Where It’s At ... Blues baby, always the blues

Posted:  Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 10:15am

As I sat down to write about local blues musician and songwriter Don Brewer and his new Blues Project, I had the Shaboo Inn on my mind. Shaboo was the place to go, for those of us living in southeastern Connecticut. Shaboo was an incredible concert venue in little ole Mansfield, 'round the Willimantic/Storrs area. The old mill building brought the blues, the rock, the folk, jazz, punk … you name it, Shaboo brought it.

I saw SO many bands there – particularly during the years I worked at the “boutique” (’78-’80), Stairway to Heaven in West Hartford (and later managed the East Hartford Stairway II where my main competition was The Mad Hatter … oh the ’70s …). The shop sold Shaboo tickets – and two free passes to every show. Oh baby! There was some fierce competition between the employees, there were six of us - especially for Joe Cocker and Tom Waits (I got to both, heheheheh) - and we were always up for a party … BUT I digress …

So, who did I see there? Let’s go trippin’ down memory lane, shall we? There was Waits, Cocker, Johnny Winter, Aztec Two-Step, Max Creek, Pousette Dart Band, Eight to the Bar, New Riders of the Purple Sage.  Then, the blues …. B.B. King, Climax Blues Band, James Montgomery, James Cotton, N.R.B.Q., Taj Mahal, Muddy Waters … I have bits and pieces of memories of other shows … but as to whether I saw ’em at Shaboo, well, like I said, it was the ’70s ;-)

Man, the blues … the blues, I gotta say it – are where it’s at. It’s the light and the dark; the lyrics, about love, no love, problems in love, unfaithfulness, unrequited love, not good enough to be loved; bein’ broke; sadness, despair; money-no money … regardless of the subject, the blues tunes speak to us on a soulful, and sometimes carnal level - damn those 12 bars! (Laugh) I just flashed back to American Bandstand’s Rate A Record bit and the phrase “I like the beat .. it’s easy to dance to” just went through my mind ...

Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy,” which I’m listenin’ to right now … and movin’ right here in my chair ... You can’t be still listening to this classic blues riff … “Got My Mojo Working” – nice harp in that one … John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillun.”

Blues riffs are a musician’s dream. And right here in the Boothbay region we’ve got one hell of  a blues guitarist – Don Brewer. Brewer has had several bands and has played with many local musicians. Last year, winter it was, he met bass player Jeff “the Bear” Ramsdell (former bassist for Cobalt Blue, a Vermont-based blues/rock band, and most recently, with Thunder Bay here in Boothbay Harbor) at a party where a lot of musicians and bands were jammin’. Don asked Jeff if he was interested in playing in the Blues Project and the rest is blues history. Don heard drummer Jake Sawyer at the Publick House in Newcastle on one of the jam nights there last summer and asked him to join the band. This is Jake’s first band gig.

Since then they’ve been rehearsing out in North Waldoboro putting down a set list for the Don Brewer Blues Project. The trio play original songs by Don and, right now, one instrumental by Jeff, blues standards, and covers. Their first gig was at the Oxbow Brewing Company last fall. The Don Brewer Blues Project’s got a gig comin up Saturday, Feb. 17 in Portland at Salvage BBQ, 919 Congress Street, 8:30-11:30 p.m., and another over at the Publick House April 28.

I rode over to a rehearsal with Don at the end of January to meet the band and hear some fine tunes like ... Red House, Little Red Rooster, Stop Breaking Down; Don’s original tunes are NY Blues, That Way,  and some covers of Stones, Dylan, Hendrix songs. Don does a great slide guitar bit for “Love In Vain” — more Stones than Robert Johnson style. Check out a video at https://youtu.be/QzmKFO2B9Xc

Many blue moons ago, John Lee Hooker was quoted as saying, “We all live with the blues every day.” Luckily, we have musicians and songwriters who can switch up dem blues into 12 magical bars ...

C’mon now, get out there, hear some live blues  ... and shake that money maker!