Material: Energetic frontman Blind Lemon Peel puts it best, “This ain’t no sittin’ around, cryin’ in your beer blues band,” no sir. Showmanship, energy and flair take center stage in this all-star band’s brand of blues, evoking a bygone era that’s more Blues Brothers than Muddy Waters. Mix some west coast cool (ZZ Top’s “Tube Snake Boogie”) with a little southern swag (Elvin Bishop’s “My Dog”) and you get the picture.
Musicianship: Hand-picked blues and session musicians from around Los Angeles make up the “all-stars” capably backing up Blind Lemon Peel, allowing him to work the crowd. Peel’s growling vocals are complemented by Barron’s power-packed backing melodies. Bassist Brundidge, having honed his chops on tour with the likes of James Brown, works well with drummer Kimbrough to provide a capable groove cushion for Ison and Asti to shine in featured moments and solos.
Performance: Playing the late night slot of this Pop-Up Blues Festival did the band no favors, as the room began to clear out a bit after Alyssa Barron’s solo performance. The all-stars backed her up before hitting the stage with Blind Lemon Peel, and their comfort level with the more blues-y material was evident. Despite the attendance, the band and Peel’s energy was contagious and got the crowd moving and grooving.
Blasting out a few covers along with original tunes, the set mixed Cuban beats on the original “Marlboro Red,” and funky grooves on the likes of “8 Bullets.” Soaring female vocals and scat passages over gruff male declarations about cigarettes and other working man concerns provided a counter to the usual L.A. music fare.
Summary: Blind Lemon Peel All-Stars should be commended for bringing blues to a town not traditionally known for it. The band’s dedication to the music and performance was never in doubt. While Peel is as authentic as it gets, at times it felt as if the band were going through the motions, requiring overcompensation from the vocalists. Barron’s vocals are terrific; however, in contrast to her counterpart, her stage presence felt put-on. Dialing back and being more natural would benefit the performance greatly.
The Players: Blind Lemon Peel, lead vocals; Alyssa Barron, vocals; John Asti, sax; Freddy Boy Saunders, blues harp; D.J. Ison, guitar; Craig Kimbrough, drums; Ray Brundidge, bass.
Photo by Grant Stoner
Venue: Rusty’s Surf Ranch
City: Santa Monica, CA
Blind Lemon Peel All-Stars - "Boogie Man of Love"
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