Blue Collar Blues
by Tom Baldino
On a Friday night in August, the Chubby Pickle was once again host to a terrific night of blues presented by JSJBF’s own Joseph Riggio’s J v ARCHER ENTERTAINMENT joint. Local favorites, The Incinerators, led off the evening with a great version of Robben Ford’s “Prison of Love” with Rich Coccoli on vocals and guitar, John Fernandez on some searing lead guitar, and Gary Neuwirth’s tasty harp. Miss Kimmie, who usually takes the lead on several songs, was not able on this night, but did sing some background vocals. Their 12-song set included a version of “Caldonia,” done as a shuffle, not the up-tempo original by Cab Calloway and a fun version of the Otis Rush penned “All Your Love,” sung by bassist Steve Smith with his partner in rhythm, Chris Martell on drums. They closed out their portion of the bill with K.C. Douglas’ “Mercury Blues” to an enthusiastic response from those in attendance.
After a short break, Robert Hill and his band took the stage. Along with Robert on guitar, vocalist Simone “SJ” Ayers, bassist Mark “the Spark” Murphy and drummer Eric Puente form a tight-knit group that puts their own stamp on traditional and contemporary blues. Robert’s assortment of guitars included a Stratocaster, as well as a Fernandes and a G & L, which was the company Leo Fender started with partner and long-time associate George Fullerton, after he sold the Fender business in the mid sixties. I’ve seen headless and fretless basses but Mark’s was something more extreme. Check out the accompanying photo. It provided a great sounding bottom. On the first tune, an original entitled “Skin Game,” the melding of the slide and Simone’s impassioned vocals with that bottom let the audience know they we hearing something special. Highlights included two original instrumentals, “Big Daddy Stomp” and “The Robusticator” (great title!), as well as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ classic “I Put a Spell on You.” They did a soulful rendition of the Tedeschi/Trucks ballad “Midnight in Harlem,” which was in stark contrast to their version of Son House’s “Empire State Blues.” Robert can squeeze notes out of a slide guitar that sound beautiful and at the same time other worldly. Whether it’s turning Wang Dang Doodle into a high energy romp with great vocals by SJ, or doing “Motherless Child” as a slow blues number, he and the band really own the songs. The night concluded with a rousing version of the Junior Parker classic “Mystery Train,” with Robert blowing that whistle on the harp and taking us all down line.
If you missed the show, the Robert Hill Band will be taking part in the JSJBF local International Blues Competition on Sunday October 2nd. Details will be available on our website when they are finalized.