The Best Shows I Ever Saw and Why
Some of the Greatest Shows I've Ever Seen and Why
(In No Order)
By Jason Ricci
1.) James Cotton (circa 1989/90) Roaul..s, Portland Maine. Cotton was on and had the perfect amount of rasp in his voice those years like an early 80..s Bobby Bland. I..m pretty sure he played harp the whole night through the Pa, I was only fourteen or fifteen my Mom brought me. It was cool with the club for me to be there cause they had food so kids could come in as long as they had their parents or someone. Cotton came out blowing some high end Jimmy Reed type stuff over a funk groove... Oh yeah!: Johnny B. Gaden was the bass player I don..t remember the rest of the band... I realized only much later who I saw was Johnny B. Gaden. Any way after Cotton played a few bars up high he hit the low end of the harp and I just lost it.... I had never really heard anything like that in person...no amp just through the PA...It was bigger than me. It was nuts. I had seen Musslewhite and some good local guys and a couple of other nationals, but Cotton was for real from then on to me. After the show was Over he came out and silenced a roomful of drunken, fisherman, logger, redneck chowder head Mainers to a serious nirvana level of silence and or nothingness...he played the song Black Night and sang completely of the mic and blew harp the same way...everyone shut up for the entire tune and transcended all worry, regret, joy and pain. That..s when I first thought that music, might, be a good way to make a living.
2.) Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters. I saw and opened for this band all over Maine and New Hampshire a bunch of times throughout 96-97 The line up was Per Hanson a Mainer on Drums, Bruce Katz on Hammond and Piano, Rockin.. Rod Carey on Bass and then Ronnie. This is really the only line up for me when it comes to Ronnie...I love all his music but the songs and albums and creativity of this band has not really been matched by anyone since like...maybe... War in the 70..s or something.... maybe Derek Trucks...these guys had a sound mixing all this Santana, Magic Sam, Pharaoh Sanders, Kenny Burrell, with all the other great Blues guitarists thrown in seamlessly, influenced, but never derivative. Ronnie..s the best Not enough people realize how ridiculous Ronnie is! SRV was great, Jimmy Vaughn, BB, all the Alberts etc...But Ronnie is so sensitive and multifaceted. Per is my favorite drummer too and with Bruce Katz and solid Rod Carey, this band was unbeatable for me. Sadly, since no one sang in this band ever, I got to watch a lot of this music fly over the heads of New England audiences everywhere...The band never cared either, just went from song to song, never saying shit on the mic and playing some of the most unique, dynamic, sentimental, rocking. Latin flavored, jazzy, bluesy, pure, soulful music I have ever heard. I miss this band!
3.) Satan and Adam I also saw this band a bunch of times around the same time I was seeing Ronnie in New England. I had never heard and still haven..t lyrics that poignant, topical, spiritual and moving. Satan is a monster singer and his charisma is other worldly he had/has all these crazy ideas about things that are all rooted in love and respect, but he..s got this like messed up wild way of communicating them through language, with all these attached and detached meanings, metaphors and symbols... Try reading ..Space Is the Place .. about Sun Ra to get an idea of what it was like to speak with him.... Nuts! Like an episode of the x-Files where no one believes the Crazy black man on the street, who in the end is actually God or really knew the secret of life or something humbling like that. Some of his songs are prayers to me, when I told him that he said ..I suspect that was what they were to me when I wrote them... Adam Gussow Swings harder and differently than any other Harmonica player I have ever heard...The way he backed Satan was as innovative as the way Little Walter backed Muddy or Maceo to James Brown. I also heard notes I had never heard obtained before on the diatonic harmonica for the first time from Adam..s playing. I later found out from him, as he taught me the technique, that it was called ..Over-Blowing... These Satan and Adam shows Changed my life and getting to know these guys is still whacky to me...like a kid who Idolizes Babe Ruth and then later ends up playing on the team or something. I wish I could always remember how good this feels every time I get all bummed out and entitled/self obsessed, like tattoo this feeling on my brain, because relationships and experiences like this are all I ever REALLY wanted out of music and life and I have more than most.
4.) Derek Trucks Band at Rays Downtown Blues in West Palm Beach Florida (circa 1999). My Buddy and later future band mate in my band: New Blood: Jason ..King Fish.. Madaris practically had to drag me out to this one. At the time I wasn..t a big Almond Brothers Fan and all anyone ever said about this kid was he was like four years old and sounded like Duane Almond. So I wasn..t really into hearing some teenage ..Prodigy.. recycle Statesboro blues for a bunch of drunken baby boomers who failed the bar room extras audition for a scene in the movie ..Rush.. yelling BROTHERS!!!!, WHIPPING POST, ONE WAY OUT! . I got to the club got a good seat with my then Girl friend, yes GIRL, Sunshine Hahn (I was different then). The band came onstage and opened with an instrumental version of Rasta Man Chant my favorite Marley tune. I never heard anyone touch/quote/cover this tune in any way, it got my attention then that guitar slide hit me. It was eastern sounding, controlled, focused, bluesy, jazzy, terrific. Derek stood motionless almost the whole night. He was a Buddha to me. The whole band though! Man... Yonrico on the drums was the history of Drum music in eight bars, Koffee Burbridge, was playing flute so pretty, Todd Smalley modern, funky, attentive on Bass, there was a B-3 player I don..t remember...sorry. From Rasta Man they went into Amazing Grace then into Afro Blue right from that... I could hear the hints in the music and was able to predict what song would bubble up into existence next; it was very personal to me too. It was the first time I ever saw jazz really played that well and they mixed it with sounds, textures and influences from all around the world simalar but more eclectic than Ronnie Earl. I cried a lot that night out of happiness and it was great to be alive and decided my next band would be called New Blood and we would play anything we wanted and wouldn..t care what it was called.
5.) Curtis Salgado Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar Nashville TN circa 2001. Curtis first, is an amazing singer, technically above almost all blues and otherwise singers alive today, but more importantly too me the sincerity and honesty of every word and note he utters is never missing or ever contrived. His harp playing is fat, rhythmic, unique to him and always tells a story not to mention he is the only guy I ever heard pull off a decent Paul Delay imitation. Curtis did this thing that night where he played a lot of pop, R&B, blues and rock and between every song or so kept weaving it in with this theme about how it..s all blues.... It sounds cheesy or preachy the way I..m putting it here and I can..t recollect any exact phrases or even Para phrase for anyone, but Salgado..s sophistication and knowledge made it into this life lesson somehow. I can..t tell you how blown away I was that night by him...I cried at this show a lot as well. Later that evening he signed a CD for Sunshine and me and wrote ..Stay in love.. inside it.... We did not... but now I like to write that same thing in my CD..s to couples who ask me to sign theirs, hope that doesn..t jinx them, at least I have stayed in love with Curtis.
6.) Walter ..Wolfman.. Washington The Maple Leaf New Orleans, (circa 2001) I had a big gig there at the House of Blues the day of this show because of this harmonica contest I won and they flew me to New Orleans to play with the Fabulous Thunder Birds. Kim Wilson and the band where way cool to me and all but as soon as I was done sitting in with them, I split, never saying goodbye, or even thank you. I left to go see Walter Wolfman Washington. The locals call this every other Saturday show ..Going To Church.. cause Walter comes on at 12:00am so it..s technically Sunday and he..s God. You have not heard a vocalist this stunning. The Maple Leaf is a little famous local dive near the original Tipatina..s outside the Quarter I think. It..s been in some movies namely ..Angel Heart.. with Mickey Rourke. It..s small and gets crammed quickly. Any one can show up to jam at any time, but they don..t let just anyone get up. You wouldn..t want to sit in anyway you..d be too high. With Walter... just sit back and let his Guitar strings bend out at you till they prick one of your veins and all those four octaves of New Orleans, dope drenched, vocals start plunging through your blood and rushing to your heart where soon and instantly after they arrive your stomach will be warm and everything will be alright at Church... Tis morning at the Maple Leaf -Thanks Be to Walter ..Amen.
7.) Pat Ramsey 1995 Beal Street Memphis. This wasn..t even Pat..s show it was an open jam. First I heard Billy Gibson for the first time and was blown away. Then Billy said to me: ..Wait till you hear this next guy... I was 20 years old, had snuck in the Bar. Pat started playing I listened to his three songs, drove home to Maine, quit school in Idaho, moved to Memphis, waited tables and went to everyone of Pat..s gigs almost (unless I was playing) for an entire year, revamped my entire sound around his, enough said. Love you Dad!
8.) Pharaoh Sanders some theatre Raleigh North Carolina. Some of you will inevitably doubt this shows description and will try like men do, to find a logical reason for the events I am about to tell you. Even worse, many will now begin to doubt my sincerity and accuracy in all my past show reporting, like a reputable and decorated airline pilot or scientist is discredited and fired from work for reporting a bright saucer shaped disc in the sky moving at speeds unknown to man, just remember this: you weren..t there. Pharaoh played mostly blues that night...My favorite record of his is ..Thembi.. so it wasn..t the ..Mystical.. sound I was hoping for... at first...then...he stepped away from the microphone blew into his horn took his mouth completely off the horn and fingered the keys of the horn music came out everywhere...Alright you don..t believe me fine go read the ..Power of Myth.. by Joseph Campbell...Its not a myth though... not a trick, it wasn..t the mic, he was four feet to the side of it, standing on the edge of the stage, there was no horn mic clipped on either generating feed back, no sample box it..s not his style any way. It was real to me then and now. That was some mystical, levitating, mind expanding, space/time transcending, water into wine, Timothy Leary, walk on water, Red Sea parting, faith healing, shiny saucer shaped, discs moving at warp speeds style blues that night.
9.) R.L. Burnside/ Junior Kimbrough numerous jooks around Holly Springs MS. I was living and playing a lot with Junior..s son David ..Malone.. Kimbrough at this time in 1995. The reason these two are grouped together is because I always saw them together, never at the same time, but always in the same night. Junior..s kids backed R.L. and R.L..s kids backed Junior all at different times and I was on stage for most of them that year. Because I was often playing, I hesitated to include this show/shows, but Man!!!.... I WASN..T one of them, I wanted to be but I couldn..t. I tried. I was a kid, just there with my harmonica trying to ..get it.. and not get in the way. Trying to be black, trying to be real...I was confused. You know I don..t know if that..s true...the trying not to get in the way part... I don..t know how much respect I really had at that time for these cats...I understood this music was transcendental because I felt it. That happened to me, because the music along with corn liquor, reefer, the atmosphere, the state the people and other intoxicants sent me further and deeper into a silent mind and egoless state where I didn..t care or know who I was, if I really got it, or was black enough or real enough. I knew these guys were all of that though. They were real. Life had happened to them, and it was happening to me with them from these shows and from the parties, the stealing, playing, hustling, running, the fucking, sleeping, the eating, joking, lying, sharing, the loving, the fighting and the being I did with them that year in 1995. It was too much too put here about a show. The whole year The whole life was part of the show.Dig? What can I tell you about these two...You just had to sit in that shack out in the middle of the woods surrounded by booze, and reefer and droning guitars, tribal drums, and groovy repetitive bass lines.... being a white kid from Maine.... Lost!.... Too Sane!.... Too Smart....Too Stupid....Desperate!... High!... All that at once. Out in the kudzu buried Mississippi moonlight swamp hills sitting in this shack this Juke Joint...Lonely...Alone...Loneliness...different...disconnected and THEN! and THEN!.... you lookup to the stage where your not playing for good reason and see a big, dark, black, very serious man wearing a blue plaid hunter..s flannel shirt, old trucker cap, dirty jeans and work boots, sitting in a folding chair with a guitar and a band made up of his offspring and he stares right at you, never breaking eye contact with that bloodshot, dark ringed gaze, and with a bright white, evil, knowing and content grin on his face He sings to you: ..I..D RATHER BE DEAD,
I..D RATHER BE DEAD,
SIX FEET IN THE GROUND...