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Ty Curtis Band - Down on My Luck

Self release

13 songs; Time 59:08; Suggested

Style: Modern Electric Blues; Blues-rock and roll

There used to be 200 bands and 5000 clubs. Now, there are 5000 bands and 200 clubs. The supply of available music is huge – way more than even all the independent record companies can maintain. So, how could one possibly hear or gain exposure to quality, award winning regional acts deserving to break nationally?

One answer is the annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis hosted by The Blues Foundation. To my mind, if the Ty Curtis Band had not competed and finished in second place in the 2009 finals, I would have never heard of them, and that would have been a shame.

Hailing from Salem, Oregon (half a continent from me), The Ty Curtis Band is young, fresh, and full or new sounds clearly based on Blues and Blues-Rock-Funk traditions, not guitar shredding Rock. Blues fans will delight at “Down on My Luck,” their wonderful second CD featuring thirteen original songs. TCB is a multi-talented line-up starting with passionate vocals, solid songwriting, and imaginative guitar from Ty Curtis. At age 18, Hank Shreve on harmonica and keyboards is a multi-award winning musician who adds competent vocals. Winning three part harmonies abound with the added voice of bass player Jim Smith. Coupled with Davis “Super D” Brown on drums, Smith’s powerful bass lines lock in the rhythm that makes the dance floor booties shake.

At the IBC, bands get thirty minutes to impress judges. If a statement is going to be made, it can not wait for the eighth song or the second set. Their set at the IBC finals was similar to the beginning of this CD: they aimed to blow socks off immediately. But, with the CD, by the time one gets 45 minutes in, for example, by the tenth song, you’ll realize what a variety of masterful musicianship and singing it contains.

Track one creates an “Oh, Yes, this new CD is good!” feel within 45 seconds, and it just gets better from there. It opens with sounds of a drum solo which is soon joined by a popping bass guitar. At 25 seconds, honking harmonica joins the rumble. At 57 seconds, Ty’s guitar and vocals bring the last deadbeat from his seat to his dancing feet. Instrumentally, “Cherry City Boogie” has it all: guitar solo, harmonica solo, guitar-harmonica harmony, guitar and harmonica call and response, all underpinned by rock solid boogie rhythm.

About the time one questions, “One hit wonder?” track two maintains the upbeat momentum from the first track, but it is a freshly new sound that tells listeners these guys are special. Great three part harmonies fill the chorus of “Been Down That Road.”

The smoke coming out of the speakers is quickly chased away, by roaring flames, when track three explodes. More guitar-harmonica harmony just above the snapping rhythm makes way for lead vocals and vocal harmonies explaining the protagonist is “Bluer Than Blue.”

Don’t sit down; don’t even go for a fresh drink shouts the beat of the fourth cut, “Give It Up.”

Again, we hear fresh sounds different from the first three tracks. No wonder the judges were impressed!

Only with the fifth and title track do we get a chance to almost catch our breath with a mid-tempo Blues. Opening with single string guitar notes just over rich organ swells, the vocals ooze Blues. Again, by mid-song, the three part harmonies really impress.

Through the remaining seven songs, they play heart winning music, and there is not a cover song in the bunch.

If I owned a record company, I would have already made the Ty Curtis Band an offer. I do not expect any more self-releases from this band, not with this level of talent. Sure there are a gazillion different bands, but these cats have earned attention and a listen.

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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