The Blasters brought “American Music” back to St. Louis on Sunday night (May 11, 2014), and like the song says, “it was a howl from the desert (and) a scream from the slums,” with “the Mississippi rollin’ to the beat of the drums” just a few blocks away from the Off Broadway music club.
Phil Alvin’s stoked rhythm & rockabilly band from Downey, Calif., doesn’t make it to the Midwest very often, so it’s always a treat to see them. Unfortunately, Sunday was also Mother’s Day, and the crowd numbered only about 50. But they were largely hard-core fans, and they had their dancing shoes on.
(This interview was conducted in advance of a Marcia Ball show scheduled for July 7, 2013, at the Old Rock House in St. Louis. Alas, the show was cancelled by the venue.)
By Barry Gilbert
Over almost four decades, a lot of amazing, funny and just plain weird stuff has floated by the windows of Marcia Ball’s tour vehicles. And the Texas-born and Lousiana-reared roadhouse R&B singer and pianist has stopped and gawked at most of them.
Among them, as chronicled in her song “Roadside Attractions,” are a concrete dinosaur, Jesus in a screen door, a blue ox, chimney rocks, two-headed livestock, “Alligator Jumparoo,” the corn palace, the fair in Dallas, redwood trees, a giant strawberry, a 2-ton ball of string, snake farms, longhorns and rock star millionaires.
This retro but modern take on classic Memphis soul – the grit of Otis Redding, the groove of the MGs, the brass of the Memphis Horns – was just a joy to hear. And I couldn’t help thinking how much poorer we are for the corporatization and lack of adventure in modern radio, as the Bo-Keys reminded me of the days when you could snap on an AM radio and hear Aretha and the Animals, and Sinatra and the Stones, and keep up with the Joneses, Booker T and George. (Repeat after me, St. Louis: Thank God for KDHX 88.1 FM.)
The Bo-Keys have been together as a recording unit for only a decade, but some of the members of this interracial and intergenerational band go back to the glory days of Memphis soul. Co-founder Charles “Skip” Pitts played the signature guitar parts on Isaac Hayes’ “Theme From Shaft” and the Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing.” Drummer Howard Grimes kept the beat at Hi Records during the heyday of Al Green and can be heard on his great single “Love and Happiness.”
The band performed all three songs last night, with Pitts growling through Hayes’ part and the terrific singer Percy Wiggins standing in for Green and Ronald Isley.
“You Don’t Know Your Mind”
Out of the Past/Rhonda Sue Records
**** (out of five)
By Barry Gilbert
Pianist David Egan, who stepped out of the songwriter/sidemen shadows four years ago at the age of 54, is back with his sophomore release, a tasty stew of New Orleans sounds called “You Don’t Know Your Mind.”
Egan conjures up the likes of Doctor John, Professor Longhair and Huey “Piano” Smith over 11 tracks of blues, R&B, rock and roll, zydeco and even some cool 1 a.m. lounge music. He is once again aided by producer/guitarist Joe McMahan, a St. Louis favorite after visits with, among others, Kevin Gordon, who also gives Egan a hand.
Standout tracks include the sultry “If It Is What It Is (It’s Love)” with Jennifer Nicely; “Proud Dog,” in which Egan writes a manifesto for survivors (“well the cat gets nine and you only got one/so you better just have a little doggone fun”); and the funny and touching “Small Fry,” in which Egan sings a love song to his “darling son” — and “blue-eyed beast.”
Egan paid his dues, writing for Joe Cocker and Percy Sledge, and playing in bands such as Lil’ Band o’ Gold with Cajun guitarist C.C. Adcock. Now it’s Egan’s time, and he’s making the most of it.