Material: You can call Ben Rice is a blues artist, but his sound is in fact a rich fabric of earthy genres. When you first listen to his recorded material, it comes off as very traditional: dirty, lowdown blues that was recorded on homemade, cigar box guitars and inspired by the Mississippi mud whistle. You get the feeling that you’re floating down the Ol’ Muddy on a riverboat heading toward the bayou for some delectable seafood gumbo. Tunes like “Hoodoo Working Overtime” and “Retreat” take you way back to the days of Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. Sometimes soulful R&B, sometimes gospel, sometimes rock & roll, Ben Rice delivers them all.
Musicianship: Excellent play by Rice and his crew. The rhythm section, comprising Uhlig and Banner, were perfect in their delivery. A faultless shroud of bass and drums was placed around the ABC Club for Rice to sketch his dance, play and song upon. The songs were dressed up neatly in tuxedo fashion in the live music environment. The boys in the band added spunk and pop to each blues song, bringing them to life and then making them over on stage as Rice told his story to the audience. The tunes were superbly polished as they were transformed from traditional blues to a full-on original, self-proclaiming brand of blues music that touches the soul. Superb playing all around.
Performance: Rice is very comfortable in the public eye. His stage presence invokes reverence and his guitar skills summon respect and admiration. Self confidence oozes out of every note that Rice and his bandmates produced as he talked to the audience about events that have happened throughout his career. Rice is very intuitive on stage; he knows when to take control and when to let go. And let go he did; the songs developed their own persona when compared to the original recordings and was a great, tasty treat for the ABC audience.
Summary: You get everything with Ben Rice: old-school blues recorded in a quality studio; 2015 International Blues Challenge finalist and then the St. Blues Guitarist Award for best guitar; a band that brings the old-school blues to life right before your very eyes (and ears) and a fun live show that will have you dancing in your seat. From mellow, honest, soul searching blues like “Peace Will Overcome,” to wobbling The ABC Club with rockin’, soul shaking blues like “Working,” Ben Rice has something for everyone. A delicious audio delight.
Players: Ben Rice, guitar, vocals; Mark Banner, drums; Calen Uhlig, bass