Blues Bytes

November 2001

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Powder Blues
First Decade / Greatest Hits
 
WEA Music of Canada

Powder BluesEven purists must face the fact that 12 bar blues can be repetitive. On the other hand, contemporary blues tends to lean too much into rock resulting in screeching/wailing guitar solos. The Powder Blues Band avoids both of these common traps. Since the late 70s, this Canadian band has been vibrantly incorporating swing, blues, rock, and R&B into a sound they proudly call their own. Endlessly, they have toured Canada, the United States and overseas. The band has won both Juno (Canadian Grammy) and Handy Awards. Originally released in 1990, First Decade / Greatest Hits is a 70-minute compilation of 19 cuts, including 16 originals, taken from the band's first few LPs ranging from 1979 through 1982. At the time of the release, the band had been in existence for over 10 years, thus it was meant as a tribute to their first decade. 

For over 35 years, leader Tom Lavin has been singing and playing guitar as a living. He is credited for writing the band's best-known songs. In addition, the core band includes members on bass, drums and keys. However, it's the brass blasting musicians featured on sax (baritone, tenor and alto) and trumpet that really makes this band jump. These joyous horns are hopping throughout and are sure to convert those who feel the blues can only be played on guitar. The result is a disc that richly delivers delightfully happy music that is guaranteed to make your spirits soar. 

Turbo charged horns kick off the party on "Boppin' With The Blues." This shows the band was swingin' and boppin' long before the genre's current resurgence. The jiving continues on the instrumental "Swami Swing." "Hear That Guitar Ring" sums up the essence of Tom Lavin. He plays sharp, precise notes on a solo that peaks at the mountain tops and descends to the valley, while consistently singing smoothly without the usual blues grit. The entire band gets a chance to solo during the instrumental "Rockchopper." Lavin explains the Albert Collins connection with the song ... 'We used a little melodic hook that nobody could quite put his finger on the origin of after it started selling well, I got a nice note in the mail from Collins' publisher. It said in so many words, what you guys are playing is basically "Frosty" by Albert Collins put his name on as co-writer and send us the money. I realized we had inadvertently appropriated the main lick and so we listed him as co-writer and sent off the royalties due.'

"Doin' It Right" is the band's most radio-friendly song, and without surprise it proved to be one of their biggest radio hits. You can't help but move to the infectious rhythm of this one. The tune is commonly covered by bar bands from coast to coast, as is the autobiographical "Thirsty Ears." 

The band loves combining blues and booze as on "What've I Been Drinkin'." Here, Tom throws slick, yet kicking, guitar into the mix. Pianist Willie MacCalder is exceptional. He plays rollicking, boogie piano that easily challenges Johnnie Johnson for the top spot. Listen for yourself on "Should Be You and Me" and "Just A Little." 

"Pushy" showcases Lavin's dynamic guitar talent and gift for writing attractive rhythms with catchy chord combinations. They drift from the blues on the rocky "I'm On The Road Again." However, its crossover appeal resulted in its video being aired on MTV. 

Organizations like the Blues Music Association and the Blues Foundation struggle to make the blues more mainstream and appealing to the masses. All they really need to do is look closer into their northern neighbour's backyard.

For CDs, booking and information, contact: Tom Lavin Artist website: www.powderblues.net, artist e-mail: tlavin@powderblues.net.

--- Tim Holek

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