It was a quick trip to my old stomping grounds. Time is precious this month: shows coming up with all of my performing groups (Tour Page), mid-semester mayhem, an album in the works, and big announcements coming soon. BUT, when John Costello rings you up from LA you know something good is headed your way.
A mutual friend, the great Doug MacLeod, would be in the neighborhood. “Dubb” is the real deal. A bluesman steeped in tradition, tested and respected by the giants of blues, and a world traveler whose “Dubbheads” hold him in the highest regard, and for good reason. As a sideman, his work was heard behind the likes of George “Harmonica” Smith, Big Joe Turner, and Big Mama Thornton. His songs have been covered by Albert King, Albert Collins, Eva Cassidy, and more. Yup, Dubb is a playa, and last night he showed an intimate crowd at the Bop Shop in Rochester, NY what legends are made of.
The aisles of stacks and stacks of records in the Bop Shop’s showroom were neatly rolled to the walls and in their place Tom Kohn and his staff transformed the space into a concert hall. What he calls his “living room” is a curtained stage with a wonderful sound system. The crowd felt like home to me. Music fans. They would prove to be attentive and engaged. The concert was LIVE Broadcast on WAYO 104.3 FM.
I only had a few minutes to chat with Dubb before the gig. But in that time, I saw him reach out and touch his fans in a way that can only be described as inspirational. He cares deeply, and it shows. Whether listening to their stories or offering up heartfelt, sage advice, he was genuine. The way he is in real life, is the way he is on stage. He talks, he relates, and he shares his views in a passionate and meaningful way. And this man has some stories to tell.
He looks like an Irish dude, but he sounds like the bluesmen of old, and it’s no wonder. He learned his craft the only way you could back in the day. You had to go where they played, play where they played, with them and for them.
The Blues is about dealing with hard times, anger, defeat, and despair. Dubb dug deep, but with grace and humor. Just before launching into his second song, “Working Man’s Blues”, he shared an insight from an old master during one of their many jovial sessions backstage. He said, “We just laughin’ to keep from cryin’.” And there was a lot of laughter last night. The man can tell a story and lace it with one liners seemingly off the cuff. Blues guys got that timing DOWN.
“Sun Shine Down My Way” gave Dubb a chance to show off his masterful slide guitar work. He moves between different guitar tunings with ease, and always with a dose of humor. He has a name for each tuning: “too many G’s” or like his childhood report card “too many D’s”.
And then a shout out.
I looked to my left as Dubb pointed out a silent, lone figure standing just a few feet away from me. I didn’t notice him come in… and I never saw him leave… he just appeared and was gone moments after the concert. The legendary blues guitarist Joe Beard was in the house. If you don’t recognize that name right away, read this article from the D&C: Joe Beard
Every song last night had meaning. “Goin’ Down the Roadhouse” imploring fans to get out and listen to live music. And he was talking about love. “What you gonna do? Sit on the couch with a couple glasses of wine and some mac and cheese… or get out there and find somebody?”
He doesn’t choose sides, but he’s got plenty to say about politics in “Who’s Drivin’ This Bus?”. The answer? “It ain’t one of us!”
“Brand New Eyes” beseeches and teaches us to see our world with new vision and look for the good things in life. And even in the darkest of topics he looks for the good. “Break the Chain”, his latest, tells his very personal story of abuse and how to overcome it. His son Jesse, also a singer/songwriter, makes an appearance on this record. Dubb shared that Jesse is seven months cancer free. In every way, it’s personal and, “It goes exactly like this.” He minces no words. He speaks and sing the truth.
“For every valley, there’s a mountain on either side.” Dubb left us with the uplifting “Travel On”. Next stop Jorma Kaukonen’s Ranch in Ohio, then it’s off to Europe again… and beyond.
Great stories and powerful songs in a wonderful setting. I’m so glad I made the trip and strongly recommend Doug MacLeod, and the Bop Shop, to anyone who loves music.