It had been nearly a year since I had seen Ross play more than part of a set.
Ross William Perry has been fronting his own blues trio for several years around town. His enormous natural talent and hard work has resulted in people who know having to count him among the top guitarists in town. This Saturday night he brought his trio into the Break-Away Bar & Grill in Robbinsdale for some powerful blues, a little rock, and some simply incredible guitar playing on his 1961 Fender Stratoscaster. Ross' vocals have gotten much stronger; clearly he has been working at his singing. His voice is also maturing and deepening. Yet it's his brilliance on guitar that will always grab blues fans. Ross plays with a powerful, hypnotic quality and beautiful tone that transports you in time and space when he covers classic artists like Hendrix or Otis Rush. His cover of Rush's "I Can't Do My Homework Anymore" captured the spirit and energy of this song as he stood on his toes playing, his lanky frame stretched with emotion. His ringing, repeating chords, over the heavy bass and driving drums, along with his solid, clear vocals, drove the song home.
Ross's music seems to have solid roots in the blues, and respect for those that came before him. Yet he has his own sound, and his own way of playing. His expressive, fast picking, interrupted with quick, slashing licks, held for just a moment, quick hand slides, and many other little things he does add to the sound and visual display on stage. In short, he is becoming more than a guitar slinger, and more of a well-rounded performer with his developing vocals, songwriting, and showmanship. His funky, special effects laden guitar on Junior Wells' "Messing with the Kid" was a unique and pleasing experience despite the lack of a harp. Bass man Brad Pelke on vocals gave a raw, husky delivery of the song with strong, energetic style and all the right attitude.
The growth Ross has made as a performer comes through on his original, "Take It Baby." His heavy, snarling, growling guitar powers out on top of Casey Schultz's driving drums and Brad's throbbing bass. Ross' vocals here are dark, heavy, and brooding with dark passion. He threw one hand above his head with emotion, and continued to play one-handed. He brought the song down low for a slower, subtle guitar solo, and then brought it right back up with screaming passion. The crowd roared their approval, clamoring for more. This is a young man who is going places, and who will keep the blues vibrant for years.
Ross has solid backing players in Brad on bass and the always-smiling Scotty Schultz beating out the rhythm on drums. Brad is the veteran of the group, veteran of several local bands with a nice, heavy bass sound and strong, husky vocals that fit nicely with blues. Scotty has so much energy and enthusiasm and the most joyful attitude of any drummer I've ever seen. At one point Ross told Scotty for the crowd's benefit "It's criminal what you do to those drums back there!" Both players have the energy, enthusiasm, and talent to nicely fill out Ross' power blues trio.
Be sure to check out Ross the next chance you get while it is still inexpensive and easy to see him. With his talent and hard work, he will eventually get his shot at a national audience. And you don't want to miss his long, inspired guitar solo cover of "Superstition." It's a real show-stopper that shows you just how much talent and passion he can bring to the stage.
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