This Madison, Wisconsin based barroom blues band is a true triple threat outfit with an energy and enthusiasm that got the crowd into their performance, up on their feet dancing, and paying attention to their smooth, hot blues all night. Keyboard player and vocalist Jimmy Voegeli got things started with the slow-rolling, soulful blues of "Waiting for You." Jimmy has a strong, expressive voice for blues that matches his energetic and expressive keyboard playing. The smooth, fluid up-beat harp of West Side Andy and the solid picking of strumming of Mel Ford on guitar made this selection from their latest CD, Handyman, a great show opener.
All night long the band traded solos and lead vocal among Jimmy, Andy, and Mel with drummer Steve Dougherty adding lead vocals on a few numbers. The band also did a great job of changing tempos. They smoothly ranged from the up-tempo, swinging, blues rock of "Ride Andy Ride" driven by West Side Andy's smooth, clear vocals, solid vocal harmonies by the band, and Andy's fluid, soaring harp licks to the soulful and mournful "Drink My Whiskey Down." On the latter Mel Ford's strong, low, raspy vocals and full, rich, and solid guitar licks backed delivered an atmospheric, emotional impact. Andy's great harp riffs, including the clever inclusion of some riffs from "Low Rider" added to the texture and hidden humor of the song.
This band can give you a lot more than blues, jamming to some great R&B on "Put It Where You Want It" with Jimmy burning up the Hammond B-3 as Andy and Mel traded riffs between harp and guitar at the front of the stage. All the while the crowded dancers on the stage kept their eyes on the action to watch this triple-threat band provide some smoking music. This is a great live bar blues band, reflected in Mel Ford's strong, husky vocals and solid guitar playing on "You Were Wrong." Mel played behind his head as he moved back and forth to the rhumba beat, laid his guitar out flat in front to play with his tongue, all the while capturing the crowd's and dancers' attention with his driving guitar licks. West Side Andy showed off his extraordinary harp talent on "Way Back Home" where his soaring, swooping harp licks, fluid style, and long, held notes drove the song. Andy strolled through the crowd playing, stopping to climb up on a chair and blow his hot harp in the middle of the crowd. Jimmy drove the great, up-tempo blues of "Good Work." with his infectious, boogie-woogie piano and expressive, nicely ranging vocals. Strong, solid harmonies from Andy, Mel, and Steve and their solid instrumental work helped make this song a hit with the crowd and sweaty dancers.
While he added vocals with solid efforts in his strong, husky voice on several songs, including a very good "Sweet Home Chicago," Steve's solid drumming and interplay with talented bass player Tony Menzer created a strong, hip funky groove that the pair hit right away and continued all night long. This solid rhythm section forms a strong foundation for the energetic, enthusiastic and skillful playing and singing of Andy, Mel, and Jimmy. The band is currently touring behind their 2002 CD release, Handyman, their second CD after their self-titled debut CD. Andy says the band wants to play more blues festivals this summer to gain more exposure while continuing to play as many club gigs as possible. Judging from the large, enthusiastic crowd at Famous Dave's, Twin Cities blues fans already know who they are and appreciate their music. This is one band that is great to either listen or dance to, or both at the same time to fully appreciate their talent and energy. Andy said the band wants to go back in the studio later this year to work on their next CD. The band also appeared at The Narrows on Friday night during their weekend blues excursion to the Twin Cities.
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