Monday, October 31, 2005

It all becomes clear

It was a little less autumn-like this weekend. The daylight saving hours and a sudden increase in temperature made the weekend somehow more upbeat and less morose, and I had one of the best weekends in a long time. You could call it a blues weekend, if you will. But it was more than that.

Friday night I saw Mary Shaver in one of her best performances ever with the legendary Keith Grimes and Raice MacLeod (of the Eva Cassidy Band fame) at Summit Station. It was 80% pop and 20% blues, but what the hey? I liked it. It gave more room for Mary to do what she was good at, which was howlin' and growlin'. I never saw Mary as a traditional blues singer anyway. She is more versatile than just blues, and there's nothing wrong with that. Spence is always reliable and laid-back on the bass. He'll be playing with us at Barefoot Pelican this Friday, so stay tuned.

And of course, with Clarence being out of town, I had the opportunity to work with people I like this Saturday at the Majestic. And I got myself two superstars: Linwood Taylor and Whop Frazier. I may not be a great harp player, but I've got great friends in the business who will always help me out. This was the first time I worked with Linwood, though I met him and spoke to him on the phone a few times before. His guitar stylings are very different from Clarence's - he's more refined, restrained, meticulous, full of surprising chops. A very tasteful player all in all. Most of all, he's a nice guy and he has no ego about this biz though he's been on the scene for many a-year. After the show, Linwood came up to me and said, "I don't like harp players, but I like you." That statement alone beats winning any competition.

Sunday night I saw my hero Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers once again at Rams Head. What a show! They're still the tightest existing blues band in the universe (even though Honey told me their new drummer is only one-month old). He could play! Rod played the usual Piazza set with a little show-off time from every member of the band. Bill Stuve, Henry C, Honey were all on top of their game. Rod paid tribute to Little Walter on two songs, "Mellow Down Easy" and "Key to the Highway." I might go check out their Blues Alley show again on Tuesday because I didn't get enough of it. After the show, I had a great chat with Rod and Honey. Honey was impressed that I play with Big Joe and we were also chatting out their ex-drummer Jimi Bott and how much he loves talking about the old days. We all do.

So apparently Clarence didn't win. My little scientific experiment failed. I wasn't the factor that made Clarence lose both years before. But what is it? What keeps him from winning? Waverly and I had exchanged e-mail correspondence about our feelings toward the competition. That's no rhyme or reason to it. Bottomline is: I made a conscious decision not to be part of it because I knew I would have a much better time at Rams Head watching the Mighty Flyers and apparently I did.

For me, learning the blues straight from the greats beats winning any competition. I told Linwood that when I was playing with him, it was almost like he was passing the wisdom and knowledge to me since he had worked with such greats as Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland. The Clarence Turner Blues Band has done alright for the last three to four years. For one thing, prominent blues musicians who are in their own league don't mind working with us and letting Clarence and I do our thing even though they are not being in the spotlight. That's saying a whole lot.

Paying dues is a painstaking process. You sometimes don't immediately get the results that you want. In the case of Clarence, his fame is long overdue. For me, I'm just grateful I'm surrounded by the best possible cats in this biz, not only in DC, but in the whole industry. The best feeling about playing the blues is when you're owning the stage and doing what you do and then you ask the audience, "Are you with me?" and the answer is in the affirmative.

That is the best feeling of all.

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