Saturday, May 31, 2014

"Blues Forged In The Hammer" -- Hamilton Blues Society Showcases Bucket List and Tripleplay

The Hamilton Blues Society presented a special showcase concert on Sunday May 25 at their home venue, the Knights of Columbus Hall on Queenston Road at Parkdale. The sizable and enthusiastic audience enjoyed a delicious hot meal before hearing two lively sets of some "made in the Hammer" blues.

Lots of Sizzle and Steak

Headlining was Paul Lawrence and his tight, groovy band Tripleplay, and opening was the recently birthed, baggy shirted, whiskery faced Bucket List Band. The two bands presented a well-balanced contrast of music, leaving the sizable and enthusiastic audience happy and satisfied.


Paul Lawrence
Photo: Ivan Sorensen

Paul Lawrence began playing blues guitar seriously when he was in high school, and was soon gigging regularly. With years of front- and side-man experience Lawrence has developed a confident vocal style that is reminiscent of Eric Clapton. He plays with a smooth, relaxed solo style that allows him to create long, logical, flexible and intense musical phrases.

Photo: Bill Watson

Lawrence was joined by daughter Meaghan aka "Megatron" on the drums, Billy Good on bass, and guest Nick Michas on harmonica. This concert was one of the best performances I've heard from Michas, who is no stranger to local blues jams.

Tripleplay's Meaghan Lawrence
Photo: John Crawford

Being a pretty humble guy, he blamed the excellent sound on his vintage amplifier, but I'm not letting him off the hook: he carved out some really sweet and soulful moments on his harp, which provided an appropriate balance and variety to Lawrence's guitar.

Nick Michas
Photo: Ivan Sorensen

Meaghan Lawrence provided solid and steady drumming, capturing a confident shuffle groove and nailing down a solid meter every time. Bassist --- also was relaxed and confident, laying down excellent bass lines to create a solid and balanced foundation.

At the end, several Blues Society Members and other audience members were called up to join a jam on Sweet Home Chicago. Cook Debbie Watson even got in on the act, playing the cowbell with her rolling pin, perfectly in time.

The Bucket List Opening Set

Bucket List's Ralph Lefevre
Photo: Ivan Sorensen
Bucket List is hard to define. The guys in the band are as diverse in personality types as you could imagine. They do, however, share a common thread of being in the "over fifty" age bracket, which makes it fairly remarkable that A) they can still do this, and B) they are dedicated to trying out some new stuff, and C) they completely energized the room during their eight-song set. One can almost see each Bucket-Lister breaking out of his aging shell the minute the music starts. This love for great music is the one thing they share, and they all want to make sure each musical arrangement is slanted in a direction they approve.

John Staley of Bucket List
Photo: John Crawford

Front-man John Staley covers the vocals and bass, accompanied by Dave Dalgleish on keyboards, Ralph Lefevre on guitar, and Glen Brown on drums. Dalgleish alone with his swiveling hips and infectious boogie dance behind the keys is worth the price of the show. The horn section consisting of Ron Baker on trumpet, John Godek on tenor sax, Carl Korody on trombone, and Jack McLaren on baritone sax left no doubts that they can pack a punch, while being only slightly less animated in their actions.

Bucket List broke the New York City-based ban on Mustang Sally and opened their set with the well-worn R&B classic, but this was the least-boring version of the tune to be heard anywhere.

Conferring with band members after the show, I learned that Staley has a knack for instantly re-arranging songs during the show (which talented front man doesn't?) so it is a testament to the band's collective experience that they always ended up enjoying the ride, staying in the moment and arriving safely at the destination station, no matter what train wreck threatened.

Bucket List at Porcelain Records
Photo: Bill Watson

And the Bucket List train is a big one. Powerful. Convincing. Shaking the earth, even. Without skipping a beat or faltering they motored through a veritable smorgasbord of popular blues-based material: Crossroads, One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer, My Own Way To Rock, Sweet Home Chicago, Steamroller Blues, What'd I Say, and Red Rooster. They even pulled out an arrangement of Spooky, made popular by the Atlanta Rhythm Section in the seventies.

Bucket List and Tripleplay. Blues forged in The Hammer. For your entertainment.

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