In the event that the title of this article has led you to believe that I recently spent a long weekend in Chitown experiencing "Blues Heaven," I am sorry to say that I was no where near the fine city of Chicago this past weekend. However, given a bit of scheduling luck and a trip to sunny Florida, I did manage to fit in a nice "Chicago-Style" weekend of blue music beginning on Thursday in Navarre, Minnesota at The Narrows and ending early Sunday morning at Tobacco Road in Miami, Florida. What follows is a brief recap of my weekend.
Andrew "Jr. Boy" Jones
Thursday, October 17, 2002
The Narrows-Navarre, Minnesota
I got an early start on my weekend when I took the short trip down to The Narrows to see Texas guitarist Andrew "Jr. Boy" Jones for the first time. Having enjoyed Jr. Boy's two Bullseye recordings, I Need Time and Watch What You Say, I made the trip to Navarre with great expectations of what I would hear on Thursday evening. Suffice it to say, my expectations were exceeded by Jones' performance and then some.
The first thing I found out when I arrived at The Narrows was that Jr. Boy had recently released a new CD on Galexc Records entitled Mr. Domestic (GLXC-7001). As Jr. Boy signed my copy, he let me know that the band would be playing several songs from the new CD that evening. As it turned out, during the first set Jr. Boy played songs from each of his three recordings as well as some other "bonus" material like his killer version of Freddie King's classic, "Hideaway." Jr. Boy described his rendition of the song as a tribute to King who was Jr. Boy's mentor and someone who had a great influence on his career.
Since I was catching an early flight in the morning, I was only able to stay for one set on Thursday evening, but it was probably one of the finest guitar performances that I have seen in a long, long time. Jones' command of the edgy Texas guitar style and his crisp, clean guitar work was simply amazing. On every song, I was impressed by Jones' combination of speed and clarity, with every note played able to stand alone in his performance. Backed by an three other excellent musicians, including Shawn Phares (piano/organ), Tommy Tucker (bass) and Jimmy Morgan (drums), Jones had the audience spellbound. Even though Jones is clearly a virtuoso performer on the guitar, he neither played over his band members or tried to hog the show as the "star." Tucker and Morgan worked diligently to maintain a solid backbeat, while Shawn Phares traded solos on the piano and/or the organ. Whether he was playing a great slowed down version of Junior Wells' hit "Little By Little" or his fine original "Big Legs. Heavy Bottom," this was one KILLER SHOW! On the title track from the new CD, "Mr. Domestic," Jones described the song as being very popular among the women, but not the men, because it describes the man as handling the domestic responsibilities (cooking, cleaning, sewing, etc) in the house described in the song, an interesting twist on the usual roles in any particular household. It was another excellent song is a uniformly excellent set on Thursday evening.
When the set ended with another Jones' original called "I Got A Stick," I made sure that I complimented the members of the band for their fine performance while expressing my regret that I would be able to stay or to see them at Famous Dave's over the weekend. As I left The Narrows, I knew it was going to be a tough act to follow for the rest of the weekend.
Saturday, October 19, 2002
Fast Track-Margate FL
After spending Friday traveling to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and teaching classes until 10:00 p.m. on Friday and all day Saturday until 5:00 p.m., I was ready to hear some more fine blues music on Saturday night. Having checked the local blues schedule before I left Minnesota, I knew that my first stop on Saturday night would be to a new nightspot (for me anyway) called Fast Track. After overcoming a bit of confusion over the location of the club, I arrived and took a prime seat for a performance by blues and slide guitar hero, John Mooney.
The show opened at 9:00 p.m. with local acoustic bluesman Ernie Southern performing an hour long set of well done covers and original material on his well worn, yet trustworthy, steel resonator guitar. The set included originals, as well as material by Robert Johnson, Tommy Johnson, Charlie Patton and a host of other acoustic greats. It was a fine opening set and a perfect set-up for Mooney's show to follow.
Since I was on a tight time frame for the evening, I again only stayed for one of John Mooney's two scheduled sets. As was the case on Thursday evening, my expectations were exceeded by Mooney's marvelous performance in front of a surprisingly large crowd at Fast Times (Mooney's show was rescheduled from another venue at the last minute). Making use of any one of the four guitars he had on stage with him, Mooney powered his way through such classics as "Last Fair Deal Gone Down," "Baby, Please Don't Go" and "Phonograph Blues." Mooney's ability to make the guitars sing on each number excited the appreciative audience repeatedly, whether it was on covers like "Ain't Gonna Worry My Life Anymore" or original material like "Ain't Gonna Be Your Dirty Rat," written by Mooney back in 1978. One of the best aspect of Mooney's performance was the way that he was able to put his personal stamp on every song regardless of the author. His guitar work was lightning fast and creative, playing the guitar both with his hand over, as well as under the fretboard and with or without his slide.
After Mooney's fine opening set concluded, I quickly complimented him on his excellent show and then jumped in the car for my early Sunday morning visit to Tobacco Road.
The Albert Castiglia Band
Sunday, October 20, 2002
Tobacco Road-Miami, FL
My final stop for the weekend took me from very late Saturday (11:45 p.m.) to my early Sunday morning (12:30 a.m.) visit to Tobacco Road to see former Junior Wells and Sandra Hall guitarist, Albert Castiglia. With his fresh new debut CD Burn receiving excellent reviews, I was looking forward to seeing Albert on his own for the first time since I met him in 1999.
Except for my review of Burn and a couple of quick e-mails, I had not seen or talked to Albert since February 2002 at a Junior Well's band reunion at Rosa's in Chicago. I arrived at Tobacco Road (Miami's oldest downtown bar) right at the end of Albert's second set and he greeted me as if I were his long lost brother. After I apologized for getting to Tobacco Road so late, Albert informed me that the band had played their prime set first, figuring I would be there earlier in the evening. However, Albert told me to pick a couple of songs that I particularly liked and he would play them again if in fact the band had played them earlier.
Albert Castiglia is a fine entertainer, part comedian, part master of ceremonies and always the consummate guitarist. During the final set, Albert engaged in conversations with members of the audience as he played through his hour long set and beyond. At my request, Albert and band performed one of my favorites from Burn, a song called "Teasin' The Trains" along with the title track, "Burn" and another of my favorites, "The Day The Old Man Died." Along with the tracks from Burn, Albert performed a number of other fine songs including Johnny Taylor's classic, "Last Two Dollars," "Little Red Rooster," "The Thrill Is Gone" and "Everything's Gonna Be Alright." On "Everything's Gonna Be Alright," Albert ripped through an extended guitar solo, walking through the audience on the patio, out to the parking lot and back around through the bar, playing his guitar and mugging for the crowd. With the fine backing of his band including Dennis Rico (guitar), Judah Shkolnik (drums), Steve Gaskell (bass) and Jerry Mascaro (keyboards), Albert put on a fine show and an excellent finish to my "Chicago-Style" blues weekend.
It was a weekend with a bit of everything for the blues fan. Over the four days I got to see and hear some fine blues by some excellent musicians. Whether it was Texas, Louisiana, Chicago, electric or acoustic blues, it was all great. Every show was a pleasure, with artists worth seeing again and again. With some careful planning and a little luck, perhaps I 'll get to have another weekend like it again soon.
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This review is copyright © 2002 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
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