Luther and the Healers are a local Houston blues band who play regularly at the Cactus Moon. Luther plays lead guitar and handles most of the vocals. Luther kicked things off with a strong guitar-driven instrumental, supported by solid B-3 playing by keyboard master Skip Nallia. The band then served up a strong performance of "Every Day I Have the Blues," with Luther providing a strong guitar intro, emotional, drawn-out vocals, and great synchronized movement with his bass player, Magic. Luther gave the crowd some nice, vibrato in his vocals on his next selection, "Rock Me Baby." Luther's strong, howling guitar lead, a great keyboard solo, and the steady bass groove here all pointed to how tight and capably this band can play.
The band worked their way through a number of strong covers, including "Tore Down," "Midnight Hour," and "Cold Shot." Luther and the band showed strong, expressive playing, solid, passionate vocals, and very tight playing. Luther proved to be both talented and fearless, taking on Stevie Ray Vaughn hits, "Mr. Pitiful" by Otis Redding, and even a little B.B. King on "Bad Case of Love." Several times Luther walked out into the crowd to play directly in front of his fans at the Cactus Moon. The crowd responded with a great deal of enthusiasm by hitting the dance floor and cheering and clapping their approval to each song.
Luther's range in both his guitar playing and vocals was impressive. While he can play loud, fast and powerful Texas blues, he also has the skill and stage presence to deliver subtle, soulful licks and vocals when appropriate, as he did on "Chain of Fools." The band did a good job changing tempos while keeping the crowd enthused. In their final set Luther and the Healers gave a taste of Jimi Hendrix and Robert Cray. Luther indicated he has started his own band about 10 years ago after learning to play and relocating from Chicago. His present band has been together for three years, with experienced players on bass and keyboards and the young, enthusiastic Paul Valdez on drums. Luther ("just Luther," he says) and the band play around Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. They are working towards their first CD. If you happen to run across these guys on a trip South, it will be well worth your time to check them out.
The Cactus Moon is about 18 miles north of downtown Houston. The 300+ capacity club has music 7 nights a week, featuring national blues acts along with local and regional ones. They have a great, friendly staff, a solid core of regular and knowledgeable blues fans, and a menu combining Tex-Mex, burgers, and more exotic fare like alligator tail (broiled or fried). Owner Tom Gardner has worked hard over the years building up his club and constantly promoting, especially with his selection of T-shirts and tank-tops which rivals any selection I have ever seen in a club. When they talk about their in-store boutique, they're not kidding. The club is easy to find, located in downtown Humble just off highway 59 and business 1960. If you get to Houston, stop in and Tom and the staff will make you feel right at home.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Rich Benson, 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.