Bushel basket of blues this weekend | TheUnion.com

Bushel basket of blues this weekend

David Gaines | Special to Prospector

Traditional black blues music goes back beyond the early 1900s, a time when American popular music was in its infancy. Blues interwoven with white folk and country music would eventually create jazz, rhythm & blues, rockabilly and rock & roll.

Blues, therefore, is one of the most enduring of all American folk music art forms — one that survives today despite the influx of synthesized, computerized, drum machine music.


Two great blues bands will be carrying on this impressive tradition on Friday, April 21 at 8 p.m. at the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley. Grease, Grit, and Grime, a locally-loved blues band, will open the venue for The Nick Moss Band, a group of nationally-known musicians who have performed their original songs in many parts of the world.

The band's leader, singer, and lead guitarist, Nick Moss, grew up in inner-city Chicago and has been playing and singing blues music for 33 years. His band was nominated this year for Band of the Year for the 2017 Blues Music Awards, and was also nominated for best contemporary blues album. The band's latest album, From the Root to the Fruit, was released in May 2016.

"I've played with a lot of other blues musicians," said Moss in a phone interview from his home in suburban Chicago. "I was 17 when I started playing guitar with guys like Willie Smith, Jimmy Dawkins, and the legendary bluesman Jimmy Rodgers."

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The core band is Nick Moss, lead guitar and vocals; Nick Fane, bass; Patrick Seals, drums; and Taylor Streiff, keyboards. Special guests are Andrew Duncanson, lead vocalist and rhythm guitar; and Dennis Gruenling, harmonica.


Whether it's the funky, greasy '60s blues sound of Canned Heat, or the refined, soulful sounds of Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters, local blues band Grease, Grit, and Grime does it all. GGG is Seth Miner — guitar, vocals; Scott "Philharmonica" Hickman — harmonica, vocals; Chad Conner Crow — lead vocals; Hayes Burris — bass; and Ty Smith — drummer at this concert.

Grease, Grit, and Grime's strong suit is getting folks out of their chairs and up on the dance floor. One band member said: "the band doesn't perform songs that give you the blues, but those that lift the blues off your shoulders."

"We are a guitar- and harmonica-driven '50s to '60s electric, dirty blues band," insisted lead singer and GGG founder Chad Conner Crow. "We're a five-piece, dance-worthy, powerhouse blues band. We were formed in 2006 and joined by harmonica player and singer Scott Hickman in 2007. So we've been playing dirty blues locally and all over Northern California for 11 years," Conner Crow added.


While rooted in traditional Chicago blues, The Nick Moss Band plays in a variety of blues styles. "We also play a little bit of rock & roll and soul and funk," Moss affirmed. "We'll be doing some tribute songs at the Grass Valley concert for Chuck Berry, Lonnie Brooks, and James Cotton who just passed away."

Moss's long-time lead singer, Michael Ledbetter, recently quit the group to form his own band. "My former singer, Mike Ledbetter, is considered one of the best vocalists on the blues scene today," said Moss. "He was with me for six and a half years."

Moss is bringing in renowned vocalist Andrew Duncanson for his upcoming tour to replace Ledbetter. "Andrew Duncanson is a wonderful 60s-style soul singer, and he writes wonderful songs," said Moss.


"And I'm bringing in Dennis Gruenling, who is one of the world's greatest harmonica players, which is not an exaggeration," Moss continued. "Dennis is known all over the world. He was nominated this year for the 2017 Blues Music Award for an instrumental with harmonica."

Moss said that other great harmonica players all praise Gruenling for his artistry. "So it should be a special show with these two guys playing with us," Moss remarked. "It's going to be a blues and soul review. Andrew can sing very bluesy and soulfully, and Dennis plays amazing traditional blues harmonica and jump blues."

When Nick Moss was a little kid he listened to music constantly with his mother, who he said was his biggest musical influence.

"My mom and dad had amazing taste in music," said Moss. "But my mother loved every kind of music imaginable – country, soul, pop, rock, blues, jazz, the big swing bands, even opera and classical. She never really came out and said it, but I figured this out years later. Any kind of music that came from the heart and the soul is what she liked, no matter what genre. So I've always applied this to my own music."


Career highpoints for Grease, Grit, and Grime have been opening for bluesman Johnny Winter in Nevada City, performing as house band for legendary blues recording artist Lazy Lester, and performing in the Polk Street Blues Festival in San Francisco in 2011.

One thing is a given: Grease, Grit, and Grime always lives up to its name with its funky, gritty brand of blues standards and covers. "We're not background music. We have a raw energy that gets crowds pumped up," said GGG singer and harmonica player Scott Hickman.

"We feature blues harmonica reminiscent of the Chicago ensembles of the '50s, the swamp styles of Louisiana and Southeast Texas, and the gumbo styles of New Orleans," Hickman added. "And our guitar playing is reminiscent of the San Francisco psychedelic era. So we think the blues is still alive and well."

David Gaines is a freelance writer who lives in Grass Valley. He can be contacted at dtgaines@att.net, or at 530-615-4647. Cover photo of Nick Moss by Michael Kurgansky.


WHO: The Center for the Arts presents

WHAT: The Nick Moss Band concert, with Grease, Grit and Grime opening the venue

WHEN: Friday, April 21 at 8 p.m.

WHERE: The Center for the Arts, 314 West Main St., Grass Valley

TICKETS: $17 Members, $24 General Public; The Center Box Office – 530-274-8384 ext 14; BriarPatch Co-op Community Market – 530-272-5333; Get tickets and concert information online at http://www.thecenterforthearts.org

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