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The Insomniacs - At Least I’m Not With You

Delta Groove Music

13 songs; Time 56:14; Reference Quality (especially when paired with their debut)

Styles: West Coast Blues; Swing; Contemporary Blues; Chicago Blues

“At Least I’m Not With You” continues the finger-snapping, foot-tapping energy and fun of The Insomniacs’ 2007 debut, “Left Coast Blues.” While their debut essence is maintained, the scope of their music is broadened in a few songs by studio insertion of harmonica, saxophones, and even pedal steel guitar on one cut. The result is a multiple-generation-spanning winner!

Imagine a conversation between two Blues fans in the year 2020 referring to the first two albums from The Insomniacs.
Dick: “There seems to be more young Blues fans than ever these days. What was it that opened the door and brought them around because the plethora of Rockers posing as Blues artists got to be so monotonous and mundane.”

Ed: “I think it was the arrival of bands like The Insomniacs, The Kilborn Alley Blues Band, and Rick Estrin’s post Little Charlie group. Remember how exciting it was to hear unique guitar solo passages created by The Insomniacs’ young Vyasa Dodson? His guitar riffs were inventive and fresh with bounce and joy, and all his notes were placed judiciously with no extensive, note wasting solos or shredding. Equally imaginative were the trade-off piano and organ leads of Alex Shakeri. Together with Dean Mueller (bass) and Dave Melyan (drums), they created so many catchy musical hooks and turnarounds that it made young people realize what fun Blues could be.”

Utilizing the internet, the band members took a page from the Obama campaign (or maybe vice-versa) by filling long drives between gigs surfing the web on wireless laptops, looking at MySpace and Facebook friends of the clubs down the road, and emailing blues fans inviting them to listen to the band and come to a show. The result is hundreds of plays per day on MySpace, a site usually focused on alternative, pop, and hip-hop music. They've engaged a whole new generation of first-time young blues fans, as well as older ones who recognize the roots of their music.

By finely tuning their songs night after night out on the road over the last two years, “At Least I’m Not With You” was ready, and it recorded in only two days. The Portland, Oregon based band led by 27-year old vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Vyasa Dodson has laid down another vibrant set of mostly original material.

Recorded at Clear Lake Audio in Burbank CA, Jeff Scott Fleenor from Delta Groove co-produced with the band, and they were joined by special guests Al Blake (harmonica), Mitch Kashmar (harmonica), Joel Paterson (pedal steel guitar), and Jeff Turmes (tenor/baritone sax).

The first song my radio co-host, “Shuffle Shoes,” and I played was the last cut, an instrumental titled “Insomniacs Boogie.” We played it first that night to launch our show on an upbeat note. The song epitomizes their music (minus vocals): two fisted piano opens, soon underscored by solid Melyan drum rhythm and Jeff Turmes guesting on tenor sax. At one minute in, Vyasa picks a solo of rapidly progressing notes that eventually adds chords and just keeps building in a purposeful direction. A quick mid-song drum solo, a group shouted “Hey!” and it’s back to the originally stated theme with Mueller matching bass notes with Shakeri on piano walking an intricate bass line with his left hand while pounding out an incendiary melody with his right. Smoking!

Other standouts are a killer slow blues, J.W. Henry’s “Description Blues,” a faithful rendition of Junior Wells’ “Hoodoo Man Blues,” another dance inducing instrumental, “Root Beer Float,” a humorous original “She Can Talk” (her only steady boyfriend is deaf), an instant classic “20/20,” and the swinging title track.

In 2007, I correctly predicted a Blues Music Award nomination of Best New Artist Debut for “Left Coast Blues.” With no hesitation, I’ll go on record right now with predictions of both BMA and Blues Blast Music Award nominations for Best Contemporary Blues Recording. Further, Vyasa Dodson could just end up with the BBMA “Sean Costello Rising Star Award!”

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL
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