Although they have appeared at Biscuits & Blues on many occasions, my first opportunity to see Smokin' Joe Kubek featuring Bnois King was last year at the Blues Express TV taping party and that convinced me not to miss them on their next trip to the Bay Area. This band tours constantly and has seven well-received CD's to their credit. No wonder--they are on top of that Texas hard-edged blues scene and are featured on the cover of the current Blues Access magazine. Smokin, Joe Kubek,s piercing, imaginative guitar technique is unique and his partner, Bnois King, is a skilled vocalist and first-class jazz-inspired rhythm guitarist with a keen sense of vocal timing. The show was a tour-de-force of animated blues and scorching rockish tunes. Smokin' Joe played a searing slide guitar on "Take Your Best Shot." King's passionate vocal style was evident on "Got My Mind Back" and "Damn Traffic" (the latter tune is something to which we can all relate!). "All About That Thang" was a shuffling, lyrically suggestive turn. Their brand of Texas guitar-slinging blues presented a fresh and creative show.
Carl Weathersby has been in the trenches for a long time and has come out swinging with his unique take on the blues--biting vocals on socially relevant lyrics obviously influenced by his Vietnam War experience. Weathersby's recent show in San Francisco with his band Vital Support revealed a bluesman with that Restless Feeling which was the title of his acclaimed 1998 CD release. Moving into the audience constantly with his cordless guitar and his raspy rough vocal style, Weathersby proved to be a hypnotic performer who can do some mean Howlin' Wolf-style vocals. His guitar approach forges from sizzling bursts of sound to soft and sweet. When he did "Killing Floor," it was unlike the standard version, but that's the way Weathersby does his thing and as he commented "blues is about the facts of life." His version of the standard "Feels Like Rain" was melancholy. His composition, "Somebody Help Me," is a poignant original which describes the pain of drug addiction. Weathersby is an unpretentious contemporary artist who breathes fire and brimstone into his music.
Bobby Rush, the baddest performer around, came to Biscuits & Blues with his special brand of raunchy soul-blues. Rush puts humor into his shows and this evening he was joined by two sexy dancers who performed some incredible moves to the double entrendre lyrics. But make no mistake, Rush is a serious bluesman with a rich voice that drips with soul. This evening, Rush delighted the audience with "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show," and standards including "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Caledonia." There is no better showman than Bobby Rush and at sixty-five years old, his energy and boyish zest is contagious!
The Holmes Brothers made one of their rare West Coast appearances at Biscuits & Blues with brothers Sherman on bass, Wendell on guitar and vocals and Popsy Dixon on drums. The group has been together since 1980 and the camaraderie is obvious. This innovative trio displays an amazing range of American roots music and this evening began with Wendell on piano and vocals in a series of gospel tunes. Wendell switched to guitar on "Big Boss Man." "Got Myself Together" was fast and furious with Wendell's driving guitar guiding the pace. The show-stopper of the evening was "Amazing Grace" with Wendell leading the vocals and the heavenly harmony of the group was passionate enough to induce tears. Sherman contributed his raspy vocal style on his tune Promised Land, title track from their CD. On "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby," Popsy Dixon's vocals were downright chilling--he goes from a deep growl to a high falsetto with the greatest ease. The evening was a musical adventure with just the right mixture of powerful spiritual music interspersed with traditional blues. The Holmes Brothers are definitely unique!
Magic Slim and the Teardrops performed at Biscuits
& Blues and the next day at the Sonoma County Blues Festival--one can
never get enough of this Chicago group! This exciting, hard-driving band
is anchored by the commanding figure of Magic Slim who stands well over
six feet with his brother, Nick Holt, a major component on bass and vocals,
Alan Kirk on drums and Michael Dotson on rhythm and slide guitar. Slim's
guitar style and gritty vocals dominated on the tunes which included "Ain't Doing Bad At All" and a blistering "Bad Boy." At the festival, Holt's solo presentation alone on stage of "Sweet Home Chicago" was spectacular. At both venues, the group's performances had the audience clamoring for more.
Louisiana Red (aka Iverson Minter) relocated to Germany many years ago but he is back on the blues scene with a vengeance as he proved in his recent show in San Francisco. His band included the wonderful guitarist Anthony Paule, Tim Vega on bass and Austin Delone on organ. Stating "sometimes we get bluesy, sometimes we get rocky," Red proceeded to go to it non-stop, playing the guitar behind his head and just naturally showing off. Red's vocals deliver a dramatic impact and his guitar skills are phenomenal. It was an evening of infectious blues from the Delta to Chicago via Texas. Welcome back, Red!
James Armstrong was exposed to music by a blues-singing
mother and Jazz guitarist father and formed his first band in the seventh
This still relatively young bluesman has suffered some knocks along the way. Armstrong's recent show at Biscuits & Blues was another testament to the growth and maturity that has turned him into a first-class musician who has Got It Goin' On, the title of his new CD on Hightone Records soon to be released. On this occasion, he was joined by Ian Hoffman on drums, Eric Ainsley on bass and Austin Delone on keyboards. Armstrong exudes energy and warmth and this is projected in his fluid vocal style and his ability to personalize each number. "Slender Man Blues" was a humorous reference to which he could relate. The title track from his new CD demonstrated Armstrong's soulful vocals and tasteful guitar technique. Although his early influences were rock, Armstrong delivered a satisfying blues evening and appears headed in that direction more and more.
by Dorothy L. Hill
Back to Content Page
Jazz Now Interactive
Copyright Jazz Now, September 2000 issue, all rights reserved