In 1978, Canada's Powder Blues Band formed as a house band for clubs in Vancouver's lively Gastown. They consistently played the local scene for 18 months and in 1980 released their debut "Uncut" to critical acclaim. On the strength of 4 top ten singles from that LP, they toured Canada and the US at a hectic pace. A year later, their second album, "Thirsty Ears", was released and shipped platinum with a top five single. In '82 they released their third LP before their initial European tour in 1983. On that tour they made a stop at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The set they performed at the festival was recorded and initially released on LP in 1984. However, it would be 1997 before it was released as a CD. This time around it was restored to its original 66 minute length.
The band leaps into their phenomenal, ten song set with "Oh Well Oh Well". The lyrics perfectly describe what this band is all about: 'do you wanna jump children, do you wanna jive children, do you wanna party people, shake it and dancing all night, boogie woogie, let the good times roll.' This extremely tight band gets loose on the instrumental "Rockchopper" where all the members get a chance to solo. You hear Tom Lavin's precision guitar, Dave Woodward's bleating tenor sax, Bill Runge's rumbling baritone sax, Mark Hasselbach's blasting trumpet, Willie MacCalder's rollicking piano, Don Cummings' thudding bass and Duris Maxwell's thumping drums. Together they perform unpretentiously as a solid group.
"Same Old Blues" is Willie's signature tune where he takes over on vocals. This piano whiz dexterously runs up and the scales on the keyboard throughout the set. On this track he briefly goes completely solo on the 88s. The band loves combining blues and booze as on "What've I Been Drinkin'". Here, Tom throws slick yet kicking guitar into the mix. Although its difficult to sit still to any one of their songs, you won't be able to resist the temptation to get up and shake to "Nadine". On "Personal Manager", Freddie King influenced Tom Lavin proves his mastery of blues guitar. In a mesmerizing performance, he plays so softly you could hear a pin drop and then he brings up the tempo culminating in an exchange of licks where the band follows his every move. In addition to being a competent guitarist, Tom easily contends for the smoothest voice in the blues.
Since their inception, this Canadian band has been uniquely incorporating swing, blues, rock, and R&B into a sound they proudly call their own. The band has continued to release impressive music and endlessly tour Canada, the US and overseas since this recording was made. Some feel this flawless CD was recorded during the band's finest hour. However, the same hot guitar, fiery piano and infectious rhythms topped by pulsating, vibrant horns heard here is still what the band delivers today. One word describes this disc and that is 'brilliant' simply 'brilliant'.
For CDs, booking and information, contact: Tom Lavin via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and check the band's website: www.powderblues.net
This review is copyright © 2001 by Tim Holek, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.