This was a New Year's Eve blues party, Greasy Gravy style, and it was a riot. Greasy Gravy took the chill out of the cold winter air in no time flat, from the time they kicked it off with an instrumental until their party hats were falling off of their heads at 1 a.m.
Greasy Gravy is a four-piece band fronted by phenomenal harp player Curtis Blake, metro area blues vet Greg Shuck on drums, Jerry Maynard on guitar, and John Heck on bass (Maynard and Heck are former members of Cruise Control; Maynard also played with the Red Rooster Band in the 70's). One of the first tunes was "No Money Down" (Muddy's version, not the Allmans')! These guys keep it mostly on the traditional side, with Curtis just blowin' his lungs out all night long (wearing his blues shades, of course). I can't urge you strongly enough to check him out, even if you've seen him before and even if you've seen him many times, because – believe it or not -- he just keeps getting better and better (make that badder and badder)! Whether he's blowin' on the chromatic (as on his jumpin' original "Full Metal Sandwich") or wailing on the high notes on a diatonic (at which he truly excels), Curtis Blake's playing will knock you upside the head. The band scattered a few non-traditional tunes throughout the night that I thought worked very well. No "Mustang Sally" here, but they did play "Caledonia", the Buddy Guy/SRV tune "Mary Had a Little Lamb", and a great Robben Ford song sung by Maynard, "Start it Up". I've never seen anyone cover that one. Very cool.
My better half, John Wickstrom (or "Woody" as these guys call him) sat in on a few songs on guitar. John and Curtis played in the Sonny Rodgers Band a decade ago, and it was fun to see them jam together on stage again. Also, during a break a guy from the crowd - whose name I didn't catch - entertained us with his Andrew Dice Clay impression. Even if you weren't a Dice Man fan, you had to laugh at this cat because he was dead ON. When the clock struck twelve and 2001 rolled in, a woman from the pack of partiers slipped New Year's hats on everyone in the band - while they were playing.
One of the last songs was my favorite: William Clarke's slinky 12-bar instrumental "Greasy Gravy." That's when it finally dawned on me where the band got its name. Come on down to the next Greasy Gravy blues party. I'll save you a chair.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Ann Wickstrom , and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.