Sonny Rhodes - October 24th by Ray Stiles
Carrying on with the idea of different theme nights this year, Famous Dave's (courtesy of Paul Metsa) offered up three nights billed as the Texas Blues Guitar Shootout. Although there was really no shootout between these fine performers, there was some excellent and varied guitar slinging going on each of the three nights.
Sonny Rhodes, a long time Texas troubadour has a style that one doesn't readily associate with Texas (Sonny calls himself a "Disciple of the Blues"). He is most well know for his lap steel guitar playing (which he learned from Oakland bluesman L.C. "Good Rockin'" Robinson), distinctive turban and stellar performer. Born November 3, 1940 in Smithville, Texas, Sonny Rhodes recorded his first record in 1961 under his real name, Clarence Edward Smith. Throughout the last four decades, Rhodes has recorded over two hundred songs and played bass behind Freddie King and his friend Albert Collins.
Omar and the Howlers - October 25th by Ray Stiles
This was the first time I had seen this band, although I have been listening to their albums for years. It seems they don't get up this way too often, this being the first time in about a decade and a half. Redneck blues is the best way for me to describe this conglomeration of blues/rock n' roll/rockabilly/roots music. And I mean that as a good thing because this was a very fun show to watch and listen to.
Kent Dykes, the "Omar" leading the Howler's took command of the stage with his guitar, that appeared to be in miniature compared to his size, resting at an angle on his ample midsection (reminiscent of Poppa Chubby)
Dykes grew up in Mississippi listening to country music and the early rock and roll of Little Richard and Elvis. He started playing guitar at age 12 and hit the stage professionally at age 15. With many awards, records and show dates over the years, Omar and the Howlers have become Texas music legends.
Smokin' Joe Kubek and Bnois King - October 26th by Rich Benson
Smokin' Joe plays searing, muscular Texas blues guitar on his Fender as Bnois King adds the subtle blues polish with his Gibson guitar and smooth, strong, expressive vocals. Yet sometimes Smokin' Joe can bring it down, playing, soft, sure and beautifully while Bnois can really rock on his Gibson while he growls his vocals for some gritty, back-in-the-alley blues. It's obvious that the two enjoy each others' company and love playing off each other's considerable talents. They showed this on "I Need More," where Joe played some great, expressive slide guitar while Bnois added his smooth, rich vocals and solid guitar licks.
Smokin' Joe can really howl and snarl, as he did on the humorous song, "The Coast is Clear." Bnois played well off of Joe's rocking Texas blues guitar with his own expressive guitar licks and great, tongue in cheek vocals. All night the band did a great job of mixing up-tempo, rocking Texas roadhouse blues with mid-tempo, danceable numbers and slow, blues grinders. The many dancers in the crowd got up early and kept the small dance floor busy in appreciation of the great blues dance music they were hearing.
While they played mostly originals, they slipped in some great, less-known covers such as "The Same Old Thing," a great blending of both guitars and Bnois' silky, emotional vocals. Bnois announced that they are going release a new CD, Roadhouse Research, in February, 2003. They gave the crowd a taste of that with a smoking, rocking roadhouse blues instrumental driven by their two guitar attack at the end of their second set. Smokin' Joe and Bnois seem to have a real respect for each other's talents and their years of playing together makes for solid, Texas blues that yet has a gentler, expressive edge and a real sense of humor and human emotion. This was a great finish to the Texas Blues Guitar Shootout Weekend that Famous Dave's brought to enthusiastic Twin Cities blues fans. Each night featured a different facet of Texas blues, but there was no doubt where the roots of all three bands lie.
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