25th Feb2014

Buddy’s Got the Blues at Legends

by rockchicago

 

So, as it goes in the windy city of big shoulders, the city of the blues, every year, our king of the blues comes back home for a few week stay to play at his own club ” Buddy Guy’s Legends.” Although all the homeys return year after year for a show , his presence tends to draw a new crop of tourists for each sold out show.  I have seen Buddy metamorphasize throughout the past forty years and change his sound and playing style to the point where he is now. He has been influenced by his rock contemporaries that have been influenced by him . He has become a more aggressive and angry soloist over the years adding lightning fast riffs and stocato rhythms to his playing repertoire . The crowd and virgin audiences always seem to love him no matter how he plays. His smile is inviting and infectious and he has an aura about him that makes him a true entertainer and star. However, being a musician tends to make me a little more critical of individual performances and the show that I attended on January 30th, although quite entertaining, I have noticed a sloppiness to the legend himself. It might be his 77 year old fingers moving faster than his mind or vice-versa, but during his grandstanding walk around the audience, he tended to go off on super sonic tangents that didn’t fit his suave demeanor and hit a few clams in the travels. His warm-up act Linsey Alexander did the same crowd walk with flavor and taste and committment to the art form of the blues, and was a perfect compliment and contrast to Buddy. However, I feel that Buddy rocked it up and slopped it up a notch to a level that I have never witnessed in Buddy’s style. I prefer his un-adulterated blues rock styles of “Damn Right I Got The Blues” recording or stepping back to his playing on ” Hold That Plane”. Not that I am a purist, but like a lot of old folk, change is hard to come by, and being a lover of Buddy’s guitar playing, my preference is for the more melodic than manic. I guess it was just one show, so I will have to just go see and enjoy him again next time.

Reviewed by Earl Rosen

31st Jan2013

Chicago’s The Drunk Whisperers Turn Up the Volume

by rockchicago

The local Chicago band “The Drunk Whisperers” celebrated their CD debut release party before an over flow crowd at Las Palmas restaurant in Mundelein on 18th. The Quartets recording consists of Peter Quinn on Vocals, Harmonica and Rhythm Guitar, Harry Reinhart on Vocals and Guitar, John Rice on Guitar, Dobro, Fiddle, Banjo and Bass, and Jim Murray on Vocals and Percussion.  Four of the tracks were penned by Quinn. “Don’t Come Running Back” (track two) with Rice. Quinn teams up with his long time song writing collaborator Chris Wallisch on “Cry Just a Little” (track seven)and “Shout Love” (track eleven), the latter of which also includes assistance from fellow Jump N’ the Saddle founding member, Piano player David Roberts, and “Zydeco” (track four), co-written with Bill Brophy.  Accordion player John Williams and Backing Vocalist Lyndsey Baker also contributed to the recording as well.

Chicago area native Quinn has been performing in the local music landscape for nearly 40 years, going back to his days with The Rio Grande Band in the mid 1970’s, and as the front man for The Jump N’ the Saddle Band, which debuted on January 1st, 1977 at the La Lira Bar and Restaurant in Highwood, and became a staple in the Chicago area club scene in the late 70’s through the mid 80’s. He has written and recorded many songs over that time, which include charming ballads such as “Sarah”, on the debut Jump N’ the Saddle record, The Drunk Whisperers “Don’t Come Running Back”, and my personal favorite “You Look A lot Like She Did’, which appeared on the Live “Jump” release in 1981. Peter’s most famous recording was the 1983 novelty song “The Curly Shuffle”.

The Singer, Harmonica player, Rhythm Guitarist, Song Writer and part time Amateur Psychologist, is responsible for the coining of the band’s name “The Drunk Whisperers”, a name attributed to Quinn for his ability to calm down an inebriated and rowdy club patron one evening by “whispering something in his ear”. Story has it the man then calmed down and quietly left the premises. Quinn won’t share with me what he said to have such a calming effect, claiming Patient/Rocktor privileges. Peter currently participates in The Drunk Whisperers, the duo The Harry-Peter Project with Reinhart, an occasional Skip Towne and the Greyhounds date pops up once in a while, and even an all to rare Jump N’ the Saddle reunion happens now and then as well. Quinn has also participated in a few shows over the past year in a band called “The Hickafires”, and recently performed in a tribute to Hank Williams at SPACE in Evanston, commemorating the sixty year anniversary of Mr. Williams death. Peter contributed lead vocals on the Williams classics “Hey Hey Good Lookin’” and “Jambalaya”. The evening’s program was coordinated by another Jump N’ the Saddle founding member, Slide Pedal Steel player Tommy Furlong. Additionally, “Jump” alumnus, Don Steirnberg  performed on Mandolin in the show.

Reinhart himself is not known for letting the grass grow under his feet. Besides the contributions mentioned above, the Guitarist and Singer performs with his wife Patti Miller in the long running band Midnight, as well as his power trio known as Traffic Jam, whose covers of bands such as Traffic, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and more from that era can get old rockers goin’ on a Saturday night. All this while maintaining a full time job. My only beef with Traffic Jam is that they don’t play enough gigs over the course of the year. Reinhart sings a nice cover version of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” (track five) on The Drunk Whisperers CD. One of Reinhart’s career highlights was performing lead Guitar on National Television in May of 2011 with his daughter Haley on the program American Idol, getting rare permission from the band Led Zeppelin to perform their song “What Is, And What Should  Never Be”. Haley, a burgeoning Jazz/Pop Vocalist in her own right, finished third in that year’s American Idol competition.

The disc opens with Quinn’s powerful vocals on a rendition of Johnny Cash’ “Folsom Prison Blues”. A spirited version of the 1957 Jesse Stone and Roy Hamilton song “Don’t Let Go” is second. “Iko Iko”, the long time Grateful Dead live show staple, comes in at number six. The Willie Dixon written tune “I Just Want to Make Love to You”, made famous by Muddy Waters and Foghat respectively, comes in on the eighth track, and Percussionist Jim Murray contributes lead vocals on the enjoyable ninth track “Come On Get Higher”. Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” is covered on track ten. The bands versatile, multi instrumentalist John Rice wrote the twelfth and final track “Polk Salad Surgery”.  Long time Quinn Jump N’ the Saddle Band and Skip Towne comrade Tom “Shoes” Trinka stopped by to play some Saxophone on the classic Blues standards “I’m Ready” and “Not Fade Away” as well this night, adding even more energy to an already revved up crowd at the CD release party. So if you’re looking to hear some good music, and join a crowd of friendly folks doing the same, keep an eye open for The Drunk Whisperers at a club near you.

Reviewed by Patrick Kinsella on 1/18/13

09th Jan2013

Nick Bell Brings His “Old Soul” to A New Generation

by rockchicago

Kevin Pollack, the manager of the Nick Bell Band, invited me to their gig at Player’s Pub in Prospect Heights on Friday, January 4th. Kevin knew I am a huge Robin Trower fan and that I had seen Trower in the mid-seventies. Kevin had told me that Nick was a phenomenal guitarist and played just like Robin Trower. It piqued my curiosity so I visited the band website http://ke9749.wix.com/nickbellband. I listened to some of the music samples, covers of Robin Trower and Carlos Santana, and was amazed at how Nick Bell sounded, so I eagerly anticipated seeing him live.

Player’s Pub was an unassuming place to see a band as talented as this. It was a good old sports bar with many TVs, a bar, good food, plenty of tables, and an area for off track betting; an interesting conglomeration. At the side of the pub, off the bar, an area was cleared for the band to set up. But let me tell you, this was no ordinary band and Nick Bell will not be playing in local sports bars for very long with the talent he possesses.

Nick Bell is originally from Moscow, but grew up in Wheeling, and is in his early twenties. So he was essentially playing a gig in his neighborhood. When I met him just before the show, I was impressed at how polite, respectful, and humble he was, something rare in his contemporaries. He was a pleasure to talk to before and after the show. People – this young man is a guitar prodigy and it won’t be long before you will be seeing him in venues where you will have to come up with significant coin to catch him in concert!

His band which is a power trio playing blues, rock, hard rock, jazz, rockabilly, Texas rock, and psychedelic rock, consists of Nick Bell on lead guitar and vocals, Brian Waterman on bass, and Gary Chappell on drums. They were also joined on some songs by Reid Blondell on harmonica and vocals. For this gig they rotated through six lead singers including Nick Bell, Reid Blondell, Christian Martell, Rick (who I did not get the last name), with the bulk of the leads performed by the female Jackie Rose, and band manager Kevin Pollack.

The band played a two set gig that was a mix of classic rock, hard rock, blues, and some oldies. All were expertly performed and well received by the crowd. Jackie Rose, during her vocal stints kept a banter going with the audience as she went through various blues numbers (Still Got the Blues), classic rock hits, and some oldies (Chain of Fools, Some Kind of Wonderful). She kept imploring the crowd to get up and dance. With her enthusiasm and the great music, the crowd obliged as the music took hold!

I have known Kevin Pollack for some time and had never heard him sing before. Kevin has a great set of pipes and blew me away with his singing. He especially shone on the Robin Trower covers including Lady Love, and especially on one of my all time favorites, Bridge of Sighs. His energetic version of Hoochie Coochie Man had the crowd up and dancing. Super vocal performances by Kevin.

Christian Martell gave ac strong vocal performance on Confidence Man. Rich Blondell also had a turn singing a Deep Purple tune, but gave especially fine accompaniment on harmonica during the show.  Rick gave an enthusiastic performance of the ZZ Top classic Tush, rocking and gyrating all over the stage. Nick Bell showed he could sing as well as play, shining on Trower’s Too Rolling Stoned, and Hendrix’s Red House.

The vocals were solid, but it was all about the music. The rhythm section of Wakeman and Chapell gave a steady driving beat to the performances. But the star of the show was Nick Bell. I cannot say enough good things about him I was enthralled by his playing all night. He was masterful in whatever genre of music the band was playing. On the band’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/NickBellBand/ it states that his influences are of the blues masters such as Robin Trower, Gary Moore, ZZ Top, and Stevie Ray, to harder rock such as Deep Purple. Boy, influence him they did, and this has developed him into a superlative guitarist at this early age.

Nick Bell’s solos were outstanding and I watched as audience members were standing with jaws agape while he was playing or shaking their heads in amazement. He showboated as well, displaying his talent while playing the guitar behind his back, with his teeth, and behind his neck…..all to the delight of the crowd. Gary Moore, Jimi Hendrix, and Robin Trower, are three of my guitar heroes and Nick did them proud with his playing, as well as with the other songs he played.

After the concert I went up to Nick and told him you have “an old soul.” I told him I meant that for such a young age, the music of the classic guitar idols are channeled through his very being. The next step will be composing his own music and taking his music to the next level.

But let me give you readers some advice. If you like classic guitar rock and blues, the Nick Bell Band is a band not to miss. Check out their website and Facebook page for upcoming gigs. Catch him early in his career, so later, when he is a star, you can say, “I saw him when…” I have been going to concerts and enjoying music since the mid-sixties and it did my heart good to experience this young guitar prodigy, who is quite comparable to many of the great guitarists I have seen. I wish him nothing but continued success.

Reviewed by Peter S. Sakas on January 4, 2013

16th Nov2012

Sonny Landreth Spices Things Up at SPACE

by rockchicago

Sonny Landreth as well as his amazing band rocked SPACE once again for their second sold-out night on Saturday, November 10th; he has been touring in support of his latest release Elemental Journey, which is all instrumental. Landreth and his band started at 9:15 after an incredible acoustic set from Dave Herrero, and played for approximately an hour and a half. This was our first time seeing Sonny play. It was a great opportunity to see a truly amazing blues guitarist. Where better to see Landreth than Chicago, the home of the Blues. SPACE is always a great place to see incredible musicians up close. He played two Fender Sratocasters throughout the show, and showed off his unmatchable slide technique. Landreth is the type of guitarist the other great musicians come to watch. It is easy to see why Eric Clapton came out and played with Landreth at Crossroads 2007. In addition to Lanreth’s great solo albums, he has been a guest on albums by Jimmy Buffett, John Hiatt, Mark Knopfler, and Eric Johnson. Landreth is  prime example of a guitarist who adds a degree of unique vibe to blues. Not only is Landreth’s slide technique extraordinary, what he does with his right hand whether it be picking, tapping, or slapping the strings is just as amazing. I definitely loved the experience and atmosphere.  Sonny Landreth is an inspiration to musicians of all ages, despite skill level. Be sure to check out Sonny Landreth’s new album Elemental Journey.

Reviewed by Tyler J. Breckling & Alex Kluft

Photo by Alex Kluft

24th Sep2012

Legendary British Bluesman John Mayall Visits Lincolnshire

by rockchicago

Photos by Jeremy Greenberg 

 

Last night at Viper Alley, a nice music venue in Lincolnshire that is fast becoming my favorite local club, I had a chance to see a veteran Bluesman that I have been listening to for over 42 years. When I was just hitting double digits age wise, I had a brother five years my senior. He and his core group of friends at the time were very much into the whole “British Blues Invasion” that had gained considerable steam here in the United States by the late nineteen-sixties.  Names such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and last night’s performer, John Mayall, had been gaining considerable notoriety by that time. While my classmates were hip to David Cassidy and The Osmond Brothers, I was developing an ear for something a little different. It wasn’t solely British blues players either. The reality is that those British blokes were performing a brand of music that originated here in the Mississippi Delta in the first place. My first concert at the age of ten was B.B. King at Ravinia Park, coordinated by that older brother I mentioned. If I recall correctly, he was responsible for watching out for me that night, and the only way he could do that, and still see B.B., was to bring me along. Lucky me. The mental image of B.B. performing that night left an indelible mark on my brain. I still have that picture of Mr. King on stage some 42 years later in my mind. Not a bad start for a ten year old youngster in nineteen-seventy.

 

As for my first exposure to the music of last night’s special guest, John Mayall, I still remember coming into our house one day in 1969 to see my brother holding this record in his hand, “John Mayall, The Turning Point”. For those of you that are not audio-files and are under the age of thirty-five, a record is this vinyl disc that is played on something called a turn table. And the amazing part is that half of the music is on one side, and the other half is on the opposite side. You actually had to get up out of your chair and flip the dang thing over to hear the entire compilation. What an inconvenience. I know, right. (Am I the only one that thinks “I know right” has run its course? But I digress).  My big bro said “Pat, you have to hear this song”, and proceeded to play “Room to Move”. I had never heard anything like it. I was an immediate fan.

Fast forwarding a mere thirty-nine years, Mr. Mayall decided in 2009 to stop touring. A consummate road warrior, he parted ways with his fantastic guitar player of nearly twenty years, Texan Buddy Wittington. I highly recommend giving a listen to Buddy’s work on John Mayall’s 2003 commercial release “John Mayall’s 70th Birthday”. Mr. Wittington unwittingly outshines a couple of other well known former John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers guitar players that sat in this night, the afore mentioned Eric Clapton, and Mick Taylor, one of the best in the business as well.  At the then age of seventy-five, it would not have been surprising to think that Mr. Mayall, after six decades of performing first jazz, then progressing into the genre of blues music, would be ready to sit back and recline in the proverbial chair known as retirement. Well, if you thought that, you thought wrong.

 

In early 2009 Eagle Records contacted John about returning to the studio, and recording a new CD. The name of that CD is “Tough”. Reenergized by the time off, John recruited Chicagoans Jay Davenport and Greg Rzab to become his rhythm section. Drummer Davenport had played with blues veterans such as Junior Wells and Pinetop Perkins, while bassist Rzab is a long time member of Buddy Guy’s band, and also had toured with bluesman Otis Rush and Albert Collins. He had a stint with the Black Crowes as well. Texan Rocky Athas rounded out tonight’s quartet on guitar. Rocky is a highly revered guitarist from his years in the Texas night club scene, and also spent about five years as a member of Black Oak Arkansas in the late 90’s, early 00’s.

Hitting the stage precisely at 9:00 PM, John and his mates performed a 95 minute set of very tight and very pleasing blues. Highlights from the set for me were their renditions of J. B. Lenoir’s “Talk to Your Daughter”. Originally titled “Momma Talk to Your Daughter”, Bluesman B.B. King and Robbin Ford have made this song very well known. That was followed by a version of “California” from John’s Gold Record “The Turning Point”. With no horn player in the band, this rendition was okay, but lacked its original integrity in my opinion. We weren’t privileged with a version of the most famous tune from that record, “Room to Move”. Hearing other classic blues standards such as the Hound Dog Taylor influenced “Hidaway”, made famous by Freddie King in 1960, and the Warren Haynes/Johnny Neel penned “Maydell” were quite enjoyable. When asked after the show by a fan near the front of the stage why he didn’t play “Room to Move”, John responded “We played it last night”. When you have a classic song that people came to hear, I mean the song that defines your legacy, I believe you should perform it. It’s called “give the people what they want”.  That said, it didn’t take away from the fact that the overall performance last night was a pleasure to hear. And after seeing this energetic senior, who is 14 months shy of reaching Octogenarian status, combined with the strength in his grip when I had the pleasure of shaking his hand after the show, the term “elderly” does not apply here. The way he’s going, we may be seeing him perform until he’s 100. So, maybe in the year 2033, I’ll get that version of “Room to Move”.

Reviewed by Patrick Kinsella on 9/19/12

05th Sep2012

The Road Truly Does Go On Forever For The Allman Brothers Band

by rockchicago

 

The Allman Brothers Band took the stage at Haymarket Park to close out the Bluesmasters Blues Festival at 11:00 pm in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Friday.  The fourth band on the slate this night, the ABB is in their 43rd year of existence. Although only the first two and a half years of that time frame included band founder Duane Allman, the group has persevered and triumphed through tragedy and personal conflict to remain one of the most exhilarating live performers to this day. Formed in 1969, and playing their first live show on March 26th of that year, they initially released two studio albums; followed in 1971 by a live, double album release titled “Live at Fillmore East”. Regarded as one of the greatest releases of all time, “LAFE” still appears high on many Rolling Stone Magazine type “Best Album Ever” polls today.

The loss of Duane in 1971, followed a year later by the tragic death of bassist Berry Oakley, had the band reeling in an emotional tail spin. Following another double album release, “Eat A Peach”, a hybrid of live and studio material, fellow founding member Dickey Betts put the band on his shoulders, and instead of trying to replace Duane with another guitar player, which would have been impossible, they added Chuck Leavell on keyboards, and the mostly Betts influenced 1973 release “Brothers & Sisters” found The Allman Brothers on top as the highest selling American touring band that year.* Stress, strife, a few less than stellar studio recordings, along with the lingering effects of an in house legal battle eventually put the band on the shelf by the end of 1981. The Allman Brothers would remain dormant for the next eight years.

Then, following the recording of his solo album “Pattern Disruptive”, Mr. Betts was stoking the flames of an Allman Brothers reunion in 1989. With the studio guitar player from his solo album, Warren Haynes, in tow, Dickey rounded up the three other founding members to hear Warren play some of the original Duane parts on guitar. They came away very impressed watching Haynes perform some slick slide guitar playing, reminiscent of the sound of their early years.  Although they had revisited a two guitar format in the late seventies, and early eighties with the great Dan Toler, Warren brought a skill on slide that brought back a sound that had been missing since Duane’s passing. The Betts- Haynes guitar duo would forge ahead for the next 10 plus years, producing three very solid studio albums in the process.

Once again, turmoil would be found. Internal tension and the desire to embark out on his own full time saw Warren leave the band, taking bass player Allan Woody along with him in his then trio Gov’t Mule. For the 1999 Allman Brothers summer tour, Dickey was teamed up with a shy nineteen year old from Atlanta by the name of Derek Trucks. Derek is the nephew of founding member Butch Trucks.  Derek, who has been touring since he was 13, was also quite an accomplished slide guitar player, so the Allman Brothers Band sound was alive and well. However, another tragedy would strike the extended ABB family, as in August of 2000, former bass player Allan Woody would be found dead. Coinciding with the Allman Brothers own controversial decision to fire Mr. Betts from the band in June of that same year, the future of the band looked rather murky. However, the rest of the band had grown so disenchanted with Dickey’s actions, that they confided amongst themselves that they would rather disband then continue forward with such a hostile working environment. An astonished fan base was left to try and make sense of the situation. In looking back, it can be best described as “severing the leg to save the body”. What happened next would actually pave the way for what is by far the longest continuous lineup in the history of the band.

After grieving over the loss of his buddy and band mate the only way he knows how, Warren continued his challenge for the title of “The hardest working man in show business” by touring incessantly. Following a series of benefit concerts, Warren rejoined the Allman Brothers in late 2000, rounding out the lineup they still have today: Gregg Allman on keyboards and vocals, Butch Trucks on drums, Jaimoe (Jai Johanny Johnson) on drums, Marc Quinones on percussion, Oteil Burbridge on bass and vocals, Derek Trucks on guitar, and finally, Warren Haynes on guitar and vocals. Although only producing one studio album with this lineup, the well received 2003 release “Hittin’ the Note”, the band would maintain a heavy touring schedule throughout the first decade of the century. The formidable Haynes-Trucks guitar duo would continue to mesmerize audiences with their individual playing, as well as their amazing interplay. By 2009, the year of their 40th anniversary, the ABB had a repertoire of nearly 100 songs. You could attend three nights in a row during their annual Beacon Theater run in New York City during the 2000’s, and only hear a few songs repeated.  This was a big departure from the Betts years of fairly regimented set lists from one show to the next. In 2010, Gregg Allman underwent liver transplant surgery, slowing the touring pace down considerably. This year’s annual Wanee Festival in Live Oak, Florida this past April showed a much weakened Allman. Gregg was only able to perform a few songs each night, and his vocals were decidedly soft.  Fans of the band were first and foremost greatly concerned about his health and well being. But ever the trooper he is, Gregg managed to navigate through a book signing tour for his recently released auto-biography “My Cross to Bear”, followed by a 15 show summer tour, some of which were a co-bill with the legendary Carlos Santana.

Which leads us to tonight’s opening song at 11:00 pm, the classic Blind Willie McTell tune “Statesboro Blues”.  It was heartwarming out of the gate to hear Mr. Allman sounding strong of throat once again, as he belted out “one, two three” and into “Wake up Mama, turn your lamp down low”. As I looked around, all seemed right and balanced in the Peach Head world. The second song, the ABB classic “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin” found Derek Trucks scintillating slide guitar take off on a mind boggling tear, followed by some remarkable interplay between Warren and Derek. There would be much more of that throughout the evening. The crowd pleasing Midnight Rider followed, the obligatory sing along carried out by the gallery. A few songs later found a pair of back-to-back Betts classics with first a solid, albeit shortened rendition of In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, followed by a mid- tempo version of Blue Sky, a song that has seen Warren take over on vocals.  One Way Out preceded the encore of the Gregg Allman penned song Whipping Post. The compact 10 song, 90 minute set was tight and energetic, however many in the crowd were bemoaning the length of the third act at the expense of the Allman Brothers Band. After all, The Allman Brothers were in fact the headliner of the show. The more than two hour set by the Bluesmasters did, for many, drag on a little more than they would have preferred. However, it was the Bluesmasters concert, and the plan of surrounding themselves with longtime established bands like Elvin Bishop, Leon Russell and The Allman Brothers Band to draw exposure to themselves was a smart strategy. Unfortunately, it would turn out that they were the only performer of the four that really didn’t resonate with me. That sentiment was shared by others I spoke with after the show. But that review is a bird of another feather.

As for what’s in store for the Allman Brothers in the near future, it’s solo band touring time. Chicagoans can take note that Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band will be playing The Lefty Collins Room (It’s also known as “The Back Porch Stage” for the uninitiated) at the House of Blues in Chicago on Saturday, September 29th. Tickets are reasonable at $15.00 each.  Warren Haynes Gov’t Mule brings their annual Halloween show to Chicago this year, performing at the Riviera Theater on Wednesday, October 31st. Tickets for that show go on sale this weekend. Word is that it’s being billed as “The Mule Experience”, which could be a clue that the traditional second set Halloween tribute will include tunes like All Along the Watchtower, Red House, Purple Haze, Hey Joe, etc. That should be entertaining.  Derek and Oteil continue on with the Tedeschi-Trucks Band tour, while Gregg has some Gregg Allman Band dates coming up as well.

It is with a heavy heart that I would like to dedicate this overview of Friday’s show to the memory of one of the greatest of all Allman Brothers Band fans, and all things connected to the Peach Head community- Mr. Randy Stephens. Known by most simply as Buppalo, Randy passed away on Sunday, leaving many stunned and saddened. If you’ve ever heard the expression “I never heard him say a bad word about anybody”, it was written for Randy. Rest in peace my friend. You will be missed.

*It should be noted that Les Dudek did play as a second guitar on Brothers and Sisters

Reviewed by Patrick Kinsella on 8/31/12

05th Sep2012

Country-Bluesman Elvin Bishop Kicks Off The Bluesmasters Concert in Lincoln, Nebraska

by rockchicago

 

The organizers couldn’t have picked a better person to kick off the musical festivities at The Bluesmasters Concert in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Friday night. Getting things started this late afternoon was the always genial Mr. Elvin Bishop. He is less than 2 months away from his 70th birthday, as well as nearing the half-century mark since the country boy from Tulsa, Oklahoma, found himself in a little blues bar in Hyde Park in 1963, listening to local bluesman Paul Butterfield. In Chicago by way of a scholarship to the University of Chicago as a National Merit Scholar, he would soon form a working relationship with Butterfield, becoming first the Paul Butterfield Blues Bands rhythm guitar player behind Mike Bloomfield on lead guitar, and Paul Butterfield on Lead Harmonica. Elvin would subsequently take over lead guitar on the third Paul Butterfield Blues Band release in 1968, which was appropriately titled “The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw”, a nick-name referring to him. He would also be forever lionized in the classic Charlie Daniels 1974 Southern Rock anthem “The South’s Gonna Do It Again”. “Elvin Bishop’s sittin’ on a bale of hay. He ain’t good looking, but he sure can play”.

Elvin’s playing style combines Country, Blues, New Orleans Jazz, and a little Rock N’ Roll. Reaching into his back catalog, which includes eighteen studio album recordings, and several live releases, the most famous being 1977’s “Raisin’ Hell”, he pulled out what is probably his second most famous song about half way through his 65 minute set. Known as, Fishin’, the extended version included Elvin coming down from the stage and into the crowd for a little stomping fun. He also recruited a pretty young lady to return to the stage with him to assist in stroking his guitar for him to wrap up the enjoyable version of this classic song. There’s certainly nothing wrong with Mr. Bishop’s eye sight. And there’s definitely nothing wrong with his well honed guitar playing. When you consider the afore mentioned Mike Bloomfield as an early influence, along with six string masters such as Duane Allman and John Lee Hooker along the way, and then right up through his 2008 multi collaboration release “The Blues Roles On”, which featured such current renowned players as Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, James Cotton, Tommy Castro, Kim Wilson, and the King of Blues himself, Mr. BB King, you can tell this veteran of the music industry has picked up a trick or two from many along the way. And watching him play so effortlessly and comfortably, he has no doubt taught a trick or two too many who have seen him perform, including those players I just mentioned.  Fishin’ is on what I believe to be his most well known of the eighteen albums, 1974’s “Let It Flow”, which also enjoyed plenty of radio air time back then for the title song, as well as the song “Traveling Shoes”.

As the set was nearing an end, Elvin brought out a special guest, vocalist Mickey Thomas, for a fine version of his biggest hit, 1976’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love”. Although released in 1975 on the Album “Struttin’ My Stuff”, the song peaked at number 3 the following year on the “Billboard Hot 100” in May of 1976. Thomas, a backup singer in Elvin’s band at the time, would go on to gain acclaim in the band Jefferson Starship, with such radio hits as Jane and Sarah in the early nineteen eighties. His supporting cast includes veteran Trombone and Percussionist Ed Farley. Bob Welsh brings his Louisiana bread sound and style to Guitar and Piano. The rhythm section was carried out by Ruth Davies on Stand-up Bass and Bobby Cochran on Drums. S. E. Willis rounded out the sextet on Keyboards. Although Elvin has made a career out of personifying himself as this “goober-like, good ole’ country boy”, I am a little leery. After all, his Major at U of C was Physics. You don’t pursue that Major unless you are very bright. And you don’t survive; much less thrive in the music industry for 50 years unless you are very bright as well. Elvin took some time for a meet-and-greet after the show. Although a little tired, which was understandable for a near 70 year old after an hour-plus set in 93 degree temperatures, Elvin was most gracious and quite funny while chatting and signing autographs. While I was hoping for a reunion with The Allman Brothers Band, with a possible rendition of “Drunken Hearted Boy”, a tune he sang with the ABB at The Fillmore East in 1971, it became evident that Elvin would be many miles down the road by the time the Allman Brothers would take the stage. But that was my only disappointment with Elvin Bishop and his band on this hot Lincoln, Nebraska late afternoon.

Reviewed by Patrick Kinsella on 8/31/12

10th Aug2012

Cruisin’ for a Bluesin’: “The Bluesmasters Concert” Comes to Nebraska

by rockchicago

 

Hey Chicagoans, are you looking for something to do this Labor Day weekend? Feel like getting out of town, maybe taking a road trip? Are you a lover of Blues music like me? Maybe you have an old friend, or some family you’ve been meaning to go visit in Omaha or Lincoln, Nebraska. But you’ve been lacking the motivation to make the drive. You’ve needed an additional reason, just that extra little spark. Perhaps an appealing event to draw your interest.

Well, Friday, August 31st, The University of Nebraska and the Lincoln Saltdogs are sponsoring what we hope will one day be known as “The Inaugural” bluesfest called “The Bluesmasters Concerts”.  The concert, which in a very classy gesture I might add, honors the memory of the late Hubert Sumlin and Pinetop Perkins. Pinetop of course was the longtime piano player in Muddy Waters Band, while Hubert played for more than 20 years in Howlin’ Wolf’s band. The two of them collaborated on an album in 1999 called “Pinetop Perkins & Hubert Sumlin: Legends. They both passed away in 2011.

The lineup for the one day blues festival is worth the drive. Hosted by Fleetwood Mac’s Mick Fleetwood, the performers include Eric Gales, Otis Taylor, Leon Russell, Elvin Bishop, and the headline event, The Allman Brothers Band. Maybe Elvin will join the Brothers onstage for a version of Drunken’ Hearted Boy as he did in 1970? Once every 42 years like clockwork.

A portion of the proceeds from the night of music will benefit The Nebraska Legends Scholarship program. For more information, you can visit The Allman Brothers site (www.allmanbrothersband.com). Facebook users can go to: www.facebook.com/TheBluesmastersConcert . For ticket information, go to www.etix.com. So gas up the buggy, point it west, and come join us for a memorable day of music. And drive safely.

08th Aug2012

Lollapalooza Day 3 Review

by rockchicago

 

The sheer variety of music available at Lollapalooza each year is one of its most distinctive features.  Unlike other festivals that cater to a certain sound or sub-genre or fan base, Lollapalooza casts an ever-widening net.  I still remember the Perry’s area when I first started coming to the festival seven years ago – it was a small grove in the trees with a DJ under a tent.  There were enough lights and speakers to make it feel like an all-day party, but it wasn’t a reason in and of itself to come to the festival, let alone an attraction for those already there except for the few who weren’t able to get a good spot for the headliners.  Now that’s all changed and Perry’s is in many ways the epicenter of the EDM (electronic dance music) movement with world-class DJ’s spinning not only all day long on the football field-sized Perry’s area but also serving as key headliners.  I mention this because Lollapalooza also draws its share of world music, hip-hop, blues, and the rising folk-country-rock crowd in addition to the usual blend of alternative rock sounds.  It’s always looking to the future and one step ahead of me which means I’m always in for either a discovery or a rare chance to see something truly special.  That happened to me multiple times on Sunday, the closing day of the festival.

I started the day as I have for each of the past five years of Sundays with Kidzapalooza, a special area devoted to indoctrinating youngsters into the music-lovers fold.  This is always masterfully done – booths offer kids punk hairdoos, free tattoos, and a chance to record a rap cd, make a video, or play instruments.  Meanwhile the performances and presentations range from yoga to skateboarding lessons to watching top-notch tumbling routines to breakdancing time.  And did I mention the music?  This year we saw the Verve Pipe perform a darling set of their children’s material, with the best seats in the house saved for actual kids.  Many other festival-goers stop by the area, but the focus is on the children, who all are just loving the experience.  One particular performance of note was by Quinn Sullivan who, at the ripe old age of 13, is already performing at Lollapalooza for the second time and has already shared the stage with none other than blues legend Buddy Guy.  This kid has chops – he shreds his solos, shows a great sense of rhythm, and knows how to wear the mantle of young blues master.  Did I mention he can sing too?  His set was truly engrossing – everyone kept turning to each other with wide-eyed, “Damn, this kid is good!” faces.  We all knew we were seeing the early stages of a career that is on track to be something truly remarkable.

 

From there I went to see The Walkmen, a band whose records I always buy yet never find myself returning to for repeated listens.  Their show fit that same bill – it has all of the right ingredients, from great songwriting to solid guitar work to a powerful leading man in Hamilton Leithauser to records that always get positive reviews, but it never really took off.  Maybe it was the heat and the somewhat lazy crowd, but it just wasn’t working for me.

Next up was one of my “can’t miss” sets from the weekend: Iceland’s Sigur Ros.  Since I first year them fifteen years ago I’ve been waiting for the chance to see them create their epic sound live, and this performance confirmed what I’ve felt about them all along – sheer brilliance.  While the heat kept the crowd at the Walkmen in check, the same weather on the opposite end of the field added to the sense of awe, although it would have been more appropriate for us all to be standing on ice floes staring out at the moonlit sea.  The 11-piece band features a string section, a horn section, singers, drums, and a bass and guitar that were mostly bowed.  Their songs go from being unapologetically, glacially slow, building in intensity to anthemic heights, even though few if any in the crowd knew what they were singing about (or cared).  Violins were plucked, guitar pick-ups were spoken into, electronic sounds added in, all in the service of creating dense textures.  The video projections must be noted – for the first time they were actually part of the band’s aesthetic – not just standard shots of performers, but fuzzy black-and-white odd angles overlaid with imagery – just like their sound.  Through the etherial majesty of it there was always a human element to ground it, linking directly to something in each of us that perhaps can only be said in sounds and words we are deeply moved by but don’t fully comprehend the power of to affect us.

 

From there, in a typical “only-at-Lolla” moment, I caught the last five songs from Gaslight Anthem.  Their Springsteen-meets-Social Distortion feel revolves around Brian Fallon.  He is a fantastic stage presence, and the songs from their “59 Sound” record are exceptional, but his newer material doesn’t have the same magic.  They put a lot of work into the new record, “Handwritten,” which has been recieved with a disappointed warmth.  The same feeling was there at the end of their set – the new song fell with a thud, but by surrounding it with sing-along favorites, they managed to preserve their momentum and please the crowd, but I have my questions about their forward progress.

The new-sound-every-hour pattern continued with perhaps my favorite set of music from the weekend – the sheer joy of Malian rock from Amadou and Miriam.  As one of the best known African acts around the world with four  decades of shows behind them, the blind couple knows hos to work a crowd.  On top of that, Amadou Bagayoko jams out extended stratocaster solos that give the show a Hendrix-meets-afropop feel.  But even that doesn’t fully describe it – their shows are a dance party with body-shaking polyrhythms that kept the small but devoted crown moving, making conga lines and dance tunnels, all with smiles and love.  This is celebratory music with great power and exceptional talent.  Too many people walked past the stage to secure a good spot for Florence and the Machine – it’s a shame – they missed the most rewarding hour of the weekend.

I caught bits and pieces of a few other sets that day but I’ll save the end of the review for the closing headliner of Lollapalooza 2012, Jack White.  As a longtime White Stripes fan, I was ready for something special.  As a record buyer who keeps up with all White does with his Third Man label, I knew he would be covering a wide range of sounds that have all worked their way into his formidable arsenal and best-of-2012 record, “Blunderbuss.”  I’ll summarize the show this way: the man is a true entertainer and knows how to both please and challenge an enormous crowd.  From Raconteurs songs to White Stripes classics, he added his back catalog to most of the songs from the new record.  One of the many ways he kept it engaging was through extended jams and explorations, adding country flair, gospel righteousness, and an encyclopedia of blues sounds to his songs.  On top of that, White has become one of the premier guitar players working today and continually found fresh ways to show that.  He pulled a unique trick by switching his all-male band for an all-female band halfway through the set, and has been alternating them throughout his tour.  To me that’s not the sign of an outsized ego but rather of an artist who continues to grow and become relevant and central to a conversation about what is exciting in music today.  His closing set pulsed with energy for nearly two hours and left the audience awestruck.

 

In the end, my 7th Lollapalooza was a lot like all of them have been – a heady mix of nostalgia (Black Sabbath) with new acts who have it (Michael Kiwanuka) or don’t (Chief Keef); added to that are sounds from around the world (Sigur Ros, Amadou & Miriam) plus the outer edges of experimentation (thenewno2) and carryers of the alternative music torch (Tame Impala, JEFF the Brotherhood) plus a whole lot more.  Who knows – maybe I’ll find myself sucked into the EDM crowd more in the future – I still remember being blown away by Daft Punk five years ago In a show I never imagined I’d like.  But at Lollapaloza, if you stop and go check out a band with an unfamiliar name, you never know what you might find.

Reviewed by Neil Rigler on 8/5/12

01st Aug2012

Seeking Sounds Around Town

by rockchicago

 

I had a chance to stop by Viper Alley in Lincolnshire a few weeks ago to hear blues guitarist Coco Montoya perform a couple of sets. The big lefty honed his craft under the tutelage of the late, great Albert Collins in the 1970’s, and then went on to play in John Mayall’s Band in the early 1980’s  before embarking on a solo career of his own. Coincidentally, John Mayall is also going to be playing at Viper Alley on September 17th.   Coco is an experienced veteran of the road, and he presents himself in a very comfortable, relaxed manner that made those in attendance very at ease, and very focused on his music. Reaching back into his own quite respectable solo catalog, which contains 6 studio releases, including the 2010  CD “I Want It All Back”, you couldn’t help but sit back and enjoy a great evening of blues music.  For those who haven’t ventured out to Viper Alley yet, it basically sits on the property where Shades, and prior to that, The Country Music Inn were once located.  Different decade, different music venue.  And quite an upgrade at that. Viper Alley is a multi- purpose building, which includes a small bowling alley that is partitioned off from the stage, but keeps an open view from the lanes. The lanes are covered up during shows, with tables and chairs added. Nice sounding room, nice setup.

This past weekend, Rock Chicago Magazine Chief Editor and CEO Kevin Pollack and I were offered the opportunity to check out a new venue for me- Metropolis in Arlington Ht.s. I enjoy getting the chance to see clubs and theaters I haven’t previously been to yet. Metropolis Performing Arts Center, located in the heart of downtown Arlington Ht’s, offers music, drama and dance lessons, and contains a small, approximately 300 seat theater. The intimate setting was reminiscent of the old Soundstage setup for WTTW in Chicago. Tonight a Journey tribute band called “Revelation” would be performing. My first thought is “why would you be a “tribute band” of a band that is itself still performing”? I can understand a tribute band for Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and maybe even Pink Floyd, for which there are several. From what I understand, Journey still tours, albeit with a replacement for Steve Perry, who was unceremoniously dumped after he injured himself in Hawaii while getting in shape for a tour some twenty years ago. And here’s why I have a problem with that. When Journey started in the mid-seventies, they were basically Carlos Santana’s band without Carlos. Some friends of mine liked them. I thought they were boring. I wasn’t alone. They didn’t sell many albums. Then Steve Perry joined, bringing with him his huge arena rock voice, as well as his boundless energy, something the band had severely lacked before his addition. With Perry in tow, Journey was off and running, making millions of dollars from 1978 through 1986.  I’m sorry, but if a guy is responsible (you listening Mr. Schon?) for making me millions of dollars, I would find a way to work through his injury, and even some prima-donna BS if necessary, and stick with him with a little more loyalty.  I feel the same way about how Styx treated founding member Dennis DeYoung, but that’s a story for another day.

 

As for “Revelation”, Kevin and I watched a video of one of their performances in advance, and it was actually pretty good. The singer sounded right on the mark. He was a big guy, and he didn’t try to be Steve Perry by bouncing around and jumping up and down. Unfortunately, that was not the singer that showed up.  As for the new singer that was with the band, on the songs he was comfortable with, he was fine. The songs that were new to him, such as “City of the Angels,” were a bit of a challenge. But the vision of a forty-something singer who is exceeding his gray designer jeans by more than a couple of cheeseburgers, doing a triple pirouette into a split kick was a bit uncomfortable. Not for him, but for me. Add to that a very warm and stuffy temperature climate in the theater, and you had a very warm and sweaty Steve Perry wanna-be. Also, the $30.00 per ticket price tag went a long way toward explaining the sparse crowd. It was a long trek for Revelation from their home in Kansas City, and there is a lot to do music wise on a summer Saturday night around the city of Chicago. And for a lot less money, or even for free. Add to that the fact that the Chicago area mainstay “Infinity” quenches the thirst for Journey, Reo, and other 80’s rock classics for its followers. I’d recommend Revelation not sticking with an all Journey format, and going to a wider array of cover songs, while building a local following around their home base. Then they can maybe progress on to being an opening act at some outdoor festivals to continue building a following over the next year or so. And please, no more pirouettes.

Speaking of free, there was our next stop at Players Pub and Grill in Prospect Heights, right where River Road ends at Milwaukee. Players is also an OTB Parlor site as well. Here we had a local band, “Shreds of

Evidence” (www.shredsofevidence.com), a self proclaimed 60’s Garage Band playing “Rock & Roll, British Beat, Psych 1-Hits and more”. Playing in front of a jovial crowd comprised of Players regulars and Shreds followers, they displayed some impressive vocal harmonies on classics by the Zombies, Turtles, Hollies, Yardbirds and more. The band: Glen Barton on Guitar, Tony Rossi on Drums, Bill Dennis on Bass, and their newest addition, Erich McMann on Guitar. Having had a stint as George in the Beatles tribute band American English from 1998-2004, Erich was very at home with the vocal harmonies that Shreds include in their performance. More recently Erich has played with Underwater People and The Meteors. They lit up the back outdoor patio, and everyone in attendance looked to have a great time. Very good food and top notch service added to the enjoyable evening. Unlike the fellow at Metropolis, who I overheard lamenting to his friend as I was leaving “I paid $120.00 for 4 tickets for this?” Maybe if they had turned the Air Conditioner up a little bit……..

Reviewed by Patrick Kinsella on 7/28/12

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