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145th Street – Where The Blues Lives


10 tracks; Runtime: 57:32 minutes

Anybody know where the Blues lives? Surprise! Evidently, it’s in San Diego. Where The Blues Lives is the second CD offering from 145th Street, a five-man San Diego blues band, led by Steve (Stevie B) Bulger on vocals and harp, and Marc (the Wonder Boy) Marrewa on guitar.

According to a December 2011 article in the San Diego Reader, this band is named for the 1-4-5 chord progression of your standard 12-bar blues; and they added the word “Street” because, well, “that’s where it all happens.” But don’t let the name fool you. This is no standard blues band, doing the same old blues songs in the usual style, and 145th Street is proud of that fact. Nine of the ten tracks on this CD are originals, written by Bulger and Marrewa, who strive to bring you what they call an “urban blues experience.” Even the one cover tune, the Willie Dixon classic, “Make Love To You,” gets a very original, contemporary-sounding arrangement, featuring a catchy riff and a bit of dueling harp and sax.

Every track leaves ample time to spotlight solos on harp, guitar and sax (with the sax skillfully played by Walter Gentry). All three musicians can run the gamut from down & dirty to sophisticated, bordering on jazz. Check out the CD cover photo and you’ll see an abundance of confidence and attitude, and what you see is what you get. This band’s playing is so tight that you’d think they must have been playing together for decades – while, in reality, most of these guys only joined 145th Street since the previous (2005) CD. It’s like they have a mind-meld going and never get out of synch.

This CD opens strong and just keeps getting better. The first (title) track serves as an anthem to this band and their San Diego-style, party-time blues. It cranks up the energy right away, and gives you a good sampling of what these musicians can do – not to mention, fixes their name, 145th Street, firmly in your mind by well-placed repetition. The 4th cut, “Your Little Show,” has almost a Latin beat, with a little funky wah-wah thrown in. The 6th and longest track, “What Am I S’posed To Do,” is a fairly slow blues tune with an amazing guitar solo – heavy on the pedal.

One of my favorite songs on the CD is the last cut, “Give Her What She Wants.” A section of this one borrows Buddy Guy’s technique of grabbing your attention by singing and playing very softly, then suddenly and strategically cranking the volume back up. It is also one of several cuts on this CD where you’ll hear the harp, guitar and/or sax playing together either in tandem or in tight harmony – just a little different version of what the Allman Brothers do so well with two guitars.

If you’re looking for a band whose blues can make you cry, with a vocalist who seems genuinely heartbroken, then 145th Street is probably not the band for you. But if high energy is more your style, you might want to give Where The Blues Lives a shot. In terms of pure enthusiasm, this studio album can beat many live performances. Bulger’s vocals, in particular, will convince you this was taped before a live audience, and the mood is pure party.

Where does the Blues live? Besides those other great blues cities we all know and love, you just might find it in San Diego. Just ask the locals where you can find145th Street. And hopefully they’ll soon be taking their party on the road, to a blues club near you.

Reviewer Sheila Skilling is a self-professed “blues fan by marriage,” who was hooked by her husband’s musical preferences, but reeled in by the live performances of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy and others. She lives in the Minneapolis area.

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