LIVE: Scotty Mac & the Rockin’ Bonnevilles @ Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, 1/27/18

February 8th, 2018, 4:00 pm by Greg

Review by Fred Rudofsky

The passage of time is a funny thing, and sometimes anniversaries can seem like cruel punchlines. That was not the case when Scotty Mac & the Rockin’ Bonnevilles, one of the best bands that Greater Nippertown has ever fostered, reunited for a large, appreciative audience on a Saturday night at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Troy to play two sets of thrilling, gritty blues and rock ‘n’ roll drawn from their own catalog and their diverse influences.

Celebrating the founding of the band by Scotty Mac (guitar/vocals) and Ted Hennessy (harp/lead vocals) 21 years ago, and joined by John Ellis (bass/vocals) and Chad Ploss (drums/vocals), the band was not interested in a trip down nostalgia avenue – no sir. Instead, they came to play from the get-go, as if no time had passed despite some extended hiatuses over the years.

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Opening with with Jimmy Smith’s classic instrumental, “Back at the Chicken Shack,” Hennessy blew some mean harp, driving it into the red over a swinging beat before segueing into the original “You Don’t Know that You Don’t Know,” a witty shuffle that seems more timely than ever given the current state of the union. “Check for a Pulse” got terse, Ventures-style guitar from Scotty Mac – it rocked, people.

Before a deep rhumba blues treatment of “Can’t Win for Losin'” from the band’s 1999 release Travelin’, Scotty Mac paid tribute to the invaluable contributions of original drummer, Dave Clayton, but then couldn’t resist this barb: “The last time I saw Dave was 10 years ago in New Haven, and he was still complaining!” “Cadillac Jack,” played by special request, was six minutes of swing blues at its best.

Ellis, whose family was in the audience, stepped up to sing a killer version of “Parchman Farm,” which was also a fine showcase for the snare work of Ploss and some dazzling rhythm guitar by Scotty Mac. The band’s legendary versatility got the spotlight in the next four songs: some Excello era blues (“Long Gone” and “Got Love If You Want It”); sly Chicago blues (“29 Ways,” with fine backing vocals all around); and Stax soul (“Soul Finger,” with Hennessy sounding like the Memphis Horns).

The next song, which has yet to be recorded officially, was one that long-time fans cherish and the uninitiated love immediately. “Roosevelt Franklin,” a funky original about a “Sesame Street” character who was supposedly blacklisted and under FBI surveillance in the 1970s, was a hoot, with Hennessy declaiming like a protester outside a PBS station and stomping his foot while playing some beat-box harp over a deep groove.

After a hearty shout out to 106.1 the X by Hennessy for playing the band’s music, Scotty Mac blended the styles of Jeff Beck, The Ventures and The Shadows in a thrilling instrumental medley that shifted through several snippets of familiar themes that had all in the group along for a wild ride. How does anybody top that? Read on.

Tom Waits’ classic “Heart Attack and Vine” allowed Hennessy, bathed in garish red light, to go from reserved to full throttle vocally and instrumentally. A frenetic television theme, “Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse,” gave way to Dick Dale’s “Pipeline,” a great showcase for the rhythm section to show off their chops. “Let’s beat up the guy who invented working, tonight!” exclaimed Scotty Mac before dedicating an uptempo swing blues extolling the virtues of BBQ (“Dinosaurs in Heaven”) to long-time fans Missy and Shorty from Syracuse, who had their favorite band play their wedding 15 years earlier. “Kiddio” blended the versions known by Charlie Musselwhite and The Paladins – high octane blues harp meeting gritty, distorted guitar. Bo Diddley, an indelible influence on the Rockin’ Bonnevilles, got the nod on a thumping “Pretty Thing,” too.

“Graveyard for the Blues” closed out the set in style. A ghoulish commentary on the viability of the live blues music scene, punctuated by a random fan screaming a request for “Free Bird” into the microphone, the title cut from their second album hit all the marks with eerie fills by all, absurdist dips into “Mustang Sally”, “Back in Black” (sung in a ragged falsetto by Ploss) and “Henry the VIII.”

The second set, as energetic as the first, was heavy on tasty covers (Slim Harpo, Little Walter, Tampa Red, Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Joe Turner) but featured two original gems, “Call It Quits” and “Dirty Martini,” both from 2001’s Graveyard for the Blues. The latter, an extended instrumental showcase for all four musicians, was a standout that called to mind the Butterfield Blues Band’s East-West era with a dose of Kenny Burrell and Art Blakey; Mac and Hennessy traded several solos and then locked into unison with Ellis and Ploss for the poignant melody to close out the show well after midnight.

Back at the Chicken Shack (Jimmy Smith) > You Don’t Know that You Don’t Know
heck for a Pulse
Can’t Win for Losin’
Cadillac Jack
Parchman Farm (Mose Allison)
Long Gone (“Shy Guy” Douglas)
29 Ways (Willie Dixon)
Got Love If You Want It (Slim Harpo)
Soul Finger (The Bar-Kays)
Roosevelt Franklin
(instrumental surf medley)
Heart Attack and Vine (Tom Waits)
“Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse” theme (Johnny Holiday)
Pipeline (Dick Dale)
Dinosaurs in Heaven
Kiddio (Brook Benton & Clyde Otis)
Pretty Thing (Willie Dixon)
Graveyard for the Blues
Bread Maker (Slim Harpo)
Call It Quits
Juke (Little Walter Jacobs)
Love Her with a Feeling (Tampa Red)
It’s Too Late, Brother (Little Walter Jacobs)
Bring It on Home to Me (Sonny Boy Williamson)
Boogie Woogie Country Girl (Doc Pomus & Reginald Ashby)
Dirty Martini

2 thoughts on “LIVE: Scotty Mac & the Rockin’ Bonnevilles @ Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, 1/27/18”

  1. Rich & Denise Borden says:

    Great Review of this Fabulous Show Fred .. so good hearing The Rockin ‘ Bonnevilles once again ..Always a Favorite Band of ours , they have only improved with time and collective musical experience 🎶

  2. Fred says:

    Thanks, Rich and Denise. They are truly one of the great bands, and good people, too. Pass along the review to those who love live music.

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