It may come as a surprise to some, but the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in the US have a burgeoning blues scene. A recent business trip offered a chance to check out what is going on, and we came away mightily impressed.
First stop was Famous Dave's BBQ and Blues Shack, which is located uptown, to see Willie Kent and the Gents. The place was packed out. The food was very good, and the band was even better. Guitarist Haguy King who played on Kent's excellent "Comin' Alive" album was back in Israel due to family matters, but there was the added bonus of James Wheeler on lead guitar to make up for it. Kent was happy to take more of a back seat during the early stages, and share the vocals out, but came to the front later. They played plenty of songs from the recent album, along with a handful of classic Chicago tunes. Willie Kent and the Gents are a very tight outfit, and on this showing it is not hard to see why Kent is always in the shake-up at awards time.
The Sam Lay Band
Famous Dave's BBQ & Blues Shack, Minneapolis
April 26, 2002
Six days later we were back at the same venue to catch up with the Sam Lay band. Although Lay is a drummer, he normally sets up with his kit at the front of the stage. On this particular evening, however, he contented himself with playing guitar, at least for the duration of the first set. Lay has a great sense of humour, and must be one of the best dressed men in the blues, sporting a very fine zoot suit for this gig. He has also put
together a very tight band, who certainly deliver the goods. The set featured several tracks from "Rush Hour Blues" including the excellent (and highly amusing) "I'm Gonna Shoot Her."
Brewbakers, St. Paul
April 26, 2002
A quick trip across the river to north St. Paul enabled us to catch some of W.C. Clark at Brewbakers. There are no flashy gimmicks where W.C. Clark is concerned. He just sits there and does what he does best: play some very fine guitar licks, and sing in what is one of the most soulful voices in the blues today. He was aided and abetted by a very tight band, including an excellent one-man horn section in the shape of Richard "Slick" Simpson. The set was largely based on original material, all of which had people out
on the floor, and included several songs from Clark's excellent "From Austin With Soul" album. All bets for best gig of the year are now off.
A very big thank you to Ray Stiles from Blues On Stage (www.mnblues.com) for acting as our blues host and chauffeur. Anyone who visits the US with a view to hearing a range of excellent blues could do a lot worse than make the Twin Cities their first point of call.
Simply click on the CD covers to order these CDs NOW!
This review is copyright © 2002 by Gordon Baxter, 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.
You can help support this blues website by making a contribution (click on the banner below for details)
Web Hosting & Design:
Web Hosting & Design.
Most affordable web hosting and design services available.
Find out how you can host your current site at Blues On Stage, or how I can help you design your own website!
If you would like your CD reviewed, please send TWO (2) copies, along with promotional material to:
Blues On Stage
PO Box 582983
Minneapolis, MN 55458-2983
E-mail Ray Stiles @ firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.