- the model name of a Hudson built in the '30's
- taken from a Robert Johnson song, ' Terraplane Blues'
- the name of an eclectic and wide-ranging local blues band.
Foster Willey's harp is the tie that binds the diverse elements of Terraplane together. I've seen them several times in the past couple of years, and on this night, it had been quite some time since I'd seen them. I was impressed by them in several ways, not the least of which was their ability to move the audience to their fancy feet for a Blues Brothers inspired dance improvisation.
First, the range of their material runs from funk to Charlie Parker to Texas boogie-woogie. It's so refreshing to hear much-loved but seldom-performed songs. Their choice of songs keeps your attention and plays to their strengths.
Second, I was impressed by the talent and diversity of the individual performers. This particular evolution of the band has been together for three years, and consists of: Foster himself, Dave Hofgren, on lead guitar, drummer Mike Dubois and bassist Wendell Kirk Thomas. Guitarist Dave Hofgren has a jazz background and an eccentric style that touches on Scott Henderson, Frank Zappa, and Hendrix. He likes the Texas boogie-woogie, and performs an unexpected version of "Red House" with a gritty sound not found in jazz. He played with Willie Murphy's jams at the Viking. Wendell Kirk Thomas is among the few bassists who will sing lead. Mike Dubois' drumming is crisp and impressive. Foster Willey describes himself as a latecomer to performing though he comes from a family of musicians and played harmonica in college, and is a product of local jams at Whiskey Junction and the Derby, having also studied with Clint Hoover and Curtis Blake after moving here from Chicago in 88.
Third, is their ability to sound fresh while doing cover material. Song selection is critical, and they do an outstanding job of picking memorable yet seldom-heard songs. The band is making the difficult transition from improvisation to songwriting. Together and as soloists, their performances are on-the-mark and delightful.
Foster describes the first evolution of the band as successful, while the second evolution as a jam band was on-the-job training in the blues tradition. Their performance includes some fair improvisation and interpretation of traditional blues. Since being picked up by Winger Entertainment, the band has become more serious in its effort and the effort shows. These guys are professionals. Their plans are to record a CD yet this year. This is one of the more enjoyable bands on the local scene, especially if you're looking for something different. Terraplane has definitely raised their ante, and I hope to find that it pays off with festival gigs and better rooms. They're worth it. Contact: call Foster Willey: 612-782-8629 or for booking: Wenger Entertainment 651-484-2095
This review is copyright © 2001 by Rebecca West, and Blues On Stage, 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.
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