Friday the 13th was not unlucky.
In fact, it was a rockin’ evening at the Roadhouse, hosting a full-house of devoted fans at the first benefit concert for the Capital Region Blues Network, a newly formed not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing, promoting and performing blues music throughout Nippertown.
And provide blues music it did, showcasing three fine live bands performing electric blues of all shades and hues.
First up was the Tom Healey Band featuring Matt Mirabile. The band started with the boogie tune “Whiskey & Wimmen,” followed up with old Memphis soul “Tramp” done up blues-style. They shifted gears to an original ballad and a lilting version of the NOLA R&B classic “Iko Iko” before wrapping up their performance with the time-honored Chicago blues “5 Long Years.” Bandleader Healey sang, played harp and traded leads with Mirabile’s slinky slide guitar, while John Ellis and Robert Cenci locked down the strong backbeat.
All the way from NYC, Michael Louis and his power trio were up next. The comment Memphis’ Sun Studio guitarist Roland Janes made of the band, “You guys may be from New York, but it’s South New York” aptly described the band. They opened their set with the much covered rockabilly tune “I Fought the Law”… except it was set deep in the Delta with a wild slide guitar and the rhythm section of Keith Crupi (shades of Mitch Mitchell’s jazzy drumming) and Andrei Sebastian keeping pace with Louis’ slash and burn slide guitar. They closed their smoking set with the old Sam Cooke classic “Bring it on Home to Me.”
The power-trio theme continued as headliner Rhett Tyler fronted a band that featuring Per “Bacco” Berquist on bass and Mark McKay on drums. Rhett uses his guitar like an artist uses his paint brush, creating textures and colors through the use of dynamics, staccato barking, violin-like tones, flamenco-like leads and country-style picking while still remaining true to the blues tradition. The band’s closing number – a cover of centenarian Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” – displayed it all with Berquist and McKay not only laying down the rock solid foundation, but also providing fluid interplay – somehow weaving all the rhythms together to make sense.
This groove-driven debut concert proved that the live blues music scene is alive and kickin’ with the able stewardship of the Capital Region Blues Network.
Review and photographs by Rudy Lu