Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Blues roots nurture Joe Moss

Chicago bluesman Joe Moss brought his band
to the Terrace Bay Inn on Jan. 30 for a concert
organized by "Blues For a Cause."


Witness a Joe Moss concert and you'll see how his deep-running blues roots have shaped his songs and career.

Nearly two hundred fans saw the bluesman and his band play at Gladstone's Terrace Bay Inn, where Moss demonstrated how two Kings and a pair of Buddys have influenced his work.

The Jan. 30 concert was sponsored by Escanaba resident Wendy Pepin's "Blues For a Cause" to aid the Upper Peninsula Diabetes Outreach Program.

Freddie King

Moss acknowledges a debt to B. B. and Freddie King by performing some of their songs, although he writes most of his material. As a young blues player, Moss was tutored by the late Windy City blues icon Buddy Scott, and is a regular fixture at Buddy Guy's Legends club in Chicago.

With Moss performing lead vocals and lead guitar, the Joe Moss Band includes Greg Sesner (Hammond organ), Dana Thompson (drums) and Dave Wood (bass).

The quartet played 17 songs during two sets, showcasing the high-energy guitar style Moss has developed since beginning his career in the blues at age 15.

They opened with "Love My Baby," a track from 2003's "Monster Love" compact disc, which appeared on 212 Records, an independent label owned by Moss.

"Suburban Glory," a number detailing the singer's experiences as a guitar teacher, followed. The song opens the "Maricela's Smile" CD which Moss issued in 2008.

Another selection from the same CD, "I Am Feeling You," came next. Explaining the song is about commiserating, Moss sang: "I can feel your pain," and expressed it with some fierce fret work.

Singing about his joy when a failed relationship finally ended, Moss added stinging guitar to "You Made Me So Happy" with the addendum, "when you said you're going to go." The tune is a highlight of the "Maricela's Smile" release.

Moss returned to "Monster Love," his second CD, for "Please Love Me." B. B. King wrote the song, which he took to No. 1 in 1953.

Another "Monster Love" track, the Moss-penned "Need Your Love" came next. The song featured Wood's bass and Thompson's drumming.


The title cut to "Monster Love" was a fitting start to the second set. The song encapsulates the bluesman's style, incorporating soul, rhythm & blues and jazz into an extended form. Moss wrote the song about his wife Sandra and daughter Maricela and their future as a family.

The uniquely named "She Put a Stick in My Spokes," followed. The song was a lengthy, crowd-pleasing guitar work-out, from "Maricela's Smile." Moss even played his guitar behind his head for part of the song, demonstrating both his flexibility and guitar prowess.

"Black Boots," a song about lust and betrayal, slotted next. The song has yet to appear on compact disc.

Other standout numbers from the second set were "My Life" and "Lost My World," both Moss originals.

To end the program, Moss played two numbers associated with blues legend Freddie King.

Moss dedicated "Ain't Nobody's Business" to Buddy Scott, a Chicago blues institution who died in 1994. Moss sang the blues standard when he was a young guitarist in Buddy Scott and the Rib Tips.

"Buddy Scott brought me into this business," Moss recalled. "He's the heaviest blues musician you never knew."

Scott, signed to Verve Records, released the CD "Bad Avenue" just month before he died of stomach cancer. Moss played guitar on the album, Scott's only album for a major label.


The evening's final selection was "Going Down," written by Don Nix, but originally recorded by King. The song first appeared on King's 1971 "Getting Ready" album on Leon Russell's Shelter Records.

In a fine tribute to King, Moss and the band roared through their version of the song.

Now a veteran of the Chicago blues scene, Moss was discovered during a jam session at Rosa's Blues Lounge on Chicago's west side when he was a teenager. Recruited into Scott's Rib Tips, Moss earned his blues chops as a sideman with many of Chicago's best blues bands.

After Scott died, Moss entertained the notion of becoming a bandleader himself. In 1997, the singer and guitarist released his debut CD, dubbing it "The Joe Moss Band."


The disc contained 11 originals and "Just Pickin'," an instrumental composed by Freddie King. One song Moss wrote, "Oh Sandra," was about his wife. In the liner notes, Moss thanked Scott "for being my second father and friend."

Recorded at Acme Studios in Chicago, the project was produced by Jay Newland and maintains an appealing straight-ahead blues sound.

The "Monster Love" and "Maricela's Smile" CDs complete the Moss catalog, although a live album may be forthcoming, Moss told me.

Moss returned to Acme for "Monster Love," which was completed just days before the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States. This time Moss produced the recording sessions.

"Maricela's Smile," meanwhile, was recorded at 4 Deuces/ Clava Studios and Semaphore Studios in Chicago with the disc being co-produced by Moss and Kris Poulin.

While Moss has awed blues fans with his playing, he also inspired his younger brother Nick to appreciate the blues. In fact, his sibling fronts Nick Moss and the Flip Tops, another band gaining recognition by the blues community.

As he has for years, Joe Moss continues to tour heavily both in the United States and abroad.


The day before his recent U. P. gig, Moss opened for Buddy Guy at the music icon's Legends club at 754 S. Wabash Ave. in Chicago.

Guy has praised the bluesman and books him regularly at his club.

Sustained by the blues and with a helping hand from Buddy Guy, Moss should have an outstanding future based on his terrific live shows and skillfully-crafted studio recordings. He deserves it.

1 comment:

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