Corey Stevens and his band come to Minnesota often, and they have an excellent following. For good reason too, good blues… very good blues. After a short warm-up set by Molly Nova and the Hawk, Corey took the stage around 9:30 to the delight of an intimate but enthusiastic crowd of about 150 people. Opening with an exercise on the fretboard, Corey launched into a perfected version of Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Scuttle Buttin". The crowd rose to their feet and drew in close to the stage as Corey demonstrated that he came to play. After a 6-minute jam, Corey thanked the crowd and remarked how nice it was to be in Minnesota for the final weeks of his current tour.
His friends, Dave Salinas on drums, Will MacGregor on bass and backing vocals, and Paul Testa on the Hammond B3, accompanied Corey. Paul joins Corey in Minnesota whenever he can since he's native of St. Paul and active in the music scene around town. Will and Dave have both been with Corey since 1994 and appeared with him on his first two studio albums. They are also loyal touring members with Corey in addition to playing the LA area clubs and doing session work. Will is also putting out a new album this spring and touring in Japan after his work with Corey's tour.
Next up on his setlist was one of Corey's own "I'll Play The Blues", a slow ballad blues track off his first CD, Blue Drops Of Rain. Without so much as an extra drum beat, they continued with two more CD favorites to an eager crowd now pushed up to the stage. For the next nearly 2 hours, Corey amazed his fans with many originals, all available on his Blue Drops Of Rain and Road To Zen CDs. Not to be overshadowed by his own successful songwriting, we were treated to another cover of SRV, "Couldn't Stand The Weather". When the adjective, "tight" is used to describe a band, the definition would be this live version of this song. Corey's smokin' leads with Dave demonstrating an incredible sense of timing and energy, along with Will who just simply plays with so much skill and conviction, the entire house appeared to be awestruck. All I could think was, Stevie would be proud of these guys!
After a few more originals including the title track, "Blue Drops of Rain" Corey blasted into Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love" followed by another cover of Stevie Ray, this time the song "Lenny". The crowd was again in awe, and Corey couldn't have played a tribute any better than this. After several more originals including, "One More Time" and "Big House Blues" off his Road To Zen CD, the band played a blazing version of "Gone Too Long" - another original and crowd pleaser.
A grand finale encore included his title cut, "Road To Zen", Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile (slight return)" and Corey's own "Too Much Fun". The evening was just that, "too much fun" not only for the crowd, but Corey and boys were all having a great time playing. Corey, Will, Dave and Paul showcased an evening of talent and skill that far surpassed ability only, they played with soul. After the show, Corey came out and signed autographs, chatted with folks and appeared to be comfortable just being a regular guy who just happens to sing and play some fantastic blues. Equally as unassuming and approachable are his band mates. They are extremely friendly guys and masters of the music they make.
Watch for Corey's new CD available on April 8th on the Fuel 2000 label titled, Bring On The Blues. I had chance to talk with Corey prior to the show and we discussed his new CD, some of his influences growing up and his live show gear. Corey sites Keith Richards as a single most musical influence as a youngster first learning guitar. Of course the Stevie Ray and Jimi influences are evident in his style and perfection today. Corey plays with 12 - 53 gauge strings on his strats, and always plays a half step down tuning. His amps are a '64 Fender Super Reverb and a Marshall combo, and his guitars are all Fender Strats, nicknamed "Brownie," "Redley" and "Greenie."
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