LIVE: Sugar Blue @ the Falcon, 6/17/16
Review and photographs by Rudy Lu
The harmonica is known in blues circles as a harp – a humble little instrument that fits in your pocket, but is capable of a powerful sound that will cut through other instruments in when amplified providing the musician has the right amount of control using mouth, tongue and throat. A single diatonic harmonica can’t play in all keys, so virtuosos of the instrument such as Blues Traveler’s John Popper often perform with a bandolier of harps, giving them the ability to play in any key and express any emotion.
A master of the instrument recently appeared on the stage of The Falcon in Marlboro, Sugar Blue. Students of the rock ‘n’ roll of the ’70s may recognize his name as a guest musician on the Rolling Stones’ 1978 album Some Girls, playing harp on the title track and hit single “Miss You.”
Sugar and his crack band played a powerhouse set brimming over with all manner of electric blues, charging through covers of such blues standards as Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man,” Howling Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talking” and Junior Wells’ “Messin’ with the Kid” with gusto. His harmonica was crying, warbling, wailing and speaking the language of the blues with a touch of jazz.
Guitarist Rico McFarland knew exactly when to lay back and when to turn it on when he was featured on solos. Drummer C.J. Tucker kept a steady backbeat while providing interesting fills as needed. Ilaria Lantieri Blue – Sugar’s wife – kept the band from flying of the stage with her bass playing.
The highlight of the set was Sugar’s performance of the chain gang song “Another Man Done Gone.” The lights were dimmed for the performance, and Sugar performed the song solo with heavy reverb adding a haunting drama to this sad, mournful song that was sung by Vera Hall in an Alan Lomax field recording back in 1940.
The encore featured his crack band in an uptempo romp through Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Pontiac Blues.” It was certainly a night of fun, and the crowd was left wanting more.
More of Rudy Lu’s photographs of the concert