The Eric Culberson Band might be the best blues garage act coming out of the Southeast. Eric is a traditionalist at heart. Using a 66 Trini Lopez guitar and 66 Twin Reverb amp, his focus is channeling the spirits of the Chicago blues masters and building a template that combines rawness retaining gutbucket enthusiasm.
Working only with drummer Stuart Lusk and bassist Nate Saraceno, Culberson never failed to entertain the patrons at Darwins. He was a professor for the guitar freaks. It was just as good as watching a musician hold court on an instructional dvd.
Clearly Eric worships at the trilogy of Kings with detours into the Delta. There was the tribute to Albert King with the searing take on "Crosscut Saw." Culberson slowly scalded through the hoodoo whiskey Muddy Waters classic "Honey Bee."
Though he has two studio cds under his belt, Eric doesn't play too much of his own compositions. The only originals standing out were "No Rules To The Game" and "I Promised Myself I Wouldn't Drink Anymore." The latter borrows the riff from the Elmore James warhorse "Dust My Broom." But it's forgivable because Culberson's attack on his instrument is a furious one that doesn't hold back.
The biggest strengths were avoiding the same old shuffles which follow many acts and are just too damn predictable. Culberson doesn't leave his rhythm section alone to go off on long solos. It would only interrupt flow of the program. For showmanship he throws in a little Buddy Guy. He can get into feedback. If you check out his stage setup, there are no pedal boards and effects. He has got all the mojo trappings anyway. So why ruin it?
The buzz kills? Covering "Hey Joe" and "Red House" could have been left off the musical menu. For this journalist, hearing these numbers over a zillion times has lost its appeal and there is no mystery left when the lion has already made its kill. Yet the balloon lifted off again when Culberson fired off Hendrix' "Castles Made Of Sand" that turned into a bit of a heady jam. Not that Eric was trying to take on the role of a psychedelic warrior and re-invent the wheel. He just wanted to add his own spoke.
Part of the charisma of Eric's appeal is his setlist. There isn't a setlist. Culberson has the knack to read his audience. Calling out keys to the other band members, the decision of song selection is made on the spot. Unlike a few acts that are almost bored to tears for trudging out the same old setlist for years, Culberson lets spontaneity speak volumes. It's like his guitar playing: It coils. It twists. It can attack you like a swarm of bees. Or it can embrace you like B.B. King making love to you with his beloved Lucille. The next best thing to a spiritual orgasm.
Since Stevie Ray's death, there just have been too many clones following in his footsteps. Names need not be mentioned to protect the innocent. What is great about Culberson is his enthusiasm for the old masters who were the Dalai Lamas of the form: Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Freddie King, Albert King, Son Seals and Buddy Guy. It's a pity that sometimes these gentlemen are forgotten for their contributions.
To get an idea of what Eric is like, Check out his live release "Live At The Bamboo Room ." That sucker has it all. What you hear on that is how Eric actually plays: No pretense. No bs. From six string swaths to greasy multiple note groupings and single note flurries, Culberson is part of the lineage of a tradition that the late Mike Bloomfield brought to the public light. There aren't too many folks who can carry that flag from the twentieth century without dropping it. Culberson doesn't have that problem.