Over the years, I have seen bluesman Lonnie Brooks on many occasions; enjoying his performances with one or both of his talented sons, Ronnie Baker Brooks and Wayne Baker Brooks. More recently, I have gotten the opportunity to see Ronnie Baker Brooks perform with his own band, featuring his blazing guitar and rock-laced blues. On Saturday, at the Minnesota Music Café (MMC) in St. Paul, Minnesota, I got my first opportunity to see Lonnie's other son, Wayne Baker Brooks perform as a solo act.
I learned that Wayne was looking seriously towards solo work from Lonnie last year at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. After taking in his show at MMC, I am pleased to report that I think Wayne's decision to go solo was a good one. Overall, his show at MMC was well done and full of excellent music and guitar from a man who learned his craft well from his father and the other musical influences he has had growing up as a member of the Brooks family.
On Saturday night at MMC, Wayne Baker Brooks was backed by a very together band including Wayne on guitar and vocals; second lead guitar by Chicagoan, Walter Cleveland, also known as Wailin' Walter; Vic Jackson on bass; Brian James on keyboards and Rick King on drums. The band opened without Wayne, performing a cover of Freddie King's classic, "Hideaway," featuring second guitarist, Khalif "Wailin'" Walter.
Shortly after that, it was Wayne's turn to ply the audience with his expressive guitar, opening his performance with "Your Turn (To Talk To The Blues)," from his soon to be released recording, Mystery. As the set progressed with a combination of covers and other originals from Mystery, including "You Make It Easy Baby" and "It Don't Work Like That," it seemed that Wayne's guitar work sounded more like his father, Lonnie, than big brother Ronnie's more rock hardened sound. Wayne is very good about sharing the spotlight with his band, as several songs featured solos by Brian James and/or Khalif "Wailin'" Walter. At the close of the first set, bassist Vic Jackson got in on the soloing, as did drummer Rick King. All the members of the band are veterans of the blues collectively having played with Lonnie and Ronnie Brooks, Koko Taylor, Jimmy Johnson and Otis Rush, among others.
The second set was much like the first, with a nice combination of covers, as well as additional material from Mystery, punctuated by nice guitar work by Wayne Baker Brooks and his band members, particularly Khalif "Wailin'" Walter and keyboard player, Brian James. To add to the entertainment of the evening, the later set included several guests, including appearances by local favorites Jellybean Johnson and Billy Lawson.
It was a great night of music at the Minnesota Music Café and, hopefully, the first of many visits to the Twin Cities by the youngest of the guitar playing Brooks family. To learn more about Wayne Baker Brooks and to see his performance schedule, visit his website at www.waynebakerbrooks.com.
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