Live Review: Kenny Olsen & Tino Gross

Edo Ramen House Detroit, MI

Contact: tinogrossdetroit@gmail.com

Web: kennyolson.com; facebook.com/dumpstermachine

Players: Kenny Olson, guitar; Tino Gross, vocals, harmonica, guitar

Material: Blues, rock and Americana crafted with Detroit pride is what this stellar duo brings to the table, fully stocked with classic hits and vintage rarities. John Lee Hooker’s “Motor City’s Burning” and “Boogie Chillin’” prove to be star vehicles. The musical lexicon of Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Iggy & The Stooges, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Detroit blues legend Bobo Jenkins all co-exist harmoniously in the artistic ouevre and streetwise vision of Olson and Gross, as well.

Musicianship: This duo complements each other as Olson plays the lion’s share of leads, adding just the right amount of spice to each tune. Gross utilizes a judicious amount of thumb and finger action to smoothly lay down boogie beats and accompanying single note lines. Olson's wah-wah pedal added a certain contemporary sheen to some of the more traditional blues offerings. Gross has a robust and slightly monotonic vocal style that suits the material perfectly. His harmonica accompaniment is appropriately gritty .

Performance: Olson and Gross have both shared the stage with ZZ Top in the past. Their cover of “She Loves My Automobile” was an especially heartfelt tribute to recently departed bassist Dusty Hill.

Gross is a clever, engaging storyteller and a musical raconteur. His anecdotes of backing John Lee Hooker in the ‘70s, sitting in with Bob Dylan and general knowledge of Detroit blues history were entertaining and honest. Toward the latter part of the night the duo was joined by former Hank Ballard and The Midnighters/Jackie Wilson guitarist Billy Davis and his 13-year-old wunderkind/protégé harmonica player “Mighty” Michael Mendelson. They all jammed on rare blues gems that truly locked in the crowd.

Summary: Kenny Olson and Tino Gross are seasoned vets who have worked in all facets of the music biz. It is refreshing to see these two Detroit natives rise from the ashes of the pandemic and return to their first love—playing for a live audience.