May/June 2016 has been a pretty incredible time for myself and my band. It all started with Prince’s passing. I detailed my feelings on that event with a pretty passionate and confessional essay that helped to illuminate his immense influence on the course of my musical life. He’s yet another lost legend that we get to invoke with every passing note. So the last couple months of gigs have been a sort of rallying point for myself and our Brickyard Band family. And it’s really starting to feel like a NY musical commune at this point.
There’s no question that the Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 residency has deepened our resolve to bring together all the talented people we are so lucky to know. Amy Helm is such a revelation and inspiration for us all, the purity of her voice and musical spirit melds the best of her dad’s direct delivery and the burnished Soul of her musical God Mother Mavis Staples into a totally original artist. Having her join, us and lend her talents to one of our shows was the best possible send off to 3 weeks worth of one offs.
Then in Week 2 my musical brothers of the road, Marc Quinone’s and Pete Levin of the Gregg Allman Band, came down to send our groove into a whole’ nother stratosphere. Of course I’m lucky enough to hang with Gregg Allman, help him run his band as MD and write songs together. But the icing was to have him take time out of his hectic schedule to come down to our gig and sing his ass off on one of his many classic compositions “Ain't Wasting Time No More”. Bill Sims JR was our official guest that night. Bill has been inspiring me to play and sing the blues in NYC for 20 years. He’s still one of the best ANYWHERE and he brought the house down with his jaw dropping Blues mastery and a couple revelatory Bob Dylan arrangements.
We also had the honor of playing Mountain Jam for the first time. Our upstate family, Jay Collins on Baritone sax and Connor Kennedy on guitar and vocals rounded out the band there. We had selfishly prayed for rain and got it, we basically closed the damn festival because of a torrential storm around 3pm and the indoor stage we had been assigned to was absolutely packed thanks to the efforts of our tireless manager and “spiritual adviser”/tour mystic Jesse G.
Late this week I’ll be doing my first round at Fur Peace Ranch with the great Jorma Kaukonen and my band will be coming out as well to play a show on that Saturday night in Ohio. It’s such an honor to fuse my love of teaching with a live performance jam with my band from NYC. Then it’s off to the next tour of Gregg Allman band shows in the South.
One more night at Rockwood Wednesday and it’s gonna be crammed with more friends, young and old, sage musicians with wisdom and some fresh jams with young bloods. It will hopefully be packed wall to wall again with what we can only call our “fans”. Really they are our friends. The music business has been a disaster for so long. The only way out is to strengthen our local musical community of fans and artists and lead each other into the light. I’m no spring chicken, and the people who know me well can tell you that the “dark lord” is sometimes one of my nicknames, but this early summer has really lifted me up. Losing Prince was crushing. But his absence will remind us all every day of what the standard needs to be. Strength in numbers, the blues at the heart, rock and roll in our souls, one gig at a time, we will continue to protect the music the best we can. I’ve been doing this so long and I’m so thankful for the friends I have who are so talented and the music fans who have rallied to raise my band up to another level. Onwards!