I stopped at one club earlier in the night and the sound was so loud it hurt my ears, so I left and headed over to Famous Dave's. And it's a good thing I did, otherwise I would have missed one excellent blues band. That's Blues spelled with a capital B. This was the down-and-dirty brand of blues you would expect to find on the South or West side of Chicago. Only this band was from Lincoln, Nebraska. Right out of the Zoo Bar in Lincoln as a matter of fact.
Lil' Slim (Shawn Holt) is none other than the 22 year old son of Chicago Blues stalwart, Magic Slim (Maurice Holt of Magic Slim and the Teardrops). Lil Slim plays that old style of Chicago blues without all the special effects and pedals popular among many of today's young guitar players. This was just straight plug-it-in-and-play blues, done the way I like to hear it. Not funk, not rock disguised as blues, just plain 'ol blues, done well.
Lil' Slim plays with just a thumb pick (similar to his dad's style of playing), plucking out most of his notes with his thumb and occasionally using his other fingers, but no flat pick, so he is able to get that tone that you just can't get any other way. This was blues played with a rich sound, easy on the ear, and with the occasional gale force bursts of speed when that thumb begins to fly across the strings. One journalist has called him the "fastest thumb in the West."
Shawn moved to Lincoln in 1994 from Chicago when his dad wanted to get the young teen away from the gang violence and other bad influences. Shawn didn't pick up the guitar until after he had left Chicago. He formed a band with long time family friend Jeff Boehmer (who now plays bass and whose dad owns the Zoo Bar). Shawn actually started out on bass but soon switched to guitar. The other band members include Ryan Larsen on drums, and newest member, Minnesota Max Tomoson on guitar and vocals (joined band in April) formerly with Baby Jason and the Spankers.
Influenced by his dad, Luther Allison, B.B. King, Albert Collins, and Buddy Guy, Shawn and band played some extended workouts on some classic blues standards as well as showcased Holt's budding writing talent on several of his own compositions. This is a young band with talent, direction and the right attitude who are definitely on the move and someone to keep an eye out for. You can catch them again at the Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth in August and hopefully in the Twin Cities again soon.
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