Son Seals is definitely one of the top blues guitarists on most hardcore blues fans' lists. This Saturday night he brought his Chicago blues band into Famous Dave's and the many blues fans in attendance were not sure what to expect. Son has had some severe health problems, and this show was a make-up of the one he had to cancel back in February. The first couple of songs were a bit rough, with Son trying to find his groove on guitar. But then he found it and the rest of the night he put on a magical display of blues guitar, singing, and showmanship, and simple joy of life. Son manages to blend his uniquely expressive, crisp guitar playing with his deep, passionate vocals for a great blues sound. His great, jangling, sharp guitar licks, with strident counter licks on the back-beat made for a pleasing blues guitar sound.
In addition to being a great lead guitarist, Son is one of the great blues rhythm guitarists, which is how he started his career. Music Director Paul Metsa noted that Son is probably the best blues rhythm guitar player he has ever heard, commenting that his sound is like that of a deconstructed horn section. Typically on most songs Seals started out on lead, let solid young guitarist Robert Fetzer take over lead in the middle, and then finished up on lead at the end. His simple, beautiful rhythm playing on the grinding blues of "Bad, Bad Feeling" featured subtle, clear picking that perfectly matched his expressive, wailing vocals. Son is a great blues singer, with excellent timing, control, and passion. His low, powerful, mournful tones matched the slowly ringing out chords from his guitar.
Playing his Guild sunburst guitar, Son put on a blues guitar clinic. On "Sun Is Shining" he played a great expressive lead, with fast, expressive fills. Yet it was his slower, soulful playing that impresses the most as he held, bent, and let notes ripple out with rich vibrato as he pushed, pulled, and teased his guitar strings. His howling guitar licks provided power and raw emotion to his blues. Seals has his own unique West Side Chicago blues guitar sound, which he showed off on the hopeful, expressive blues of "Love Is Gonna Make You Well." He coaxes some incredible guitar expressions out of his instrument, smoothly manipulating its strings for a soulful sound, then bringing it up to a fast, snarling sound filled with passion and attitude. Seals frequently smiled at the crowd and laughed his deep, rich laugh, a clear sign that he was having fun playing and truly enjoys his work. His laugh has a hearty, infectious quality that seems boyish and innocent. Despite all he has been through, Son has lost none of his joy for music and appreciation for his fans.
Son had a rock solid blues band backing him which addition to Robert Fetzer on lead and rhythm guitar on his Flying V Gibson included the great Chicago blues drummer Willie "The Touch" Hayes and the talented Greg Simmons on bass. Local blues man Scotty Graves did a solid job on B-3, filling in for their player who apparently could not make the trip.
Son's second set was even more powerful and pleasing musically than the first. Rather than get tired, he seemed to be getting more comfortable and the energy and passion of his playing increased. Over the funky beat of "Give the Devil His Due" Son leaned back in his chair with passion, playing howling, echoing guitar riffs, great repeating chords, and slowly rubbing, picking notes with soulful style. Frequently in his songs Seals would bring the rest of the band down so he could play slow, subtle guitar solos that wowed the crowd with their emotion and sound. On the blues grinder "Leave It Up to You" he took the crowd way back in the alley for some heavy, low ringing guitar followed by soft, slow, barely heard notes that was soulful blues guitar at its best. Then he slowly brought the volume and tempo of his guitar and vocals up for a powerful, emotional finish.
But Son was not done yet. He finished off the night with his most powerful, emotional playing of the night on "Sadie." Son took the steady rolling blues here from some fast expressive guitar licks to powerful, ringing licks snarling with all the Bad Axe attitude he could bring. He brought it down for his solo, playing long, repeating notes that he slowly let echo out and held, followed by quick riffs that washed into the still echoing notes from before. Simply put, Son Seals put on arguably one of the best blues shows fans in the Twin Cities may see this year. It was great to see and hear a blues legend that despite all he has been through has lost none of his passion for life, love, and the blues.
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