Fans who have never seen Jim Suhler and Monkey Beat live will rush to his gigs after purchasing the dvd Real Time-Live In Texas.
Filmed at the Granada Theater in Dallas, TX, this dvd shows this band as a powerhouse unit of seismic groove activity lighting fire for Suhler's fretboard wizardry.
The gig gets off to a running start with Suhler's interpretation of the Hendrix classic "Are You Experienced." There aren't too many musicians who take on this psychedelic warhorse with dobro slide guitar. The fact that Jim does and still makes it a lava lamp bubble of oceanic swirl is a strong musical accomplishment.
With Carlton Powell on bass, Jimmy Morgan on drums and Shawn Phares on keyboards, Suhler has a band of hotshot musicians who stay on his tail at all times and never go out of the pocket. They erupt heavily on "Scattergun" that's a blues rocker driven by greasy slide that can shake dust off Suhler's amplifier. The band cooks hot gumbo on "Deja Blue" which Phares plays accordion on giving it a Crescent City halo.
Most of this dvd is full of Suhler's original compositions which makes it better then turning it into a predictable jukebox of old blues classics. The ballad "Deep Water Lullaby" is a recognizable ode to Jimi Hendrix with lyrical references to rainbow skies, Neptune and Azure blue colors. But as soon as this number ends, Jim leads his band into the instrumental "Scarlet Vision" that has Shawn Phares playing his best honky tonk piano. The accusatory "Bones In The Closet" finds Suhler pulling notes with the care of a dentist going after a bad cavity.
Not enough can be said for Suhler's slide work. Rory Gallagher's "I've Could've Had Religion" is the best compliment Jim can pay to the late blues rocker. It's a musical mojo bag of plantation hoodoo with Suhler firing off hot slide licks drifting to Delta sun. A smoking "Restless Soul" barrels into "Bullfrog Blues" that has Suhler going all over the fretboard with his slide. And when you think more is to be delivered, it just ends too quickly.
The extras are pretty cool. Suhler is filmed playing an acoustic "Deep Elum Blues" in Deep Elum, TX. There is overseas footage of Suhler playing at the Kwadendaame Blues Festival. Jim's buddy Hook Herrera gets on the bandstand to help out with soaring harmonica runs. This is a name to be familiar with because this guy is really that good.
When Suhler is not playing with Monkey Beat, you can catch him playing second guitar behind George Thorogood. Monkey Beat might be the better deal because Jim's in the spotlight. You get what you pay for. An investment in a Jim Suhler ticket would be worth anybody's time if they want blues rock with a passion.