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Live Review
Sandra Hall and The Hoodooman Band
@ Tobacco Road, Miami, FL
Feb. 6, 1999
By Dave "Doc" Piltz
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Tobacco Road is Miami's oldest restaurant, bar and cabaret, established in 1912. "The Road" is also one of the best places to experience the blues in South Florida, and certainly the best in Miami. Tobacco Road also has one of the more unique musical arrangements that I have ever experienced, offering two bands on weekend nights alternating sets between the outside patio of the restaurant and lounge downstairs and the Diamond Teeth Mary Cabaret Stage upstairs. The main event on Saturday night was Atlanta's "Empress of the Blues," Sandra Hall, backed by the Hoodooman Band. Twin Cities blues fans were teased back in January when Sandra Hall was scheduled to make an appearance at First Avenue in Minneapolis, but disappointed when the show had to be postponed due to Ms. Hall's illness.

The evening opened downstairs with a jump and boogie woogie set by Piano Bob, Stan Street and Jumpstreet 88. Hardcore blues fans may remember Piano Bob Wilder from his association with the "Snowman." Piano Bob and the Snowman experienced some success in the past and were voted "best unsigned blues band," receiving a B.B. King Lucille Award some years back. Now teamed with vocalist and sax player, Stan Street, Piano Bob and Jumpstreet 88 is one of the better known local/regional blues acts in South Florida. In addition to handling saxophone and vocals, Street also plays harmonica, rub board, maracas and tambourine.

Jumpstreet 88's set included some great boogie woogie piano by Piano Bob and some smooth sax and biting harmonica by Street. Street's interesting vocal styling definitely fits the band's sound. The band's repertoire includes blues, jazz, boogie woogie and early rock n' roll tunes. Some of the more entertaining songs included Slim Harpo's, "Raining in My Heart"; "Sittin' Here Ya Ya"; Junior Wells' "Someone Hoodooed the Hoodoo Man"; and "Rock Awhile".

Once Jumpstreet 88 had finished their first set, it was time for the upstairs show to begin. Some minor technical difficulties delayed the start of Sandra Hall's show for about fifteen minutes, but when it got started, "Ooooh Baby!," was it worth the wait!

The Hoodooman Band took the stage and played a few numbers to warm up the crowd for the entrance of Sandra Hall. In fact, as the Hoodooman Band played, Sandra stood in the back of the room, listening and talking with her road manager and some fans. The Hoodooman Band is a tight four piece outfit that includes Albert Castiglia on vocals and guitar, Willie Samuels on bass, Lynelle Fletcher on keyboards and Curtis Labon on drums. The Hoodooman Band's opening numbers included two of my favorites; "My Last $2.00" and a cover of "Messing' With the Kid," performed as a tribute to the late Junior Wells. The band was tight and clean, with the vocals handled well by Albert Castiglia.

Once the crowd had been warmed up, Sandra Hall took the stage and proceeded to really heat up the crowd with her brash confidence and powerful voice. Her opening number, "Pump Up Your Love," from her most recent release on Ichiban Records, One Drop Will Do You, really got the packed house moving and grooving. Her sets mixed original tunes with some classics such as Big Mama Thornton's, "Ball and Chain." Many of the songs during the performance featured excellent solo work on guitar by Albert Castigilia and on piano by Lynelle Fletcher to complement Hall's fine vocals.

During the performance, Hall flirted and teased the crowd, flaunting herself and promoting the wonders of lovin' from a big beautiful woman. In her past, the 50-year-old Hall sang mostly on weekends, spending time during the week working as a nurse. However, during her younger, wilder days, she also performed as a go-go dancer and a stripper in Atlanta. During the first set, Hall and the band performed a number called "I Got Everything I Need." During the song, Hall struck up an extended conversation with the audience, inquiring about dress sizes among female members of the audience and posing the question to the males, "Have you ever had a Whopper?" As the song progressed and the conversation continued, it was clear that Hall was NOT referring to the well-known hamburger sold by Burger King, but rather to experiencing the love of a big woman.

Later in the song, Hall took advantage of her past stripping experience (and perhaps the nursing too) when she invited a male member of the audience on stage to learn first hand about loving a big woman. This physical demonstration included directed hand placement by Hall, as well as placement of the subject's head on Hall's bosom. The R-rated demonstration definitely drove the crowd crazy. In the end, she made it clear to everyone that, no matter what the dress size, a woman knows what a man needs.

In the event that this description has given you the wrong impression, Sandra Hall is definitely not all show and no go. She is a great singer with a great voice. She puts a great deal of feeling into her work and works hard to entertain the crowd with her stage presence and tremendous vocal talent. She exudes massive energy on stage and works hard to capture her audience, leaving each set hot and sweating from putting every ounce of strength she has into the show.

In my conversation with Sandra between sets, she informed me that the canceled show at First Avenue has been rescheduled for sometime in April. If you are interested in listening to some lusty, female blues, backed by one very tight band, keep your schedule open for Hall's April show. She will definitely knock your socks off!

This review is copyright © 1999 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.

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