Oh, how sweet is the sound that rises from the fecund depths of the Mississippi Delta! Swampcandy, Nov 30’s headliner at the intimate The Pearl Street Warehouse delivered gem after musical gem to a foot-stomping, table-pounding crowd.
Ruben Dobbs (guitar, vocals) and Joey Mitchell (bass, kick drum, percussive bass) did not hold back. The duo exudes the high-speed energy of a rail car gone off the tracks, but their deft control and sheer force of talent were clear the first chord. They offer listeners the explosive sound of a more heavily outfitted band. Watching Mitchell deftly maneuver the stand-up bass with the nerve of a race car driver hugging the curves is “a rare and a copacetic gift” (to quote Tom Waits). The pair tear it up performing, If I Die With My Eyes Open:
You can find me heavy loaded momma
spare me another day
you can find me down in the holler
screamin’ my blues away
If I die with my eyes open
I might finally be awake
The rest of the show goes down as blues-infused and smooth as the whiskey they implore the crowd to “drink with” them:
Gritty and authentic as the inimitable Robert Johnson, yet original and genre shifting adept as to make the Delta Blues their, and now our, own.
Proving a perfect complement to the high powered Swampcandy was their opening act, The Balkan Brothers. These two actual siblings have won numerous awards for their hard rocking, high energy blues inspired rock and roll. With adept nods to the likes of the Allman Brothers, George Thorogood and Johnny Winters, Steve and Nick Balkan, both tremendously talented musicians, demonstrated why they have been voted “The Best Blues Band in Connecticut” four years in a row. My personal favorite of the night was their heartfelt and soulful Mean Town Blues:
Skribe started off the night. This acoustic singer songwriter surprised the audience by playing the kazoo in place of the more traditional harmonica. He eased the burgeoning crowd into the intimate and utter seemingly impossibility of the Pearl Street Warehouse, where remarkable talent is a mere arm’s reach away.
Leanne Tankel studied poetry writing as a UC Berkeley undergraduate and was fortunate enough to work with the inimitable Thom Gunn. She earned her M.A. in Creative Writing at Boston University, where she held a teaching fellowship. Currently, she is writing prose, and her manuscript, Broken Hallelujah: notes from a marriage, was a 2011 short-list finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Awards program. Leanne lives with her husband, three sons, and two pugs in Northern Virginia.