'One night, one take' 

Well, it’s been an awfully long time coming, but after many years and many lineups, one of Savannah’s most popular electric blues combos has finally released their debut album.

Entitled No Jive, Just Live, the first-ever commercially-released disc by our own Bluesonics collects 14 tunes in a variety of styles, and by a variety of songwriters, including such legendary figures as Junior Wells, Albert King, Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Son Seals, and Buddy Guy, among others.

Those others just happen to include the three members of the band themselves: drummer Ken Harrison, bassist Brian Prewitt, and guitarist Bob Erickson, each of whom sings in addition to holding down their chosen instrument.

The album itself provides a very accurate picture of the overall feel of a live show by the rock-solid trio. That’s because it was cut completely live without the benefit of overdubs or post-production by Jeff Beasley, a well-known local blues artist and former member of the group.

While a relatively minimalist affair, from the recording itself, down to the austere packaging, the album is very listenable, and captures the group in fine form. The bandmembers themselves are all quite happy with the finished product.

“I think the live album is a very good representation of our music,” says Prewitt, adding that there were many reasons the Bluesonics opted for the live route. “Obviously, economics must be a part of our decision as well,” he admits, “being that none of us are independently wealthy.”

Harrison agrees.

“It was better economically for the first offering, but we also felt that the listener got a more accurate representation of the band,” says the de facto leader of the group. “A lot of bands sound great on a studio produced recording, and then the live performance leaves a lot to be desired.“

The entire album was cut on a single night at Congress Street’s Mercury Lounge nightclub, and Erickson admits that at the time, he was rather concerned about the quality of their show.

“For the most part, as a snapshot of that night, it came off very good. What’s funny is that I was having all sorts of technical problems that night, but luckily I had an extra amp, and I used it after my first one cut right out on me.”

Regardless of any unforseen complications, the takes included on the hour-long CD (including raucous versions of Buddy Miles’ psychedelic chestnut “Them Changes,” and ZZ Top’s lesser known “A Fool For Your Stockings”) sound tight, well-rehearsed, and most of all, clearly recorded – a rarity among low-budget live releases.

In fact, there’s so little of the distracting crowd chatter that normally plagues such albums, that one is tempted to assume the room was mostly empty.

Not so, says the band.

“Our wonderful technician Jeff did a great job setting everything up to minimize the room noise, so as to insure we got the best quality recording we could,” says Prewitt.

Another thing all the Bluesonics agree on is their desire to eventually cut a full-length studio-recorded album.

“We would love to get in the studio and get started before the end of the year,” says Prewitt. “Hopefully this live album can help fund that venture.”

According to Harrison, those sessions would find the group concentrating more on their own original material or to laying down for posterity their own re-arrangements of well-known tunes, but he admits there is no definite time frame for when that project might get underway.

The band also seems both proud – and a tiny bit surprised – that they were able to get such good results on the fly.

Says Prewitt, “One night, one take. Isn't that how a lot of the old blues musicians did it?”

Harrison seems a bit more bemused. “The entire album was recorded on the same night,” he muses. “What luck.”

Each of the bandmembers has decades of musical experience and they have all worked in numerous bands over the years, but one gets the sense speaking with them that they hold a special affection for this particular group.

“Music has always been a part of my life,” recalls Prewitt. “Around the age of eight my brother had a band that used to practice in my mothers den. I remember sitting at the kitchen table doing my homework as fast as possible so that my mother would let me go down and listen to them. Around age thirteen I received my first guitar for Christmas. I played on that guitar for about 10 years and never really caught the hang of it. It was quite frustrating. Then I met up the guys from the newly formed South Paw band. They suggested that I try the bass, and that's when things really took off for me.”

Erickson has his own backstory that sounds tailor-made for a Hollywood biopic. “I got into music because my parents met in a rock and roll band in Dallas in 1958. Dad was a guitar player, Mom was a piano player and Dad ran off with the piano player! So growin’ up there were all sorts of musical styles in my house. My parents were very supportive of me and both my brothers playing music and whenever we get together it’s like a big family jam session.”

Harrison says it’s that sort of devotion to their craft that makes the current Bluesonics roster so successful.

“We all have the same mind set when it comes to where we want to go musically. We all love the blues and the liberties that style of music allows.“

Adds Prewitt, “We are constantly focused on improving and changing the music rather than keeping the same old set list year after year. Our different influences force us to keep it fresh.”

For now, the group hopes to continue on in the same positive direction, and all agree that the ultimate goal is neither money nor fame, but merely the satisfaction of doing your very best.

Erickson agrees. “One of the hardest things to do anymore is find people who actually have the talent and the discipline to play the blues correctly. The fact that blues music is relatively simplistic actually makes it much harder to play properly. That’s one of the things I like most about playing with these guys. They both really, really play the blues.”

Bluesonics’ CD Release Party takes place Friday, April 30th at Savannah Blues. They’ll also perform there the next night, Saturday, May 1st.

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Jim Reed

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