Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Week In Review

It's been a couple of interesting weeks.

Last week, I was in Denver on a business trip. I was planning on dropping in a Dan Treanor's blues jam at the Boulder Outlook. Unfortunately, the information on their website was inaccurate. I got there and there were a few people hanging around eating pizza. I left.

I headed to a blues jam at Ziggie's Saloon in Denver hosted by Papa Juke. I hung out and played with a pretty righteous group. We played for about an hour. I also jammed with a harp player and microphone tech named Chris Richards.

On Wednesday, I stopped into the D Note in Arvada to jam with the Clamdaddy's. I hung out for a while. Since I had to work early the next day, I couldn't hang out until the end. It was a good time.

Thursday afternoon, I headed back home.

Saturday night, I went to the Mojo Lounge to see Steve Freund. He put on a great show!

Tuesday night, I dropped into the Mojo Lounge for the blues jam. Steve was hosting the jam. It was a crazy night that also marked the return of the infamous Don Yonders.

It was a fun filled week.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Jon Lawton at the Mojo Lounge

The second installment in the series of Bay Area Blues performances features a visit from Jon Lawton as a guest of Steve Freund at the World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam.

Jon's been playing the guitar for almost 40 years. He relocated from Omaha, Nebraska to California a little over two decades ago. He's been a fixture on the Blues scene out here ever since. This past Tuesday, he dropped into the Mojo Lounge to visit and perform with his long time friend, Steve Freund.

Steve is a very cordial host. When he hosts the Blues jam at the Mojo Lounge, it's a free clinic in the Blues idiom. Steve opens up the jam by performing a fabulous first set often inviting some of his very talented friends to join him.

The first entry in the trio of Blues performances is a fantastic version of the Lowell Fulson classic, Hung Down Head. This version features a fine band including: Steve Freund (vocals/guitar), Jon Lawton (guitar), Tim Wagar (bass) and Jimmy Mulleniux (drums).

In the second installment of the video trio, Steve turns over the microphone to Jon. He starts off his segment with a fine cersion of the Jimmy Reed classic, Going Upside Your Head.

In the final entry, Jon leads a fabulous version of the Big Mac classic, Rough Dried Woman.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Some Forgotten Stuff

It's been a couple of busy weeks for me, I saw a few things that I forgot to write about.

First up, James Cotton at Yoshi's in Oakland. It was an incredible performance. The band sounded great. James Cotton sounded fabulous. The sound system is excellent and managed by professionals. The audience was super respectful. They allowed Mr Cotton and his fine band to perform to the best of their abilities.

It was great to see Blues return to Yoshi's. That weekend saw a CD release party for Kenny Neal. Other than Mark Hummel's Harp Blowouts, there hasn't been much Blues performed at Yoshi's since Jimmy Rogers passed away in 1997.

Second, I went to the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, CA. I saw the Terry Hanck Band. They put on three very enjoyable sets. Terry's band is fantastic. They are super performers and instrumentalist's. Terry Hanck's an excellent singer. It was a great way to spend an evening.

Third, this past Tuesday, I went to the Mojo Lounge to experience the World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam hosted by Kenny "Blue" Ray. He was joined by Steve Edmonson. Steve is an excellent guitar player. He can be seen working with Jackie Payne. It was a fun night. Here is some video featuring:

This video features Kenny "Blue" Ray (guitar - left), Steve Edmonson (guitar - right), Ray Figueroa (bass), Norm Decarlo (drums) and me (harp) performing the Howlin' Wolf classic, "I Didn't Know."

This is it until I write about this past Saturday's extravaganza at the Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival and the Poor House Bistro. I'll get to that in a couple of days after I get the photos uploaded.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Birdlegg at the Mojo Lounge

Lately, this blog has become an activity report detailing my activities. It has become about where I go, who I see perform, etc, etc, etc... It has become a little bit stale.

So, I decided to shake things up a bit.

Since, I frequently have a video camera with me. I've decided to capture a few tunes and write a little report to accompany the video.

Here is the first installment in a series of at least one. There may be more, so check back in the future.

This past Tuesday, Birdlegg dropped into the World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. For those readers unfamiliar with Birdlegg, he is a fine singer, songwriter, harp player and entertainer. In my opinion, he is one of those performers that is due greater recognition than he receives.

This entry of Joe's Blues Blog will chronicle this evenings captivating set by the Oakland Blues performer.

On this particular evening, he was joined by Stave Gannon and Steve Freund on the guitars. Randy Bermudes was on the bass and Robi Bean on the drums.

They opened a three song set with a tune entitled Maria. Let's take a listen...

One of the favorite tunes of Dina, the lovely and talented bartender on Tuesday evenings, is the classic Walkin' The Dog. As seen in the next video, Dina (joined by the infamous Double G) got up to dance a bit. During the middle of the tune, Birdlegg takes advantage of an opportunity to have some fun with everyone's favorite bartender.

For those people unaccustomed to the harsh realities of life in the poorer section of some American cities, Birdlegg provides an education on those realities in the next and final video. He and the band perform the excellent tune, San Pablo Avenue.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Harpgear Double Trouble

"I wrote this for Rick Davis' Blues Harp Amps blog and thought I would keep a copy here for posterity."

About four years ago, I started playing the harp again after laying off for a number of years. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are a lot of harp players. There are almost as many Blues jams. I started hitting a few of them. I was able to try out a lot of different amplifiers.

In the past two years, I've owned several amps. Each of them had their own good and bad points. Tonally, I didn't have any issue with any of them. The main challenge that I had was finding a balance of volume and portability. Some amps were not loud enough. Others were too loud and not very portable. I found a good balance by picking up a Harpgear Double Trouble.

It's a killer amp that packs a surprising punch and is extremely versatile. It has a lot of great tones available in a nicely sized package. It's a righteous balance of portability, tone, volume and feedback resistance.

Portability - This amp is about as wide as a tweed Champ and about almost two feet tall. In the standard configuration, it features two 8" Weber Alnico speakers that are mounted vertically in the cabinet. I am going to guess it weighs less than twenty five pounds. It easily fits in the passenger seat of an average car. One can easily carry the amp in one hand and a suitcase full of harps in the other hand.

Tone - The tone control is incredibly useful. Leave it turned off and you'll get a nicely distorted tone. Turn it up and the tone cleans up nicely. You can dial in as much high end as you wish. The higher the tone control is set, the better the amp punches through the mix. It's a very useful control.

Volume - This amp has two 6V6 power tubes delivering 18 of the loudest and most useful watts around. In the stock configuration, it gets pretty darn loud. It is much louder than a Pro Junior or a Blues Junior. It isn't quite as loud as a tweed Bassman, but it can be very loud. It sits very comfortably on a chair. It's been played in some really loud places. I haven't been in a situation where I or the audience couldn't hear it.

Feedback Resistance - Battling feedback is a problem for most people playing amplified harmonica. One of the nicest features of the Harpgear Double Trouble is very feedback resistant. Feedback doesn't usually set in until the amp is close to the end of the sweep of the volume control. Depending on the microphone, it can be as high as 8 on the volume control. (Which is very loud.) Rarely, have I ever needed to turn it up that loud.

How Does It Sound? - This amplifier sounds good with every microphone I own.

A few months ago, some of the people on the Weber Harp BBS were posting sound clips of their amps on youtube. I contributed a couple of this amp with a couple of different microphones.

The first clip is a Shure 545 dynamic microphone plugged into input #1, volume at 6, tone on 10. Hohner Big River Harp key of A.

In the second clip, I am using an older MC-151 equipped Hohner Blues Blaster plugged into input #1, volume at 8, tone on 0. Hohner Big River Harp key of C.

Finally, another nice feature of the Harpgear Double Trouble is that it doesn't cost as much as a house payment or an annual IRA contribution.