetop! I think he’s wonderful!” The manager’s protests went unheeded, “I just want to talk with Pinetop!” Both peppy fans appeared to be among those for whom enthusiasm is everything and discretion is meaningless, like people in high school mascot outfits. Pinetop gave a gentle smile and turned even father inward.

Managing to get disengaged, Pinetop was wheeled to the very start of the stage ramp, slowly pulled himself erect as he was announced, and carefully made his way up the short ramp and was slightly helped to the grand piano.

From this I thought that I was going to see the ghost of a legend. I was happy for even this, but I had no expectations of anything beyond seeing him and honoring his past accomplishments.

I was wrong.

From the first note of the swinging intro “Chicken Shack,” even over the crowd noise it was clear he still had his touch. His hands were quick and fast and the years rolled back.

With “How Long Blues” Pinetop made the hair stand up on the back of my neck and the sound was one I thought I’d never hear again; the sound that stretches back to the Depression. The sound of the “piano professors.” Pinetop has a light touch and his time and phrasing are outstanding. His handling of ‘stride’ left hand technique and bluesy dissonant right hand technique was impressive.

The ‘band number’ was “Got My Mojo Working” and was a lot of fun. The Sons of the Blues did a fine job backing and keeping out of the way of the rapidly expanding adulation of Pinetop.

“How Long? How Long?
Must I keep my watch in pawn?
How long, how how long, baby how long?”

For me, it brought up the sound of the Illinois Central blowing in the night on its way south to Memphis or north to Chicago when I was a kid, --that lonesome faraway sound. Pinetop’s voice is down to a mellow purr, but his phrasing is as good as it gets. Pinetop led the band through five or six strong numbers never flagging in the least. The crowd went nuts. It was really great stuff.

At some signal (Pinetop looked a bit regretful at stopping) the music stopped and the Birthday Party/Honors began. A large number of people wanted to be on stage and have their picture taken with Pinetop and there were about eight proclamations from every political body in the State of California, even Ahnold. The Coca-Cola distributor gave Pinetop a Coke clock. A couple of local politicians made speeches with all the usual words. Pictures were taken of all possible combinations and sincere smiles were the order of the day. Pinetop sat in his chair with a gentle amused look on his face and was gracious. He looked like he knew what the drill was. When it was time to go he was ready and was gone. Thanks Pinetop, maybe I’ll get to see you again where you play and I listen.

Billy Branch and The Sons of the Blues had a two-hour set, which had spotlights on Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell, Carl Weathersby, Kenny Neal, and Joe Louis Walker. I’m a fan of all of them and I enjoyed them all—and of course there was too little time and inevitably too many on stage.

I was already familiar with Carl Weathersby and he sure can play a whole lot of fine guitar. I remain convinced that there hasn’t been a CD yet that’s caught what he really can do. Carl seeing that there were so many people on stage did little fills and used his slide to vary up the sound, as well as contributing solid rhythm. His sense of humor and

Lurrie Bell made a convert out of me and in the very few spaces available to him played incandescent licks. His rhythm guitar playing was totally in the pocket and had that deep Chicago feel that’s getting rare these days. Lurrie didn’t look very comfortable with the mass herd on stage, but played enough to show I gotta hear more! I love that he plays with his fingers (like Carl), the way I first learned; wish I could play like him. He has that intensity.

Billy Branch is a wonderful harp player with a smooth tone that really appeals. A fine singer he has that “leadership on stage” quality that goes with the ‘harpslinger’ harp belt he wears. Watching him switch harp keys easily where other harpists are digging around for the right key showed me an organized guy. Then he’d play a great solo and he was so much more. Another musician I want to see more of.

Kenny Neal played one song on harp and sang and was his fine self, it’s good to see him looking good. Joe Louis Walker played some great guitar on stage and limited himself to a cameo while showing he can burn.

This was a fine festival day with so many top musicians on stage that all one can do is say “I’ll watch for them all to do their own three hour club gig.” There’s no way that this show could do more than whet the thirst and the appetite. Really, the best in the business were up there on stage and it was almost impossible to take it all in. I was sorry that family commitments would keep me from the Sunday Festival show.

As I carried my pack around the back of the stage toward my car, I passed Carl Weathersby politely waiting on a disheveled obsessed fan who obviously had to get every single performer’s signature on his festival poster. As I passed Carl I said, “I’m sorry Mr. Weathersby, I don’t have anything for you to sign and I already bought the CDs.” He gave me the “Get on witcha!” hand flip and we grinned at each other.

Posted by Rolfyboy6 at 04:35 PM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2007

Roger Hurricane Wilson at the Tradewinds 7/6/07

I went down to the Tradewinds in Cotati knowing I'd be leaving early. I wanted to catch some of Roger Hurricane Wilson. Walking in the back door I discovered the 'Winds was still set up for daytime with the tables on the dance floor and the TV still on over Roger's head and no band lights turned on. Roger was playing great and had a fine sound.

After a while I just pushed the tables to the sides where they usually go and recruited Dwight to turn on the band lights. A bartender I'd never seen before responded to my request and turned off the panel TV right over Roger's head. I'm still curious why nobody who worked there noticed.

Roger was playing hot and smooth with a great variety of rhythms and sound. A fantastic guitarist, he's really versatile.

There were only a few people there. The Tradewinds didn't promote this show, they only got their July calendar up today --a week late.

Standing at the back with drummer Gary Silva, we both dug the sound, and both of us felt uncomfortable with what we were seeing of the Tradewinds itself. The place just isn't what it used to be. Few of the great framed posters are left. The juke box with the local CDs is gone. Beer company mirrors are the "decor" now. Two pool tables now taking up much more space. Thank goodness for the old knotty pine walls.

Roger played on hitting great solos and doing a masterful job entertaining the small group of people there.

All of downtown Cotati was dead. From time to time people would show up and then leave again as no one was dancing.

Roger Hurricane Wilson deserves better than this. He plays again at the friendly Black Cat in Penngrove Sunday night.

Posted by Rolfyboy6 at 07:08 AM | Comments (0)