Nick Moss and The Flip Tops with Special Guest Lurrie Bell
Live at Chan’s – Combo Platter No. 2
Style: Electric Chicago Blues, Modern Electric Blues
“Attention ladies and gentlemen: Please adjust your seats, pour yourself a tall drink, and light up a smoke. This ship on the-river-of-time is about to set sail, and your captain, Nick Moss, promises to not “Rock” the boat! Our vessel for this journey is the finest in newly crafted and guitar powered vehicles that will free your mind from your body, allowing it to pleasurably cruise along for the next 79 minutes. On this excursion, expect turns, rapids, riding cresting waves and slow rolling – all to a steady rhythm. Lurrie Bell, the First Mate, and the crew consisting of The Flip Tops are ship shape and tuned to please. So, sit back and enjoy!” -- More than any other player, Nick Moss playing guitar live, and in this case recorded live, takes me on a time cruise where nothing matters but the music.
Nick Moss’ deft ability to be a modern and progressive artist while remaining faithful to Chicago Blues customs is explained by Craig Ruskey in the liner notes: Moss is “...the perfect blend of an artist straddling the fine line between soaring imaginative guitar efforts and traditional, firmly rooted blues grooves....Moss traverses the electric blues guitar landscape effortlessly, without ever sounding like numerous others who appear to have lifted their licks off a dusty museum shelf. Check out, too, his inspired singing....”
Nick’s first live recording in 2006 done at Chan’s Eggrolls & Jazz in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, was so successful and delicious, it called for a second helping. This time special guest Chicago’s critically acclaimed Lurrie Bell plays guitar and sings on four songs alongside Gerry Hundt, Willie Oshawny, Bob Carter, and wife Kate Moss who more than ably helps with bass duties on five songs. Six of the songs are originals by either Nick Moss or Gerry Hundt or Nick and Gerry. Covers include songs by Muddy Waters and Eddie Boyd.
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops have consistently been nominated for a Blues Music Award for Band of the Year. They truly deserve a win because they are, first, a true band – not a studio amalgam and, secondly, each player easily trades off instruments for various songs. For 2009, more BMA nominations include: “Instrumentalist-Other” Gerry Hundt – Mandolin, and Lurrie Bell with two BMA nods: Traditional Blues Male Artist of the Year and Instrumentalist-Guitar
The cruise leaves the dock in high gear with a loping instrumental workout appropriately titled, “Spare Ribs & Chopsticks.” Nick’s fluid guitar tones are completely in his control - from harmonic chords to ringing runs to stinging staccatos. Band member Piano Willie Oshawny gets a nice solo about four minutes into the eight minute plus romp.
For the second cut, Kate Moss joins and takes the bass guitar, moving “The Trouble Shooter” Gerry Hundt to heart-felt harmonica. Now in a five piece Chicago Blues ensemble, the band pays tribute to the genre. The song does not stop at the classic three minutes, however; their contemporary 12 bar approach carries for eight minutes. Nick’s plaintive vocals expertly seal the deal explaining he wants to “try to be the man you want me to be.”
The pace quickens slightly as Hundt masterfully switches to the mandolin for a cut off of his own “Since Way Back” CD titled “Whiskey Makes Me Mean.” Here, Nick plays harmonica like it is his main instrument. Track four is a fun romp using a hook reminiscent of the one that goes, “She can’t help it; the girl can’t help it.”
“Lonesome Bedroom Blues” is one of the afore mentioned, float-me-away songs. Nick plays and forlornly sings a slow blues with plenty of harmonica from Gerry and keyboard mastery from Willie while Kate and Bob Carter on drums power the rhythm section.
Track six, “Fill’er Up” was originally a three minute acoustic number during the “Smithsonian Set” on Nick’s last album, the double CD, “Play It ‘Til Tomorrow.” Here it is presented as an electric number with Gerry again smoking on harmonica while Kate takes the bass.
Tracks seven through ten demonstrate why Lurrie Bell in 2008 was twice a magazine cover boy, a Living Blues magazine double award winner, and the Blues Blast Music Award winner for Best Traditional Blues Recording (“Let’s Talk About Love”). According to Nick’s introduction, no one plays pure, straight Chicago Blues guitar any better! Lurrie’s whiskey edged vocals on “Don’t You Lie To Me,” the thirteen minute “Five Long years,” and “I’m Ready” are a complement to his scorching and inventive guitar playing. These four songs are a five-some with Gerry on bass and Kate sitting out.
Nick Moss and Lurrie Bell trading leads and guitar licks – it just doesn’t get better than that! The sold-out audience at Chan’s audibly gave their many approvals.
Keeping the Blues not just alive but vigorously healthy? Nick Moss gets it....and gets it right. This is one Blues Cruise you don’t want to miss, and you don’t even have to go near the water!
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 To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE