Date: Mon, 05 Jul 1999 13:35:31 -0700
Subject: Local Boy Makes Good (Dan & Delta Devils @ Guerneville)
The Russian River Blues Festival’s venue was quite a pleasant surprise for us. The Redwood Empire’s vacation villages sit alongside the beautiful river in varying configurations of lodges, B&Bs, campgrounds, and vacation homes. Our "cottage small" in Monte Rio, where we stayed the weekend, was a fortunate selection made through a rental outfit found on the Internet. After a Saturday afternoon and evening of R&R among the tall trees, we were ready on Sunday morning to head over to Guerneville for the Festival.
Truth be told, we haven’t done the festival scene for quite some time. There’s something to be said for youthful vigor and tolerance for crowds when it comes to a long day of music under the sun. But the organizers for this year’s Russian River Blues Festival showed their concern for the over-40 crowd by initiating the Gold Tier option. For substantially more than the standard daily tariff, the area immediately in front of the stage was reserved for Gold Tier revelers, with beach chairs supplied. Lengthy lines started forming early in the morning to stake out a patch of real estate on the rest of the beach, so we were more than satisfied to arrive one scant hour before the gates opened and get a primo location on the beach.
Dan and company were in the middle of their sound check as we looked to find the ideal spot to spend the day. They were the first act of the day, scheduled to start at 11AM. We were kind of wondering how it would go that early in the day. Last time we’ve heard Dan at that hour was one of the Christmas Jug Band radio broadcasts last Winter, and we wouldn’t blame any musician for sounding just a little bit ragged before noon. But as it turned out, there was no need to wonder, because the set and the band were totally tight.
Shortly after 11, Dan and the Delta Devils took the stage. Personnel: Paul Robinson on guitar, Richard Saunders on bass, Tim Vaughan (no relation to Jimmy, who wasn’t there anyway) on drums, Joshua "Raoul" Brody on keyboards, and the Devilettes: Susan Rabin (last reported on here as a "Groovette") and Sheila Glover. In keeping with the Delta Devils theme, all the band members wore something red. Dan Himself was resplendent in black and white, wearing a snazzy white stingy-brim straw hat with some jaunty feathers on the side.
The Delta Devils lineup is one we would like to see and hear more of! The sound, style and repertoire had elements of both the Acoustic Warriors and Bayside Jazz. And yes, they actually did get kind of a blues thing working. They opened with "Wild About My Loving", a 1920s tune that was a 1960s jug band favorite, having been recorded by outfits like Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band and (Dan’s Kama Sutra labelmates) the Lovin’ Spoonful. The band sounded great -- more lively and fun than we would expect for anyone whipping the tunes out on a Sunday morning!
In keeping with the Blues Festival theme, every tune was some kind of "blues". Like the next song, which was introduced as the "My Mother Died From Asbestos And My Father’s Name Was Estes Blues". Next up was "I Got Mine", which is pretty legit in the blues category, even though it was written by a guy named Pink.
This was followed by a neat song called "I Get The Neck Of The Chicken", a Depression-era song by Frank Loesser which has been covered by jazz-bluesmen like Cab Calloway and Bob Dorough. We would definitely like to hear Dan do this one again!
That chicken neck needed something to wash it down, so "Milk Shakin’ Mama" was next, in which the reason why all that ice cream was so tempting was revealed. The first time around, Dan "had a root beer", but on the reprise, he "smoked a doobie" instead. (Evidently this was a signal for the people in front of us to light up.)
Just as the band was going to be introduced, someone came up and handed Dan a Lost Child announcement, which he handled in his usual wry manner. We trust that the little boy with "red hait" was eventually reunited with his parental units. If your child ever gets lost at a Dan Hicks show, please print clearly!
In keeping with the theme of the day, Dan allowed as to how his long-ago busboy job at Buck’s Restaurant and Appaloosa Bar in Guerneville gave him The Blues. .
The next tune was kind of a puzzlement to us, which we hope to hear again someday. Dan’s mike had a problem, and somewhere between it cutting out and it being replaced, we missed the intro. The tune was jazzy and quite familiar, but the lyrics were about "My Dad" (no relation to the Paul Peterson tune of the late 50s).
During "Doodlin’", a tune from the Bayside Jazz grab bag, Paul ripped off a solo on slide guitar for that extra "bluesy" feel. The Delta Devils closed out the all-too-short but oh-so-sweet set with Red Foley’s country-blues classic, "Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy".
Dan got off some exuberant vocal stylings, and the full band with drums and keyboards was a real treat. The Devilettes were a delight – the vocal arrangements are wonderful, without recalling the Lickettes very much if at all. We like thinking of Maryann and Naomi in their own right: the new femme vocal arrangements stand on their own, yet don’t take anything away from our Lickette memories.
We stayed for most of the other acts (Tommy Castro, Koko Taylor, Fabulous Thunderbirds), but have to say that Dan and the Delta Devils were the high point of the day. Their good humor, sophistication, and well-selected repertoire put them a notch above the rest of the acts.
What else can we say, except "Local Boy Makes Good"?
Kathy & Ken
Looking forward to Freight & Salvage 8/13