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March 1999

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Surprise

Big Dave and the Ultrasonics
Big Dave and the Ultrasonics
Burnside Records

Big Dave and the UltrasonicsIf I had to pick a regional band who I thought was headed for the big time, it would have to be Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Big Dave and the Ultrasonics. This is one hot band! If their live shows are anywhere near as good as their new self-titled CD, then I hope that some booking agent soon puts The Ultrasonics on a bus headed for a blues club near me.

This band, fronted by guitarist and vocalist Big Dave Steele, plays a gritty style of jump blues. Steele possesses a nice, strong baritone voice. While not a flashy guitarist, he blends his talents well with the other instrumentalists. And that's what makes this band so strong. I'm now adding the name of Dave Morris to my list of favorite harmonica players. This guy can just flat out blow! I really think he could hold his own in a harp showdown with the likes of Rod Piazza or Kim Wilson. Add the prodigious talents of pianist Ben Wilson, and you've got a solid triple threat of soloists heading The Ultrasonics lineup.

Wilson shines on the opening cut, a jump blues original "She's The King." Then it's Morris' chance in the spotlight on another uptempo original "Jump Street."

Producer Ron Levy guests on the B-3 on the funky blues "Black Coffee," while Steele adds heavy rockin' guitar licks throughout.

If there's any question as to whether Morris belongs with the harmonica "elite" in today's blues world, one listen to the instrumental "Back In The Hot Seat" will win you over. Hot, hot, hot!

Steele turns in his best vocal performance on two songs, both having to do with transportation, "Everybody Wants A Cadillac" and "Big Bad Blues Train."

I said earlier that Steele wasn't a real flashy guitar player. But he turns in some fiery licks on the blues shuffle "I Can't Fly."

If Big Dave and the Ultrasonics is a new name to you, please remember that you heard about them here first. Musicians this talented won't be unknown for long. To learn more about the band, check out their nicely-done web site.

--- Bill Mitchell

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