Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Review to the Rescue

Ruzz Evans, Zachary Evans, and David Valdez a 3-piece Rockabilly/Blues trio from England stepped in to play at Blue Collar Blues at the Chubby Pickle.

Ruzz guitar Blue Collar Blues

The bimonthly Blue Collar Blues show at member venue, The Chubby Pickle, didn’t exactly go as planned. When we arrived, I noticed that only John Fernandez and Miss Kimmie of the host band, The Incinerators, were there, and the stage was only partially set up. It was then that I learned that their bassist, Steve Smith, had taken ill and was going to the hospital. The good news was that it was determined to be a gall bladder issue which was stabilized and it looks like he won’t need an operation. However, with such short notice they were not able to get a replacement, so Joseph Riggio, who produces these shows and does the sound, asked the leader of featured act, Ruzz Evans, if they could play the opening set as well. They set upon coming up with another hour’s worth of tunes in, addition to the ninety-minute show they had already planned.  

After listening to both sets, I can safely say, to paraphrase the words of John Lennon, “They passed the audition!” This three-piece trio, who hail from Bristol, England, were on the last leg of their two-month tour of the Eastern United States. With Ruzz Evans on guitar and vocals, his brother Zachary Evans on bass and backing vocals, and David Valdez on drums, they are a tight knit unit that straddles the line between Rockabilly and Blues.

After an instrumental warm-up, as Ruzz called it, they launched into the Freddy King tune, “I’m Tore Down,” and the night began in earnest. The old Fabulous Thunderbirds tune, “Learn To Treat Me Right,” sounded great with Ruzz, who is endorsed by Gretsch, playing a 5120 model through a vintage Magnatone 15A amp. This amp, provided by our own “Hot Rod” Jon Kalfus is the one that gave Lonnie Mack his unique sound and was a perfect choice for this night’s music. The six-song set also included Willie Dixon’s, “I Can’t Quit You Babe,” that most of us were introduced to by Led Zeppelin, who were later ordered by the court to pay royalties on. They finished the set with a rousing version of Little Walter’s, “You’d Better Watch Yourself.

Ruzz and Gary Neuwirth

Gary Neuwirth and Ruzz

After a break in the action, they returned to the stage and again kicked it off with a brief instrumental workout before tearing into the Lloyd Price number, “Baby Please Come Home.” Ruzz’s  spot on vocal and guitar phrasing made this song a real treat. Next was an original, “Movin’ On,” which sounded so good you would think one of the other great composers had written it!  Another fine interpretation was the rarely covered Howlin’ Wolf song, “Woke Up This Morning.” The band’s treatment of Santo & Johnnie’s instrumental hit, “Sleepwalk,” had Ruzz making that Gretsch sound as sweet as Santo’s steel guitar. For “Baby, Scratch My Back” by Slim Harpo, Ruzz switched guitars to a D’Angelico New Yorker (also supplied by our JSJBF member John Kalfus) and employed that famous chicken scratch sound to maximum effect with audience approval. The great tunes just kept coming with a number made famous by Louis Prima and again decades later by Brian Setzer, “Jump, Jive an’ Wail.”  For B.B. King’s “You Upset Me Baby,” the band was joined by our own Gary Neuwirth on harp, and it went so well that he stayed up for another tune to the delight of those in attendance. 

The band then started playing the familiar sound of the Bo Diddley beat for a blistering version of “Who Do You Love.” The night ended with their trademark closer, “Mama Talk To Your Daughter,” the J.B. Lenior tune that is a platform for the band’s prowess, as it morphs into “Wipeout,” the Batman TV show theme, and back to the roaring approval of the crowd. Another great show in the books and we couldn’t have asked for more.