Blues: Meet the 2014 RFT Music Award Nominees
The 2014 Riverfront Times Music Showcase will be held this year on June 7 in the Grove! Think of it as St. Louis music's own official holiday and consider this the season. Throughout May we at RFT Music will be making our cases for all 140 bands and artists nominated for an RFT Music Award this year, so that you will be able to make a fully informed decision with regards to your vote. Read on and get yourself acquainted, and we'll see you at the showcase!
See also: Vote Now For the 2014 RFT Music Awards
God bless Soulard -- its tourists and tramps, barflies and hippies, locals and lovers of a good, cheap, stiff drink and a patio or back alley where you can still smoke up at will. The Jeremiah Johnson Band knows these joints and their hardworking and harder-drinking patrons, but unlike many of the bands content to simply hold down their residencies on the edge of the Mississippi (and there's exactly zero shame in that), Johnson & Co. have a big sound and bigger ambition. The band has toured overseas and gigged as far as Alaska, scoring commercial airplay with its greasy mix of Southern rock and tough blues.
Loot Rock Gang
Steve Truesdell for RFT
Aside from the pomade shortages around south St. Louis, one of the consequences of Pokey LaFarge's continued ascendancy has been the sidelining of the Rum Drum Ramblers. Ryan Koenig and Joey Glynn do time in both bands, but guitarist and singer Mat Wilson hasn't wasted any time while his bandmates tour the world. Wilson leads the Loot Rock Gang with his wife "Little" Rachel (nee Fenton), and the mix of blues, hillbilly swing and acoustic Americana has bridged the gap that the couple had pursued in separate ventures. With his twangy, aggressive resonator guitar and her whirlwind vocals, the Wilsons and the rest of the Gang make a glorious, rootsy racket.
Jake and David Maness grew up O'Fallon, but they're too young to remember the heyday of KSHE (94.7 FM), when classic rock meant as much blues as Southern or progressive rock, when Cream, Hendrix and Zeppelin helped define radio for a generation. But this duo caught wind of the blues all the same, channeling it into a thundering, radio-friendly sound that is indebted to the likes of the Black Keys and the White Stripes, but with a distinctly dirty, even underclass Missouri tone. And that's a good thing. On the 2012 EP Grief Factory, the Manesses exalt catfish, rivers and guns, and throw themselves into every howling jam.
Blues, it has been said ad nauseam, is a feeling. Yes, and so is boredom, which is what the vast majority of guitar-slinging, guitar-face-making, Guitar Center-stalking wannabes inspire. The blues, it should be said, can be extremely hard. Marquise Knox knows that, even though at the age of 23 he makes it look and sound easy. A thrilling performer with a voice that cuts as deeply as his skill on the electric guitar, Knox recorded his first album when he was just sixteen, and he has continued to grow as a musician in the tradition of Albert King and Muddy Waters. A manchild no more, he is a bluesman, and one of the most powerful ones you'll ever hear.
Soulard Blues Band
One day, dear reader, the Soulard Blues Band will be no more. It's just a fact. And one day you'll wonder why, despite all the opportunities every other day of the week, you never saw this St. Louis institution in its prime -- and no, the band's prime ain't over. If somehow you've never danced your ass off when Art Dwyer lays down a bass line as smooth as crushed velvet, or when Marty Abdullah swings his phrasing on "Kansas City Blues" or "Dust My Broom," or when Tom Maloney plays a solo that would make his mentor (the late, great Benny Smith) smile, well you really should. Don't take this band for granted. Pay your respects soon; they've been earned.