I wasn’t sure what to expect from WithOut Warning. I had seen Pete Meyer a number of times when he played with Inside Straight so I had a good idea of his guitar abilities but I wasn’t prepared for his new band. This is an exciting band who have a nice connection with their audience and appear to have a lot of fun up on stage. What makes them different however, is the rather eclectic instrumentation, featuring lead violin and a two-piece horn section in addition to guitar, bass and drums. That’s right, the group is fronted by the "fiddle" playing Colleen Frey (who is also the lead vocalist). The violin isn’t an instrument usually associated with a blues band but as Colleen puts it, "this ain't no hoe-down baby." And her exceptional playing quickly dispelled any reservations the audience had on whether or not a violin can fit right in with the blues. How often can you say you just danced to "Mustang Sally" played on the violin? And then when you add the two saxophones, you DO get one unusual combination. A combination, I might add, that in this band’s hands works well.
Jani Brakken (alto saxophone) and Joan Hutton (alto & tenor saxophone) make up the horn section. Jani adds some nice lead vocals on the Etta James classic, "I’d Rather Go Blind," and Joan will occasionally switch to the flute to add even more variety. Pete Meyer plays hard-driving lead guitar with leanings to the Texas school of blues-rock. He also adds occasional vocals and switches to some very nice, change-of-pace, slide guitar on his electric resonator. He played some exciting slide on the Robert Johnson song, "Walking Blues." The group is rounded out with some solid rhythm playing by Dennis McDougall (electric bass) and Rick Johnson (drums).
The band took their name, WithOut Warning, from a Sue Foley song and covered some of her excellent material as well as the song, "You Need To Be With Me" from fellow blueswoman Susan Tedeschi (who Pete really likes). In addition to some straight ahead, post-war Chicago blues, the band mixes it up with some R&B, soul, rock and a little reggae and jazz. At times the band even had a bluesy, alternative-country/rock sound going. They covered material from Buddy Guy, Wilson Picket, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Otis Rush, Ronnie Earl, Junior Wells, Etta James, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and even did a nifty version of Patsy Cline’s "Walking After Midnight." All-in-all this was an excellent, crowd pleasing performance.
Pete Meyer 612-823-7966
Jimmy Van Zant
Even though Jimmy Van Zant was headlining this night, WithOut Warning was the band to see in my opinion. Nothing against Van Zant and his band who were all exceptional musicians, but their show was strictly a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute—enjoyable, nostalgic southern rock, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Jimmy Van Zant is the first cousin of the late Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd fame who died tragically in an airplane accident in 1977. Jimmy has been performing this tribute for the past 10 years keeping the music of Ronnie and Lynyrd Skynyrd alive. He also likes to involve the audience, having them share the microphone on many of the songs. He would give them a quick tryout by pointing the mic at someone up front and if he liked what he heard he would haul them up on stage. One lady, with a pretty good voice (better sounding than Jimmy’s actually) was quickly ushered off the stage after her upstaging performance. It was all in good fun though, and just about everyone in the audience knew ALL the lyrics to ALL of the songs (including the mega-hit, "Free Bird") so we weren’t in any short supply of new vocalists.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Ray Stiles, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.