Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chicago Blues All-Stars continues to breathe new life into music scene


Chicago Blues All-Stars is a band with a heart of gold.

When he is not on stage, Chicago Blues All-Stars frontman Daniel "Chicago Slim" Ivankovich is an orthopedic surgeon who donates his services around the Chicago area and world.

He is joined on stage by guitarist "Killer" Ray Allison, who has played with the likes of Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor and Junior Wells.

Chicago Blues All-Stars regularly performs around the area. A schedule of upcoming performances can be found on the band's website,

I had the chance to talk to Daniel and Ray about the band.

Q - Your band has quite the credentials. For example, "Killer" Ray Allison has played with the likes of James Cotton, Muddy Waters and Junior Wells. How did you guys get together?

Daniel - I had the good fortune of connecting with “Killer” Ray Allison before I ever took up the guitar. I was a high school senior and went to see Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter at the ChicagoFest Blues stage on Navy Pier.

While they were tied up with interviews and greeting their visitors, I introduced myself to the drummer (Killer Ray) who was the most energetic and animated personality that I’d ever met.

We talked a lot about music and I told him that one-day, my goal was to learn guitar and study Blues music. We hit it off right away, exchanged phone numbers and have been Brothers ever since.

Ray - I’ve had similar positive experiences with many of the current Chicago Blues All-Stars. They’re amazing musicians and people with incredible life stories. 

Together, we’ve orbited the Blues universe multiple times, while playing with a who’s who of musical legends, including Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, James Cotton, Koko Taylor, Bobby Rush, Ohio Players and more. Not to mention that among the band there’s over 300+ album credits. 

It’s a very exciting band with lots of history and impressive credentials.

Q - It seems like the band is pretty booked with shows this summer. What continues to be the thrill for you when you get on stage?

Ray - Chicago Blues All-Stars is comprised of musicians that have been together as friends and musicians for going on four decades. We’re like a family, and these long-term relationships create a great chemistry and telepathy between us on stage. 

Everybody feels each other’s groove and the music flows because we’re connected on a very personal and emotional level. Whenever I get on stage, my goal is to share a love for Chicago Blues and the legends that preceded me.

To create a musical experience that audiences will never forget is what I always try to achieve.

Daniel - The band has been very lucky because we’re currently as busy as we want to be with shows and private events. Over the years, members of the band have literally played thousands of shows that range from the chitin’ circuit to international festivals. 

In Chicago, we try to focus on larger capacity rooms because the stages and sound systems can better accommodate the band’s size (8-10 pieces). We usually headline shows at Buddy Guy’s Legends, Kingston Mines and House Of Blues. 

What’s been most amazing is to see what a destination Chicago has become for Blues lovers all over the world. On any given night that we play, 40-50 percent of the audience is visiting from out of town or even out of the country. 

It’s really makes the band happy when Blues fans tell us what a wonderful job we do of interpreting the music and representing the city of Chicago.

Q - You were performing with kids at the recent Chicago Blues Fest. Do you see that as a way to instill interest in the blues in a younger generation and ensure that the blues carry on?

Ray - It’s great to see somebody like Fernando making a commitment via his Blues Kids. I try to stop by to see him and say hello at every Bluesfest, and every year his program gets bigger and bigger. 

As a full-time musician, it’s challenging to schedule school visits during daytime hours. But over the years, I’ve made time to share my love of music with many Chicago Public School students.

While it’s rewarding to see the smiles on their faces, it’s sad to hear that funding keeps getting cut for arts programs. Something needs to be done so that more young children from Chicago can express themselves through music. 

How can our music keep going if children don’t get a chance to understand how it’s linked to their history?

Daniel - Fernando Jones is an amazing human being. He’s somebody that continues to inspire me to be a better person every time that I see him working with children.

His enthusiasm is so infectious. He can take a roomful of people that have never experienced Blues and make them coverts in less than 10 minutes. That’s true genius. 

As a life-long lover of Blues music, it’s very important that the circle of life continues to flow through our youth. It’s the only way to perpetuate the stories and music. For me, I believe that music can be a vehicle to develop inquisitive young minds and teach about healthy lifestyles.

Fernando and I are exploring ways to continue collaborating on this type of mission.

Q - What drew you to the blues to the first place and what have you tried to contribute to the blues genre as a musician?

Ray - Growing up in Chicago during the 50s and 60s, there was Blues music being played everywhere. My parents listened to WVON and that would probably be where I got my first taste of it.

DJs like Pervis Spann and Herb Kent played all kinds of music. Everything from Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and Bobby “Blue” Bland to Motown and Stax releases.

I always enjoyed music with great rhythm. That’s probably what got me interested in drums when I was in grade school. 

I learned pretty quickly and by the time I graduated from John Marshall High School in Chicago, I was ready to go. Almost immediately, Buster Benton hired me to play with his band. 

From there, it seems like in a very short time, I got introduced to Junior Wells and Buddy Guy, who had me playing with their band. So when Muddy Waters was looking for a drummer, they recommended me for the gig. 

I played with Muddy’s band until he passed, and since that time it’s been non-stop. I’ve been very fortunate to play with some of the biggest names in the business (Rolling Stones, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, B.B. King, James Cotton, Koko Taylor) and traveled the world many times over. 

For the past 20 years, I’ve been focusing on being a vocalist, bandleader and guitar player. It’s very important to me that I get to share this music with people in order to keep things going and finding younger fans who will hopefully go discover and listen to Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James.

Daniel - As a teenager, I never considered music to be a long-term option for me. I was an All-State and All-American basketball player with a lot of promise and pro potential. 

After I hurt my knee and basketball got ripped away from my life, it left a big hole that I was able to fill with Blues music. The music touched me to my core, because it reflected what I was feeling after my loss. 

A couple of critical things happened that got me firmly established within the Blues community. While at Northwestern University in Evanston, I had an opportunity to produce “ Out Of The Blue" at WNUR-FM. 

The show was very successful locally, and I had an opportunity to have it syndicated on over 60 stations throughout the country. This gave me unparalleled access to artists, record labels and concerts. 

At one point, I had over 20,000 records in my collection that covered almost a century of music. In one year alone, I got to see over 300 shows in Chicago, Memphis and New Orleans.

The other amazing thing was that LC Thurman, the owner of the Checkerboard Lounge, also worked at Northwestern and managed several of the science laboratories. When he found out I loved Blues, he literally gave me a direct pipeline to all of my idols. 

I got to connect with Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Magic Slim, John Primer, Lefty Dizz and Johnny Dollar on a weekly basis, and for an 18-year old, it was beyond my wildest dreams. The image permanently etched on my brain is of these legendary artists sitting at the Checkerboard’s bar telling jokes and talking trash to each before getting up to jam. 

I’ve had the honor of experiencing Chicago and its Blues in a way that most people could never imagine.

Q - I understand that Magic Slim was the first guy who let you play with him. What did he and others like Eddie Taylor and Otis Rush teach you? Having Magic Slim give you the name Chicago Slim must have been quite the honor. 

Daniel - Magic Slim’s legend only grows in stature after his unfortunate passing, but one of the redeeming qualities that he possessed was his humility. I believe the things that connected us were our height and outgoing personalities (Slim was 6’6” and I’m 6’11”). 

In the Blues world if you’re tall, that’s prerequisite enough to earn the “Slim” of “Long” designation. Back then, I called him Mr. Magic Slim and he called me Slim Junior. Magic Slim was a human jukebox and knew hundreds of songs. 

He shared stories of the hardships experienced while getting established in Chicago. Landing the gig as Hound Dog Taylor’s rhythm guitar player was exactly the break Slim needed to become a fixture on the scene.

But even as his star ascended, Slim never turned down young musicians wanting to study and sit-in with him. I my humble opinion, Magic Slim was one of the greatest electrified Delta bluesmen to ever strap on a guitar! 

Regarding Otis Rush, I don’t have enough words to praise his musical genius. His single note soloing is unparalleled, and in my humble opinion, when Otis was on, you would be hard pressed to name a musician that played Blues with an intensity and emotion than touched listeners all the way to their DNA.

He could go places vocally and on his guitar that many of us mere mortals can just dream about. Otis remains an extremely complex personality, but he shared his knowledge freely. 

I had the opportunity to learn things from Otis that still inspire me to this day. He’s one of the legendary and tragic figures in the Blues, but to those that know him, he’s touched all of us on such a personal level. 

It’s been sad that his medical issues have forced him to retire from music altogether. It’s both a loss for Chicago and the Blues community at large. 

My prayers go out to Otis and his family on a daily basis.

Q - How do you think the Chicago blues scene compares with other blues scenes across the country? How would you like to see the Chicago blues scene improved?

Ray - Chicago is undeniably the most important Blues market in the world. There’s more Blues music happening here on a daily basis than anywhere else. 

But being the leader often makes it slow to change attitudes. Memphis, New Orleans and Austin have been more innovative, but not necessarily more productive.

The Blues life has historically been a lifestyle that most people don’t choose, it chooses them. But as Chicago has evolved, there is an entire generation of young groups and artist that are Chicago Blues All-Stars’ peers and join us in breaking new ground as artists and evolving a more contemporary sound for the Blues.

Mike Wheeler, Li’l Ed, Ronnie and Wayne Baker Brooks, Corey Dennison, Joanna Connor, Toronzo Cannon, Marty Sammon, Eddie Jr.  and Demetria Taylor are just a few of the great young talents that are positioned to keep Chicago vital for the next 20-30 years.

Daniel - Club owners and labels have to allow the natural evolution of the music; otherwise Blues runs the risk of becoming a museum piece at a historical society. Chicago is a great scene because artists can stay true to the Blues and still experiment with new sounds and arrangements. 

“Killer” and I play many shows as a two-piece that allows us to carry on the Maxwell Street tradition. We’ll cover artists like Jimmy Reed, Hound Dog Taylor, Muddy Waters and Elmore James in a very stripped down format that we call our “Maxwell Street Mojo Set."

And with the band, the driver is more contemporary and focused on high-energy and danceable versions of the Blues in the vein of Bobby Rush, James Brown and P-Funk. The All-Star Horns are simply incredible and we’re fortunate to play with some of the best horn players in the business. 

Also, if you haven’t seen C.C. Copeland, you’ve got to’ catch him. He’s one of the most engaging visual spectacles you’ll ever experience. He’s a fantastic bass player, but his vocals and on stage acrobatics always drive crowds into frenzy.

Anji Brooks is one the brightest young vocal talents in the Blues. She’s our closer on every set. 

We’ll get the beat pumping and Anji comes on to knock it out of the park.
Q - You co-founded the nonprofit organization, "One Patient Global Health Initiative," and have set up nonprofit clinics across Chicago. I understand that Chicago Blues All-Stars' album, "Red, Hot & Blue, " has raised almost $10,000 to help Chicago blues musicians with medical costs.

What were your goals in creating the initiative? What kind of personal satisfaction do you get in seeing people get the help they need?

Daniel - One of the common threads that I’ve seen over the past 30 years in Chicago has been that Blues musicians lead challenging lives. They don’t always taken care of themselves and health care isn’t always accessible when they need it most.

I made a commitment a long time ago that I was going to do something for the Blues in the name of my musical mentors. Eddie Taylor passed far too early from complications that arose from untreated diabetes.

He was one of the kindest and sweetest gentlemen that I ever met in music. He was willing to share whatever musical knowledge he could with me.

It bothered me a lot that I wasn’t at the point in my medical education where I could have helped him to a greater extent. But things have come full circle, and I’m trying to help his son, Eddie Taylor Jr., overcome some well documented health issues.

My desire is to do my part to help sustain the Blues community and bring greater awareness to the health needs of musicians. I’m not much into the nebulous concept of “Keeping The Blues Alive” because it's not action orientated.

Rather, I’m more into tangible actions such as “Keeping Blues Musicians Alive”, because without musicians. . There’s no Blues music. . Period!

OnePatient - Global Health Initiative was founded by me and Karla Carwile to promote health and wellness of people all over the world. But charity starts at home, so we’ve set up clinics and treat patients from some of the most marginalized communities in the United States, and they’re right here in Chicago.

Roseland, Englewood, Austin, North Lawndale and Humboldt Park. It should come as no surprise that many of Chicago’s Blues musicians come from these very areas.

The very first clinic that I set up in 2000 was a mere four blocks away from the Checkerboard Lounge. I had a Friday afternoon clinic with music from Albert King, B.B, King, Freddie King, Buddy Guy, Magic Sam and Otis Rush piping into every exam room, and I always brought my guitar to work so I could go jam at the Checkerboard afterward.

Those were great times. Currently, with our radio shows on WVON, we’ve got a public megaphone to do positive things for the communities we serve.

Over 400,000 people per week get exposed to our positive messages of heath and wellness.

Q - How do you think your life would be different if your injury hadn't sidelined your basketball career? Have things turned out better than you expected?

Daniel - Life’s what you make it. We can’t always control our situation or conditions, but we can try to make the best of what we are given. It would have been great to play on the 1984 Yugoslav Olympic Team and have a shot at the NBA, but that just wasn’t in the cards for me.

I’m very happy transforming lives in the operating room as an orthopedic spine and trauma surgeon. It’s a great honor that Chicago Blues All-Stars have given me this amazing opportunity to play and record the greatest music in the world with legendary musicians that are also some of my best friends. 

Q - What are the short-term and long-term goals for the Chicago Blues All-Stars? Do you have any dream musical projects or collaborations?

Ray - Our current release, “Red, Hot & Blue” has been doing really well for us and has appeared on most all of the Blues charts. Slim told me that it’s been played on radio stations in over 75 different countries. 

It’s great to see that people still love the Blues and are giving us a listen. I really love touring the world and playing this music for the fans.

So I’m looking forward to continue with our show schedule and keep bringing Blues to the people. Blues hasn’t changed much, but the world around is constantly changing. 

So it’s very important that the band can connect with younger fans that have never really experience what it feels like to party and dance at a juke joint. At the same time, we got to’ be hip to what these kids listening.

Hip-hop, rap and funk are everywhere, just like the Blues was when I was growing up. So as musicians, we have to preserve the musical history, and at the same time have an open mind for what’s happening in music today.

I’ve had a chance to play with many of my idols growing up, so maybe it would be cool to play with some of these young rappers and DJs looking to get more connected with their musical history, maybe there’s something that we could learn from each other.

Daniel - As a band, Chicago Blues All-Stars is trying to break new grown artistically, while remaining true to the Blues genre. We’re experimenting with many new sounds and arrangements for the band.

On “Red, Hot & Blue,” we chose to stick with familiar covers so that we wouldn’t freak out Blues fans with our arrangements and experimentation. We’ve got about 40 originals that we’d like to start working into the show, but we’ll probably do one more album of standards in order to further establish the band here and overseas.

We just signed with a management company out of New York City, and they’re setting up distribution for our release in Europe, Russia, South America and Japan. Once this is done, we’ll be touring those regions in support of the music.

Foreign promoters are well aware that the Chicago Blues All-Stars is just as passionate about healing people’s suffering and exposing youth worldwide to the power of the Blues. Personally, I’d like a chance to partner with artists like Eric Clapton, Jack White and Billy Gibbons, who use their fame and prestige to support important causes that have touched their lives.

Blues Power is an energy that can make the world a better place; I’m having the time of my life and look forward to changing people’s lives for the better.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Chicago musician Jesse W. Johnson reveals quiet side on new EP


Those who only know Jesse W. Johnson as the frontman of Chicago band Jet W. Lee will see a different side of him on his new EP, "Cannon Rows."

"Cannon Rows" is a quiet album, a stark change from the relentless energy that Jet W. Lee,, delivers on stage and on record.

In support of the new EP, Johnson will perform June 28 at The Throne Room, 2831 N. Broadway St., Chicago. The Holy Alimonies, Swearwords and Doubting Thomas Cruise Control also are part of the bill.

The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $7, available at

I had the chance to talk to Johnson about "Cannon Rows."

Q - Your new EP, "Cannon Rows," is a quiet album, much different than the high energy Jet W. Lee delivers on stage and on record. Did you feel you wanted to do something totally different than Jet W. Lee?

I didn't really start with the idea to do something totally different, but I certainly had been wanting to do some acoustic recordings and it seemed that the material fit that format well. A lot of Jet W. Lee songs are written on acoustic guitar too but then we give them the rock treatment. 

I actually started out performing solo acoustic shows and have always loved it. There's definitely a different energy that goes into it than playing with a band, but I love the dynamics and intensity that you can reach with acoustic music.

There's no covering anything up, that's for sure. 

Q - In sitting down to record "Cannon Rows," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 

I wanted these songs to sound dark and intimate, and to capture as much of the emotional state I was in while writing them. In order to best do this, I wanted to record live and get them down pretty quickly after they were written.

I find if I sit on a song for too long before recording, it can lose some of the edge that makes it unique in the first place. It's not an easy thing to get back.

Fortunately things went great and I'm proud of how it turned out. I'm OK with a song being a little rough around the edges if it has "that spook" so I ended up using the first or second takes on most of them. 

Q - Is there a meaning behind the name of the EP?

"Cannon Rows" was a title that just came to me when I was in the shower or something, ha ha. I didn't really know what it meant, but when I played that song for my grandmother she told me she pictured soldiers coming home with a bunch of discarded weapons scattered behind them.

I like that. These songs have characters at turning points and who are coming to terms with actions that caused other people pain.

They've got their own cannons casting shadows behind them. 

Q - How did the songwriting go for this EP? Was writing the songs for "Cannon Rows" harder or easier than writing songs for Jet W. Lee? 

Oh man, I don't think the writing was any harder or easier but the arrangements were quicker and the recording was faster. Writing is my favorite part of the process, but the songs were recorded so soon after writing that it melded together.

It was natural and fun to do and I wanna keep doing it that way for sure. 

Q - I understand that Jet W. Lee is taking some time off and will be playing again in July. Do you see this record as a side project? Are you going to be touring with this EP even after Jet W. Lee resumes its touring schedule?

I suppose you could call it a side project, but I've always done some solo stuff while Jet W. Lee has been going on too. I love doing both! I'm definitely planning a tour right now for this EP and intend on recording more soon. 

This solo show coming up June 28th will feature some new songs that I can't wait to do. 

Q - Speaking of Jet W. Lee, are you guys working on new music? What should people expect from the next Jet W. Lee album? 

Yes indeed we are. We've actually finished recording our third album and are mixing it now.

We hope to get it out by the end of the year. Its gonna be called "Dream is a Dark Cloud," and it features some extremes for the band.

There's a few songs that are harder than usual, and some that are kinda country-rock. Overall, its darker than our last album and reflects our experiences hammering things out on the road for the past few years.

It's gonna be epic. 

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene compared to other music scenes around the country? Are there other Chicago musicians out there that you admire what they are doing? 

Chicago has a ton of awesome bands. A few of my personal favorites are The Safes, The Runnies, The Noise FM, Panoramic & True, Birches, and The Thons. 

They are all above else fantastic live players, which means the world. Plus, I admire their work ethic and songwriting.

I love that Chicago has so many bands, but sometimes it feels like too many going in too many different directions. I think we could benefit from more unifying events like the Lottery League they have in Cleveland, where local musicians are randomly assigned into a band and given time to write, record, and play a few songs at a showcase.

It's a fantastic mixer that promotes the scene as a whole. My favorite venue here is Coles, because they book great bands, they don't charge cover, they run good sound, and they pay bands fairly. Who would've thought?! 

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations? 

I'd love to make a sad, dark song with Jessica Lea Mayfield. She's one of my favorites right now.

Plus I'd love to be a part of something with David Bazan. What a great voice he's got, not to mention his songs. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

"A Day in the Country" to kick off Chicago music festival season on right note


The summer music festival season will kick off on the right note with the seventh annual "A Day in the Country," which will be held June 22 at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., Chicago.

Sanctified Grumblers, Nora O'Connor, The Lawrence Peters Outfit and Kory Quinn are among the acts that will perform at the festival. A full schedule is below:

Front porch stage:
2:00- 2:30- Dogtown Ramblers
2:45- 3:15pm- Sanctified Grumblers
3:30- 4:00pm- Chandelier Swingers

Backroom stage:
4:15- 4:45pm-  Honky Tonk Parade
5:00- 5:45pm- Nora O’Connor
6:00- 6:30pm- The Lawrence Peters Outfit
6:45- 7:15pm- Gin Palace Jesters
7:30- 8:00pm- Golden Horse Ranch Band
8:15- 8:45pm- Kory Quinn
9:00- 9:30pm- The Harrow
9:45- 10:15pm- Dan Whitaker & The Shinebenders
10:30- 11:00pm- The Lantern Kickers 

Tickets to "A Day in the Country" are $10, available at

I had the chance to talk to organizer Lawrence Peters about the festival.

Q - Good talking to you. How did you go about putting together this year's lineup? Are they all bands that you personally know or have played with?

Likewise. Yeah, the bands are mostly made up of friends and fellow travelers, and I’ve played shows or been in bands with most of them. 

I’ll occasionally bring in a favorite group from out of town like Red Meat, who came from San Francisco to play last year’s festival. Otherwise, it’s all about Chicago’s pool of talented mofos, with this year’s highpoint being Nora O’Connor playing a country set. 

Q - What made you want to start "A Day in the Country" in the first place? How has the festival grown over the years?

It started when I learned that The [Lawrence Peters] Outfit hadn’t gotten into a big Chicago festival, and neither had any of my friends. My band got to play [a big festival] a couple years later, but at the time it seemed like another nail in the coffin of a the kind of country music I like.

My response was to start my own fest, and book it with what I thought were the best examples of the good stuff. It’s been gratifying to see the fest becoming a yearly tradition. I have friends bringing their babies to it, as their first music experience. That is more valuable than I can describe.
Q - You've been performing music for more than 20 years. How did you get involved with American country music in the first place? Would you classify yourself as an alternative country musician as opposed to mainstream country, which seems to be a lot of pop music which tries to pass itself off as country music?

I’ve been listening to country music for as long as I can remember. I grew up on country radio, in the '70s, when older classics and new hits were played side by side, so I got to got to hear what tradition and innovation can sound like when the latter honors the former. 

I got the hell out, when things got dire in the late '70s and early '80s, but Dwight Yoakam and The Knitters brought me back in. I consider myself to be a country musician. 

I don’t like much mainstream country (though there are exceptions), and I don’t think of what I do as alternative, in the sense of what the term has come to mean, as its own genre. In my opinion, what I do should be called country, and what’s on the radio should be called something else, like “Nashville Pop” or “Processed, Artificially Flavored *Country Product.” *Contains no actual country.
Q - Tell me about your involvement in CHIRP Radio. What have you tried to do through being a volunteer for CHIRP Radio?

I’ve been volunteering there since just before the station went live on the net. I had a regular show for the first six months, but gave that up when my tour and gig schedule got too tight for a weekly spot. 

I still sub when I can, and I call my show “The Mutant Hit Parade." I spin my version of “the hits,” meaning songs that I think are catchy and unique, but maybe a little weird, and mostly unheard of. I also contribute reviews to the CHIRP music library.
Q - Your band, The Lawrence Peters Outfit, released its debut album nationally in 2012. Are you working on new songs with the band? What were your goals in forming the band and do you think you've reached them?

I’ve played with lots of great folks over the years and have had some rad times, but I wanted to give myself a chance to see if my ideas were good enough to stand on their own. I wanted to write more, and I knew that wasn’t possible without being the leader of my own band, where I’d have control over the sound and influences. 

I’m very happy with my band. It’s always a great time, and the music sounds just the way I like it.
The last couple of years have been all about getting the most out of that first release, and that’s finally paying off. We’re getting better shows and opportunities, with less effort on my part. 

Now that I have some solid momentum from that, I’m making some space to finish the pile of partial songs I have in my book. We’ve been doing one that I just completed, and it’s sounding great; very encouraging for the next stretch of writing, and the new turf I want to cover.
Q - You've done so much in your career. Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

Plenty of stuff in that category - I’ve got a secret list of folks that I want to have add their magic to the next record (the last one included Robbie Fulks, Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor and others). I’m looking to get The Lawrence Peters Outfit into more out-of-town festivals, and some European touring. 

I’m working on a country music podcast that will spotlight a lot of classic and lesser-known performers, plus some other choice content. Among the highest on my list of tough nuts to crack is getting to play the Grand Ole Opry. 

Improbable, but I always need a sore tooth to worry.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Buffalo Killers expands sound with new album, coming to Chicago

Photo by Scott Beseler


Cincinnati-based Buffalo Killers continues to expand its sound, as it demonstrates on its latest album, "Heavy Reverie." 

The band, comprised of brothers Andy and Zachary Gabbard and drummer Joseph Sebaali, also recently added a fourth member, Sven Kahns on guitar and lap steel, which has helped Buffalo Killers develop a fuller sound. 

That sound will be on full display when Buffalo Killers performs June 28 at Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. Killer Moon, Aktar Aktar and Thee Arthur Lane also are on the bill. 

The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $10, available at 

I had the chance to talk to guitarist and singer Andy Gabbard about the new album.

Q - Great talking to you. Your latest album, "Heavy Reverie," was recently released. In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 

We don't really sit down and set goals for our band. We just like to create songs and play live. 

My brother and I both write a lot on our own so when it's time to make an album, we just bring our songs together and work it out as a band. As time goes on, we all have become more concerned with supporting the songs rather than showcasing ourselves through the songs.

We just wanna write good songs. No gimmicks. 

Q - The album was produced by Jim Wirt, who has worked with a variety of bands over the years, including Incubus and Fiona Apple. How did you hook up with him and what do you think he brought to the table? 

His label, Sun Pedal Recordings, contacted us and they would come and see us play whenever we were in Cleveland and take us to Crush Tone. After a while, we made plans to record with Jim.

When we came up we played him the songs and he was into all of the arrangements, so we went ahead and knocked out all the music. We spent most of the four or five days we were there getting the vocals real good.

Jim is a great vocal coach, we've never had someone like that before so it was a new experience. We like to do new things. 

Q - It only took five days to record the album. Was that because the process went so smoothly? What was it like tracking the album on the Neve console that Michael Jackson used to record his "Thriller" demos? 

We were well rehearsed for the session. We had all the songs down pretty tight as a band so it did go smoothly. Although I don't think we had all of the lyrics written and whatnot.

Recording on MJ's Neve was awesome. We are now linked in some way, ha ha.

Q - You recently added a fourth member to the band, Sven Kahns. How has that helped the band? Was it just the right time to add another member? 

We are louder and fuller now. We sound better live.

And we can record faster in the studio cause I don't have to add any rhythm. Also, Sven is an amazing pedal steel player. Which can come in serious handy! 

It 'twas the right time. The right bro.

Q - What are the benefits of being in a band with your brother? Are there any negatives? 

Our voices blend well. We are always on the same page musically on another brotherly level.

We get to spend time together. We grew up together! Being in a band with your bro is awesome! 

We never fight! No one believes us! 

Q - Buffalo Killers was formed after your previous band, Thee Shams, dissolved. Did that band just run its course? What your goals in forming Buffalo Killers? 

Thee Shams had its own thing. Its own sound.

You need certain people to achieve that sound. And us three had our own sound. We were all in Thee Shams at one time.

But the three of us alone were obviously a different band. It was all new when we started Buffalo Killers. 

Q - What was it like opening for The Black Crowes? Did you see that as a turning point for the band?  

It was a lot of fun. A great learning experience.

When we first went out with them, we had just formed basically. So looking back at it, I think it was great for us to be pushed out in front of so many people.

At the time it was terrifying, ha ha. We are very fortunate to have had the opportunity to open for such a legendary band. 

Q - After the band finishes its current tour, what's next for the Buffalo Killers this year? 

We have another album in the can we are hoping to release on Black Friday. Besides that we will continue to do our thing and promote "Heavy Reverie." Thanks man!