Book Review: Blues Highway Blues

As y’all might probably expect, I unfortunately don’t have a lot of time to do the reading I want, or should do. So it is a rare bird indeed that gets past the jacket notes and intro with me.

Let me say that Eyre Price has created a very rare bird with “Blues Highway Blues“.

The cover features a sepia toned photo of  a crossroads in a very rural setting, not quite dark enough to obliterate the sense of vision but just light enough to make you squint to see what lies before you. A subtitle of sorts, ‘A Crossroads Thriller’ reinforces the overall feel of the photo with an inkling of a American Flag’s stripes – what this does is really set the stage for this fascinating and fun book and calls you into like the proverbial spider to the fly.

Chapter 1 opens with a tasty, if not overly syrupy, two paragraph description of the Las Vegas Strip . Not quite what I think of  when Blues are mentioned but the next paragraph turns this world view around by 180 degrees, and like the aforementioned fly we are trapped in the web that Mr. Price has created.So now all we can do is ride the rails and see where this train of a novel will take us.

The featured character (I’m not about to say hero) is one Daniel Erickson who suddenly has a serious case of the Blues. With all the karma that he has laid down prior to this point in his life coming back and laying a round-house punch to his solar plexus. As you know that would take the wind of your lungs and leave you grasping in a netherworld sure that you are dying but hoping that you live. It is at this very moment that you plead to whomever or whatever to just get you outta this situation regardless of the consequences of such a deal.

Sound somewhat familiar? No hmm, Robert Johnson at the crossroads on a dark night making  a deal with the Devil himself. Now whether or not that story is tree has no bearing on anything at all. But allegorically it rings true to each and every one of us (well, at least the folks I know) and this is what Mr. Price has given us here. When one is at the end of their rope they are most apt to strike a deal ‘with the Devil’ and when that happens baby, you are off that hook, but seriously skewered on another one.

The novel takes us around the country from LA to Memphis, NYC and even Cleveland. All is a merry musical jig-saw puzzle with a well crafted set of characters that make the merry way all the more merrier. There are insights into the music business, self-belief, self-realization, musical history. There is a visceral edge to the situations that ring true to anyone who has ever encountered the mean streets, ’nuff said.

Mr. Price has a broad and solid base in the music he writes about. His understanding of the Blues and other forms and their history plays out well within the context of his debut work. Please visit his web site and especially his ‘juke joint‘ section. Mr. Price does a great service for our chosen music and hopefully his work will draw many more into our realm. For this I say “thank you” and let’s keep the blues alive and thriving.

I consumed “Blues Highway Blues” in just abut two days, unfortunately I had to sleep, and do some Blues411 work in between or it woulda been quicker. Yeah, it really was that much fun and enjoyable so on many levels that I highly recommend this to all my Blues Framily.

 

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
chefjimi
©Blues411.com 2012
artwork: beaucat artworkz
Where Blues Thrives

Catching Up With Shawn Starski

I was happily surprised when I learned that Shawn Starski was joining forces with Kelley Hunt for some gigs, and they would be on the October Blues Cruise. For me it would be interesting to see Shawn in new surroundings from when I last saw him as part of Jason Ricci & New Blood.

It was quite a pleasure, this young man has all the tools and talent to become quite the guitarist. Working with the Kelley Hunt Band, he was given a framework of the songs and he was more than able to layer in his own sound and yet incorporate it into the bluesy-soulful template of her band. In fact it worked out so well that Shawn was asked to play on her upcoming release ‘Gravity oves You‘ (look for it to hit the streets on January18th, 2011 on 88 Records). Cruisers were thrilled to have a chance to see him again, as well as to see him in a new environment. To a person they all agreed that Shawn was outstanding and fit right in while adding his own skills to the mix.

Determined to stay positive after the demise of his seven year association with Jason Ricci, Shawn is excited about what opportunities await him and the band. Stating that they have always been a solid band, and that they have been keeping their noses in the music in various forms, from New York to Nashville and Memphis, they are now ready to test their mettle and take the road as a unified force. The seven years of working with Jason helped Shawn grow as a musician and writer. He wrote about half of the original music, giving  direction the band as a whole,  and he was very happy with that role –  never expecting to have to look for new employment as a musician.

His work with Kelley has opened not only his eyes, but ears to what is possible in music. He found that the piano created a freedom for his guitar playing that he had never experienced before. That plus the arrangements and song writing skills of Kelley, allowed him to put his part into it. That was a very pleasing change to experience and he has learned that change is a good thing, for without change one runs the risk of becoming stagnant. This in no way takes away from his prior work, he is rock solid proud of the accomplishments and directions taken in the past but the change has brought about new excitement and countless opportunities for him and his band mates. With him living in Nashville he is busy making contacts with the thriving musician community there, picking brains and striving to ‘refine’ his sound in a studio setting and, as always, working on his craft as a guitarist, always learning and practicing.

The Shawn Starski Band features essential parts of ‘New Blood‘ with Todd ‘Buck Weed’ Edmunds on bass, tuba, double bass and sousaphone, and Byron Cage on drums, who has deep roots in gospel and has expanded in the past few years into almost all reaches of music. A nice addition is Ms. Ellen Deible, from Nashville, who provides vocals and a pleasing stage presence to what he termed as ‘Blues Americana’. As a writer Shawn always tries to write music for the band – by this he means creating songs that plays to the strengths of the members, and allows them to create their own parts, all with the goal of creating a new sound for the band. When we spoke he had just finished a gig in Cincinnati at the Play by Play, thanks to Willie Grey and family who were very helpful in that regard. Coming off that success, he is set to hit sunny Florida with gigs through the end of December 2010,  to play their music and, as he laughingly put it , “see what kind of noise they can make”. Looking into next year, Shawn will continue doing some gigs with Kelley Hunt, and then continue to book clubs, festivals and more for his band into 2011.

Several bits of exciting bit of news surfaced from our little talk (not in any order);
1) Shawn has a new release, featuring original songs as well as reworked versions of familiar tunes, that he will be making available at his gigs. This release was produced by Phil Wolfe, who also produced ‘Done With The Devil’. 
2)  Shawn and Ellen just recently got engaged. Congrats. Let’s wish them all the love and happiness in the Blues world.
So it seems that life is good for Shawn and looks to be even better in the future.

You too can catch up with Shawn at his web site for details on his tour and other info by visiting his web site: http://www.shawnstarski.com/Site/Home.html

Until Next Time
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
chefjimi

photos courtesy: chefjimi, artist
©Blues411.com 2010