Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Juke Daddys, Travis Ward and Jake Leg @ Neurolux (11/27/12)

Except for Travis Ward, I'd never seen nor heard of the acts on this bill.  That made me raise an eyebrow.  I raised my other eyebrow when I saw that the other two acts were from this area.  That was enough to make me mark this show down on the calendar.

I counted about twenty-five people when I got down to the Neurolux.  A few more folks would trickle in, but not too many.  Still, not a bad crowd for a Tuesday.

First up this night was Jake Leg, a five-piece blues outfit from Caldwell and Nampa.  You could maybe complain that they didn't do much new with their influences, but whaddaya want?  It's the blues, for God's sakes.  It's enough that they handled their influences with wit and love.  Jen Adams's sultry vocals, Gordon Kruckeberg's terse guitar solos, Mike Whitner and Tom Kicmol's steady-grooving bass and drums and Leif Skyving's fiery harmonica zipped through a choice selection of blues chestnuts--Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog," Sonny Boy Williamson's "Help Me," Howlin' Wolf's "Evil" (which Adams spruced up with some wry, deadpan monologues), Booker T. Jones's "Born Under a Bad Sign"--and well-crafted originals.  I wondered if they were maybe a little too polite until they swaggered through Junior Wells's "Messin' with the Kid" and funked up Willie Dixon's "I Just Want to Make Love to You" real good.  Shake your moneymaker indeed.

Local musician Travis Ward played next.  I'll be honest: I didn't care very much for Hillfolk Noir at first.  Struck me as a touch too affected and genteel.  And I'll keep being honest: Ward's typical hayseed attire--hat with up-turned brim, plaid shirt buttoned up all the way to the collar, severely high-water corduroy slacks--still kinda annoys me.  In the end, however, the man's talent just cannot not be denied.  And after he'd howled and yowled his way through "Hallelujah I'm a Bum" and torn up his sharp original songs with his full-speed-ahead country-blues guitar, I realized that he may be a lot of things, but genteel ain't one of them.

The Juke Daddys, a trio who hail from "the blues mecca of East Boise county," closed out the night with a set that was broadcast live on Radio Boise.  Their leader, Mississippi Marshall Hopper, offered this disclaimer midway through: "Listening to loud blues music may cause an uncontrollable urge to dance in public."  That certainly proved true in the case of this group, who also dropped a strong dose of funk into the mix.  Ron Jameson's lean basslines and Jay Koppel's nimble, intricate drumwork weaved with Hopper's rough, soulful croon and molten-lava guitar.  Lyrics ranged from the playful to the dead serious (Hopper said that he drew inspiration for one song from the worst flood in Mississippi's history).  Whatever the songs' subject matter, the crowd called out for more even after the radio sign-off time.

You can find info on these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Radio Boise.

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