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Monday, August 29, 2011

Chicago blues musician David "Honeyboy" Edwards leaves behind legacy of music


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

The last living link to Robert Johnson, Chicago blues musician David "Honeyboy" Edwards, has died of congestive heart failure at the age of 96.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Edwards a few years back prior to his appearance at the Blues on the Fox festival in downtown Aurora. Even as he was approaching his 92nd birthday, Edwards said he had no plans to slow down.

"As long as I feel good, I'll play the guitar," he told me.


Edwards also didn't ask for much in return. He titled his autobiography, "The World Don't Owe Me Nothing."

"That's what I felt," Edwards told me. "I had everything I wanted, just about. I had money and a car. There are some people who can't get enough. But you don't need all that." 

We do need Edwards' music, though. And thankfully, we will always have that.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chicago music couple Michael McDermott, Heather Horton inseparable, will perform Friday at Mayne Stage in Chicago


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Chicago music couple Heather Lynne Horton and Michael McDermott are inseparable.

And as I learned, they like it that way. Horton has been a member of McDermott's band since 2005, and they were married in 2009.

Horton and McDermott also both have birthdays this week, and will celebrate by performing at a birthday bash Friday, Aug. 26, at Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse Ave., Chicago.

The show starts at 8 p.m., and general admission tickets are $20, available at www.maynestage.com.

I had the chance to talk to Horton about a variety of topics, including how they balance being musicians while tending to the needs of their 1-year-old daughter, Rain.


Q - The birthday bash is coming up, I see.You guys both have birthdays this week. And your daughter Rain just had a birthday, right?

She just did, yeah. She turned 1 on July 19. And then we took off for Europe.

Q - Yes, I understand you were just in Italy. How was that?

It was amazing. It was extremely challenging, and we knew it would be. But it was just amazing.

I'm doing a documentary on Michael, which was less about the music and more about an American traveling through the center of Italy.

We've been there several times, but each time we go there, it solidifies our belief in what our roots can really do for us.

We've gone there and seen a 1,000-year-old castle. It's just a whole different way of life over there, and it really makes you put things in perspective when you come back here.


Q - Michael McDermott is kind of a legend in Italy. They really love him there.

They are really hungry for really deep and passionate stories and lyrics, which is what my husband is all about.

Q - Michael has talked a lot about his past demons. Do you think you have been a stabilizing force in his life?

He was told he was God, and given a million dollars in a publishing deal and record contract. And then he was introduced to booze and finally drugs by the same people who gave him all this money and wanted him to manage it at a young age.

He says that I saved his life. I think he was always going to be OK, but it was taking him just the wrong way, and I cut it short.

People say that I led him to the light, but I don't think it's that simple, and I don't want to take credit where he deserves the credit.
 
Q - And then you have the recent death of Amy Winehouse.

I'm not a fan of destructive behavior, but I was a fan of her soul and her music. I just thought it was sad that no one could get in there.

Q - Has Rain been to a show yet?

Her first show was when she was two weeks old. But that was an outdoor thing, with very low volume. It was out in Orland Park, where Michael's family is from.

That was hard for me. I felt that I needed to be with her. Everything in my being told me I needed to be holding her.

She was fine, sitting next to her grandmother in her stroller. She was awake the whole time.

But she's been going to concerts since she was in my womb. I toured the whole time I was pregnant.

We literally came off a tour, and I went into labor two hours later. So she has felt the music and has been part of it for a long time.

We have headphones for her to muffle the sound because her ears are still developing.

Q - Of course, you have your own music career. Your album, "Postcard Saturdays," was released last year. Are you working on new material?

Yep. It's funny that you ask, because from the time I had the baby until this week, I haven't slept more than three hours at a time.

It's been hard to have her sleep through the night. I have not been able to be alone and write, and it's been somewhat depressing.

It's been pretty challenging for me. So for the first time last week, I took three hours, went to a coffee shop, and I wrote a decent song.

I didn't care if I wrote a letter, I didn't care if I wrote the alphabet, but I had to write something. I've only written three songs this year, and I'm used to writing three songs every other week.

Q - Being married and being in a band together, how does that work?

We are so pitiful in the most beautiful way.

We do everything together. Right now, I'm in the back and he's in the front distracting the baby so she doesn't miss me.

We don't like being apart. We really are each other's best friends.

We cherish when the baby goes to sleep, and we can just hold hands watching TV. All through the day and every day we're always together, and to us, it's still not enough.


Q - I guess it's love.

It's love, it's respect, it's just that feeling of when someone knows what you are thinking without saying it.

It's that best friend thing when you are a kid. That's the only way I can describe it.



Friday, August 19, 2011

Chicago band Smith Westerns talks about surviving stage collapse in Belgium



Chicago band Smith Westerns survived a stage collapse in Belgium which killed five people and injured 50 others. Read more:

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hairbanger's Ball, RockZilla among bands at J.J. Kelley's this weekend



There's still plenty of music left to enjoy this summer.

Hairbanger's Ball, Maiden Chicago, JunkFist, Force It, RockZilla and Kik-N-Jimi will perform Saturday, Aug. 20, as part of Kelley's Summer Concert Madness 2 at JJ Kelley's, 2455 Bernice Road, Lansing.

Music starts at 4 p.m. Saturday, and will last until 2 a.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10, and more information is available at www.jjkelleyslansing.com.



Chicago band The Future Laureates believes in serving others through its music


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Chicago band The Future Laureates is a band that is committed as much to social justice as it is to presenting adventurous music.

The band, www.thefuturelaureates.com, will perform Friday, Aug. 19, at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, as part of a show to benefit the StreetWise organization, which aims to help and empower the city's homeless population.

Bassel and the Supernaturals, Tree and The Hand Grenades also are part of the bill. The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $8, available at www.ticketweb.com. Fifty percent of the proceeds will go directly to the Streetwise organization.

I had the chance to talk to The Future Laureates frontman Danny Surico about the band and its latest activities.


Q - The band will be headlining a benefit show for Streetwise. How did you first hear about Streetwise and what do you like about the organization?

We actually were asked to do a StreetWise benefit fundraiser last February by some friends of ours who were on the junior board of the organization. The night was a blast and quite successful - we raised $1,000 for StreetWise simply by playing a rock show.

Since that time, we've been strong supporters of the magazine and the vendors who sell them. It's pretty smart what they've been able to do.

They basically have created a constructive way for people who are homeless or low-income to work for a living and receive a variety of social services. And the fact that it's a magazine makes customers who would otherwise be hesitant to give money much more at ease about doing so. Pretty much a win-win.

Q - I understand public service is a priority for the band. Is that much of a priority for the band as its music? Did your education at Loyola University Chicago shape your views?

I think our goal is to be known as a band committed to social justice. That doesn't necessarily mean that every song we write has to be about social issues; in fact, that's certainly not the case for our band. But the idea that we can use our love of music as vehicle to serve others is something that has stuck with us since our Loyola days.

Q - How did the band get its name?

Well, while we were studying abroad we formed a "secret" Facebook group that we used to communicate with one other about different ideas related to the band.

Some of the things we talked about in that group were potential band names. I think we narrowed it down to three names: The Future Laureates, I Sung Armada (based on a friend who misread an "i-snug armband" Apple product because the box was upside down; and Hot Vinyl. We ultimately settled on The Future Laureates.

We dig it, and once new fans figure out what it means and how to pronounce it, they usually dig it, too.


Q - The band played only one show before going on hiatus for a year. That's kind of an unusual beginning for a band. Explain.

The first show we played was kind of on a whim, to be honest. James (our bassist) and Matthew (ukelele) played in a duo throughout college called One Pound Burrito.

John (our original lead guitarist), and I played in a duo at open mics as well, so we knew each other's music but weren't really good friends at that point. James and Matthew invited us to jam one night and we wrote our first song together, "Hit It and Quit It."

We played it that weekend at a charity contest that Loyola was putting on for "Hunger Week," with the goal of raising money for different organizations committed to alleviating hunger. We came in second place and won a gift certificate to Flat Top Grill - ahh, those were the days.

After that, I studied abroad for a semester in Chile and upon my return, James, Matthew, and John studied abroad the following semester in Costa Rica, New Zealand, and France. So we kept in touch over the course of the year and when we got back to school that final semester of our senior year, we were focused, writing some songs and recording our first full-length album.

The band has been going strong ever since.

Q - The band has been compared to such groups as Guster, Simon and Garfunkel to The Avett Brothers. Do you consider those bands influences? What band or act would you say is the biggest influence for you guys?

A - Absolutely those bands are influences. We're influenced by many other bands as well, honestly too many to name. Probably Guster is the biggest influence on our music.

I'm the primary songwriter for the band and I've been a fan and student of them since I was in junior high school, so a lot of our vocal harmonies are inspired by stuff they do. But there's other influences that sneak in there, too. The Decemberists, Our Lady Peace, even R. Kelly - they all find ways to seep into our writing and arrangements.

Q - You guys just wrapped up your first East Coast tour. How was that experience? Where else would you guys like to play?

It was a total blast. Five dudes crammed into a Toyota Yaris - mmm mmm, sexy.

Other than the less than stellar travel arrangements the tour was actually a big success. We got to see a whole bunch of friends and family who hadn't had a chance to catch the band live, and played some excellent shows to receptive crowds. We'll definitely do it again.

Next year we're aiming to get down to SXSW in Austin; we'd love to do New Orleans, too. And in time, we'll head out west to Seattle, San Francisco, Denver.

We're just starting to get our feet wet with the touring thing, but these are goals of ours to tour out more within the coming years.

Q - Eddie Vedder just released an album featuring songs he played on the ukulele. It seems as though the ukulele is an essential instrument for you guys. Why did you like the instrument so much?

I think the short answer is that was the instrument that Matthew grew up playing and was most skilled on. Ukelele is definitely a part of our identity, though. It's not a gimmick in our band, as we feature it on every song we've written together.

Matthew rocks out pretty hard on it for a number of our songs - most notably, "Hanging." Also, you can't not smile a little when you hear the dulcet tones of the ukelele.

Q - How hard is it for a band to self-manage, self-book, and self-promote itself? Do you prefer doing all that yourself rather than someone else handling those duties?

It's hard in the sense that it takes a lot of time. It's easy in the sense that it saves a lot of money and teaches you a lot of valuable skills.

Most notably, you're in control of your own destiny by learning how to do those things. Also, it kind of makes you appreciate the shows you play a bit more because you busted ass to book and promote them.

Playing House of Blues last September was an example of that. We worked really hard to book and promote the hell out of that show, and the end pay-off was playing for a packed house at one of the premier venues in Chicago.

That show was definitely the highlight of our careers so far, made even sweeter by the fact that we worked really hard for it.

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

Short term, we'd like to record another album and tour out in the Midwest over the coming months.

Long term, we'd like to live as self-sufficient musicians. While that could mean being signed to a label, we definitely aren't holding our breath for that.

We want to be more involved booking shows in the college market and getting our music licensed in TV and film. Our recent EP, "Rethink the Recession," was licensed by a variety of shows on MTV, Showtime and Discovery Networks - which oversees TLC, History Channel, Discovery Channel, Oprah Winfrey Network, Animal Planet and many others.

We'd like to continue expanding our reach in those two arenas. That, and continuing to hone our craft and become a better live band with every show.

The reality is that music is so subjective, and the vast majority of people aren't going to like your music, so we simply want to focus on connecting with the fans who do. And thankfully, we've got some pretty great families, friends, and fans who really want to see us succeed.

So in time, we'll get there. It's just a balance of patience and ambition.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dex Romweber Duo revs up the rock on new album on Bloodshot Records


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Before The White Stripes was even a glimmer in the eye of Jack White, there was Dex Romweber and his band the Flat Duo Jets.

That band pioneered the guitar/drums duo format, with White citing Romweber as a big influence in forming The White Stripes.

Romweber, with his sister Sara on drums, now comprise the Dex Romweber Duo, which recently released the album "Is That You In The Blue?" on Chicago-based Bloodshot Records, www.bloodshotrecords.com.

The record kicks off in blindingly fast fashion with "Jungle Drums," and the fun doesn't stop there.


Romweber does more with less, whether he is contemplating in dark, haunting fashion about a broken romance on the song "The Death of Me," or blasting through the rockabilly-influenced "Homicide."

The Dex Romweber Duo will perform at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19, at the Glenwood Ave. Arts Fest in Rogers Park in Chicago.

The group will play on the Glenwood North Stage, and more information is available at www.glenwoodave.org.



Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bumpus founder bringing the soul with new band, Dance Floor Plans


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

James Johnston is a soul man.

After forming beloved Chicago funk jazz band Bumpus in the late '90s, Johnston has a new band, Dance Floor Plans, that is all about the soul with a healthy dose of funk.

Dance Floor Plans, www.dancefloorplans.com, will perform its first show opening for Nikka Costa on Aug. 21 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago.The new band features members of Bumpus, Terrible Spaceship, Clip Art and Mars to Maridia.

DJRC is also on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $17, $20 at the door, available at www.lincolnhallchicago.com.

I had the chance to talk to Johnston about his latest project.


Q - Dance Floor Plans will play its first live show opening for Nikka Costa. Do you think that's a good gig to introduce the band?

I actually can't think of a better first real gig than opening for Nikka Costa. She's got the funk and soul, but her music is not completely retro. She brings something modern and we're trying to do the same thing.

Q - What was the idea in forming Dance Floor Plans? How would you describe the band's sound?

Well, as you know, I've lead Bumpus for years. Bumpus was a collective of high school friends who fell in love with funky music.

We didn't really know much about making that kind of music and literally started picking up instruments from scratch and trying to figure it out. We had guys who never touched stringed instruments playing bass and other people who had never played saxophone just picking it up and giving it a go.

Somehow, it worked, but there were always these limitations. Time passed and some of the members dropped off and were replaced by different folks. The sound changed and kept changing.

One day, I realized that we were all different people than what Bumpus started out as and the music was different too. I also thought about what I wanted to be different. Shorter songs, more focused, less clutter, stripped down, not overly retro, but funky and grooving. That's what Dance Floor Plans aims to be.

Q - The band's website is pretty sparse right now, but does give people the ability to get the band's two songs. Was it important to get the music out to people?

I actually like it that way. I'm sure we'll add more to the site in the future, but I prefer that people just react to the music itself.


Q - How do you think the dimension of the new band is different from Bumpus? How do you think the members of Dance Floor Plans blend together?

The dimension of Bumpus was six songwriters bashing songs together and trying to figure out how to play them. The dimension of Dance Floor Plans is a bit different. You have me and Tina (self-taught) writing the core of the songs and Andy (Clip Art) helping to arrange them.

Then you have some serious players (DePaul grads, Berklee grads) adding their own creative spin on the top.

Q - Will Bumpus continue to be as active now that you've formed Dance Floor Plans?

I don't know. I'm making it up as I go. I don't really think about this band vs. that band when it comes to the songs themselves. A the end of the day, I'm chasing the songs and I'll catch them however I can and then look up and see where I am. This is a new adventure.


Q - Are you also going to be continuing with your other bands, Clip Art and Terrible Spaceship? It seems like you are always looking to new musical horizons.

Yes. I love being a part of Clip Art and Spaceship because it's not mine. I am a worker bee. I try to help Andy and Travis respectively capture their songs instead of chasing my own. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chicago all-star group strikes gold




By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Chicago all-star group Candy Golde delivers sweetness.

How could the band not, with a lineup that boasts Nick Tremulis, Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, John Stirratt of Wilco and Autumn Defense and Rick Rizzo of Eleventh Dream Day.

For those looking for a band that melds pretty melodies with rock intensity, it is a dream lineup.

Candy Golde, www.candygolde.com, has released a five-song EP, and will perform Aug. 19 at FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn, www.fitzgeraldsnightclub.com.

Thin Grin also is on the bill. The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are $15 in advance, $18 the day of the show, available at www.ticketweb.com.

Candy Golde will also perform Sept. 3 at S.P.A.C.E., 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston, www.evanstonspace.com.

The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $18 in advance, $20 the day of the show, available at www.ticketweb.com

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Tremulis and Carlos about the project.


Q - It seems like both you guys are busy with other projects. How did you find the time to do this?

Nick: Well, basically Rick Rizzo and I put together a bunch of songs, and made some phone calls to some people that I really liked as human beings and musicians.

Everybody said, "Sure." And frankly, when you get to this level of musicianship, things really don't take that long, because everyone plays so well. They already know how to put themselves into a song.



Q - Bun E., I know you haven't been touring with Cheap Trick. Do you think Rick Nielsen's son Daxx is filling in well on tour?

Bun E.: I haven't really heard any of his gigs. All I know is what other people have told me, and they said it seems to be fine.

Q - And how is your back doing these days?

Bun E.: My back is fine. The reason I'm not touring with the band is musical differences, nothing having to do with me physically.

Q - But you are still a member of Cheap Trick?

Bun E.: Oh, yeah, I'm still a member and all that. And if they ever make a record again, I will probably be drumming on it.

Q - I wasn't sure. You can't believe everything on the Internet. Some stories were trying to say that you weren't touring with Cheap Trick because of your back problems.

Bun E.: I've heard it's because of my back, I've heard it's because I had a heart attack. I've heard all sorts of stuff. We just put out a simple statement that I'm not touring with the band, so people automatically assume the worst.

Q - This is a question for the both of you. As far as how you got the members for Candy Golde, do you think they are the perfect members for the band?

Nick: I think as you grow older as a musician, the people that still play well, the people that still search for new ideas and then play with vitality and practice their instruments like they are still teenagers and still love it, obviously are who you want to be with.

I've worked with Bun E. before, and he would always come in as a constant professional every time.

Bun E.: I knew this was going to be a pretty good combination. We were all familiar with each other musically before we played a note together.


Q - Did you know what you wanted to do with the band? Did you want the band to sound a certain way? What were your goals for the band?

Nick: The wonderful thing about doing an EP and getting together with a bunch of musicians is you don't have to steer so much, you just let it happen.

I knew from who I was getting somewhat what it would sound like.

Q - Should people expect a full-length in the near future?

Nick: I don't know about a full-length. We're taping yet another show, and we're talking about releasing a sort of a compilation between two shows and live stuff.

And Rick Rizzo and I just made a take of a new song on acoustic guitar with the guys. As we were finishing, we started writing another. We're writing, and when you write, usually something comes down the line.

I do like the EP format just because it looks good and it doesn't require the heavy lifting of an album. I think they're more fun, to tell you the truth.

Q - And what do you think, Bun E.?

Bun E.: The EP is a nice format. You don't have 12 songs, so you don't have to come up with material. You can use your best and your brightest.

Q - And Bun E., you are also in another all-star band, Tinted Windows. What made you want to be associated with that project?

Bun E.: That was pure power pop for now and then people, this pure ironic power pop. Adam writes great stuff and Taylor sings it pretty, so that was a no-brainer, just like Candy Golde.

Candy Golde is a little on the harder edge of things. Each have their place.

Q - Nick, I see that the Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra has a bunch of dates coming up. That band's sound has changed over the years. Do you think the sound just kind of evolved naturally?

Nick: Like everything else for me, I've got to go someplace new every time, otherwise I don't want to do it any more.



Q - Do you ever see Candy Golde being a full time project rather than a side project, as it is now?

Nick: We try to take the not fun elements of being in a full time band out of it.

Bun E.: That's why we like each other.

Nick: I don't see this as a band that's going to tour like crazy.

Q - Bun E., what's your take? Where would you like the project to go?

Bun E.: It's a fun project, it's fun stuff to do, and if one of the songs takes off or something, then we'll devote more time to it and necessary time.

Right now, it is a side project for all of us, so we're trying to keep it enjoyable.

Q - Of course, Lollapalooza was just in Chicago. Do you think Chicago still has a thriving music scene?

Bun E.: Chicago is where the work is at. If you want to get something going, you go to Chicago.

Once you've made it there and you've got to find a record label, you take it somewhere else. If you're looking for players or you're looking for a band, you go to Chicago.

Nick: If you think about Cheap Trick and the scene, they made their own scene.

Bun E.: When Cheap Trick left Chicago to get signed, and we got famous, all the record labels came to Chicago looking for more bands.

Q - What should people expect from a Candy Golde show?

Nick: Well, they should expect to hear the music we recorded for our EP. And then they should expect to hear some really beautiful 45s from really amazing American and English bands from the mid '60s to the '70s.

Q - Such as?

Nick: Such as "Talk Talk" by The Music Machine and "Come See Me" by The Pretty Things, bands you generally don't hear of too much.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Chicago band The Steepwater Band storms ahead with raw energy on new CD


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

The raw energy that Chicago band The Steepwater Band, www.steepwater.com, delivers comes through in full force on its new CD, "Clava."

In celebration of the new CD, which will be released on Aug. 16, The Steepwater Band will perform Aug. 12 and 13 at the Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, www.beatkitchen.com.

The shows start at 10 p.m., and tickets are $12, or $20 for a two-day pass, available at www.ticketweb.com.

I had the chance to talk to frontman Jeff Massey about the new CD.

Q - Your new CD, "Clava," is already getting good reviews. Jambase.com is calling it one of the best rock albums of 2011.

Yeah, that's not going to hurt anything.

Q - One thing that I noticed listening to this CD and listening to your previous album, "Live At The Double Door," it seemed liked you really carried the live vibe over to this album. Would you say that was one of your goals?

Yeah, I think so. Obviously, when we're in a studio, we're not afraid to put extra guitars on there, and percussion and keys. 

But the core of the record is still us playing in a room together. We definitely wanted that live feel in there. We wanted it to sound like us.


Q - How is it playing these new songs live?

Most of them feel really natural. We are really at home with the blues, so the bluesier ones come natural.

Q - And of course, it was recorded at Clava Studios in Chicago. What was it like recording at that studio?

I love that studio. It's not a huge studio. It's kind of an intimate place, but it's got one of those vibes where it makes us want to work.

It was comfortable, but it wasn't too comfortable where you get lazy. It was a great sounding live room. 

As soon as we started playing, we said, "Oh, yeah, this is going to be good." That's key, as opposed to a stuffy studio sound, where you are not really getting the sound you are looking for.

Q - I see that the new record was produced by Colin Sipos, who has worked bands like Iron & Wine and Califone, and they recorded there.

Yeah, they're involved with that studio quite a bit. It's mainly Califone's home base. We were considering a self-produced record, but we gave Colin a producer credit just because it kind of gave him free reign to say, hey, that sucks, or that's great, or try this.

It was great to work with him. He also mixed our live album, and a couple of songs on our "The Stars Look Good Tonight" EP.

Q - So he's good at giving advice.

I think he knows where we come from. He comes to see the band live. I think he gets the direction about what we are all about. So we're on the same page most of the time.

We didn't clash very much. It's definitely a good working relationship. We trust him and he trusts us, so it just works out.


Q - With this record, were you trying to make it more of a blues record? It sounds like the blues are in the forefront on this record.

Maybe not consciously. We started out as a blues band, basically. That blues core is always there.

I think that definitely some of the tunes were a little on the darker, bluesier side. Once we wrote a couple like that, I think a couple more came into play, and it's kind of the vibe we set.

Q - I suppose you guys get compared a lot to the North Mississippi Allstars.

Yeah, and The Black Crowes, and bands like that, which is fine with us. I take all of that as a compliment.

Q - Would you call yourselves a blues rock band?

Yeah, I suppose so. But that is such a big term. 

But I can't deny that the blues is the main influence that started the band, and it's still there. Blues rock could be anything from Freddie King to The Black Keys.

For a lot of people, you say blues rock and they think you are a Stevie Ray Vaughan cover band.

I think it sounds like us, no matter what we do. Obviously you can hear the influences, but I think we've got our own personality along with it.

Q - What attracted you to the blues?

I think the freedom of expression with the music, just the whole attitude of it, especially from a guitar player's point of view.

All my favorite bands build off that blues core. There's so much you can do with it. 

You can take all these left turns and right turns and you can twist it around, and come full circle, and still play the blues.

Q - Speaking of the blues, you guys played with Little Milton back in 2005, and then he died a few months later. How was it just playing with him?

It was kind of a nerve-wracking experience with his band sitting there watching us, but it was cool. I would like to get the video of it up on YouTube eventually.

Q - Did you get to talk to him at all?

Oh, yeah. We talked, and we rehearsed quite a bit into the wee hours. It was quite a experience. 

Q - Did you learn anything from the experience, like what keeps these guys going? Pinetop Perkins was still playing music when he died at age 97 earlier this year.

I just don't think they know anything else. It's their lifestyle, and they still have enough people that want to see them. 

If you're at that age and can still do it, why not? 


Q - You guys have been around since 1998. What was the goal in forming the band?

The goal was to make the kind of music we wanted to make, and actually making a living doing it.

We seem to be pulling that off. And we still like playing together.

Q - You guys play an average of 125 shows a year. Is that where you think the band is in its element on stage?

Absolutely. We love making records, but on stage is where we feel at home.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Louisiana bluesman Tab Benoit bringing new songs, old favorites to Evanston's SPACE



By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Fans of Louisiana bluesman Tab Benoit obviously were waiting to get their hands on a new album by Benoit after a four year wait.

"Medicine," Benoit's first studio album in four years, debuted at #1 on iTunes and #2 on Amazon when it was released in April.

The 11-track album features seven new songs co-written with Anders Osborne, whose song "Watch the Wind Blow By" was recorded by Tim McGraw in 2002 and hit #1 on the country charts for two weeks.

Osborne, who also co-produced "Medicine," played B.B. King's famous guitar "Lucille" on the album.

Benoit, tabbenoit.com, will perform today at S.P.A.C.E., 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston. 

The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $28, available at www.ticketweb.com.

I had the chance to talk to the Grammy nominee about the album and his continuing work with Voice of the Wetlands, www.voiceofthewetlands.org, an organization striving to save Louisiana's wetlands.


Q - What should people expect tonight? I suppose you are going to play a lot off the new album.

I will play what people ask for. I pick what they want to hear, and that way, everybody's happy.

People have been requesting the new stuff too, so it will be a little of both.

Q - Over the years, you've received a lot of critical acclaim and a lot of acclaim from your peers. Is that always surprising when somebody decides to give you an award or nominate you for an award?

I guess so. I don't go out there and try to win awards. It is nice to be recognized when you work hard at something.

It also gives me a chance to have a bigger voice.

Q - You teamed up with Anders Osborne on this album. What was your idea in getting together with him?

It was just kind of a mutual thing. It wasn't planned out way in advance or anything like that.

We just said, "Let's go do this, it feels right, let's go have some fun."


Q - I watched the video of you guys making the album and it did look like you were having fun. How did making this album compare with the process on your other albums?

They're all the same as far as the way it's done. I just try to keep it organic, you know, instead of trying to make something out of nothing.

Q - I understand also that Anders played B.B. King's guitar for the sessions. Did you try to pry it out of his hands at all?

No, I didn't want to touch it. I didn't want to mess it up. 

When it comes to recording and performing for the public, I'd rather have my own guitar in my hands. That way, I can close my eyes and just play, and not have to worry about it. I'd rather have that one in my hands.

Q -Did it surprise you at all that "Medicine" debuted at the top of the charts?

I play a lot of gigs across the country all year long, and I'm pretty in tune with the people who listen to me.

I talk to them. They are my friends. I kind of figured they were ready for something.

But being #1 or #2? I don't know. I'm just trying to document my life in musical terms, and hopefully the audience I have out there appreciates it and understands it. And I think they do.


Q - You have several Voice of the Wetlands shows coming up. How do you think Louisiana's wetlands are doing these days?

Well, we're still losing an acre an hour. That's a lot of land. New Orleans is vulnerable and getting more vulnerable by the day.

We haven't really changed the Delta and the Mississippi back into what it needs to be. 

Q - How did you first find about the problems with the wetlands, just from living there?

From flying there. I'm a pilot, and had a job flying pipeline patrol. I would watch things happening from the air. You can see from a birds' eye perspective what the problems were.

It wasn't talked about until recent times. So I wanted to make sure I was bringing it up as much as I could so we could talk about it and make good decisions.

I would like to see one good long term decision made by our government in my lifetime. That's pretty much what is has come down to, because that's the problem.

All of the decisions that have been made for the coast of Louisiana have been short term decisions, and none of them have been good. A short term decision is good for a short term.

I'm just trying to get the people off their butts, because it is supposed to be our government, and that means we're supposed to be involved.

With democracy and freedom comes responsibility and involvement.


Q - How did you get the other musicians together for the first "Voice of the Wetlands" CD?

The plan for keeping New Orleans from flooding from Hurricane Katrina had nothing to do with the people.

I just felt backed into a corner, and that's when I really started pushing to get Dr. John and The Neville Brothers and the Meters and everybody and said, "Look, New Orleans is in trouble. We've got to let people know first of all what kind of trouble we're in, and secondly, how it's going to be handled."

We recorded the first "Voice of the Wetlands" album six months before Katrina. Katrina was in August, but we couldn't get it out until October because of the storm. It delayed everything.

On the first song, we sing, "Don't Let The Water Wash Us Away," and that's pre-Katrina. 

Q- Do you think your voice is being heard?

Yeah, but it's just me. We need more than just me. You've got to have lots of voices.

If a lot of voices are doing the talking, things get moved.