Amburgey & Hanson still have the blues

Esteemed local duo release their second CD

IT'S BEEN 36 YEARS SINCE BOBBY HANSON and Michael Amburgey first started making music together as a team. Yet it took them 31 years to record and release their first album of acoustic, guitar and harmonica-based roots music.

That record, 2003’s Honky Blues, harkened back to their earliest days in the Savannah music scene, when the duo appeared as The Back Door Men.

Says Hanson: “Michael and I were crazy about people like the Rev. Gary Davis, Blind Willie McTell, Leadbelly and others in that style. We found Big Joe Williams more interesting than Rod Stewart.”

The team would later parlay that love of rural blues into stints as members of some of the most popular area boogie, soul and Southern rock acts that ruled regional radio in the ‘70s and ‘80s (such as The Easywalkers and The JoJa Band). However, Hanson effectively retired in 1982, devoting himself to church music. It would be years before the harmonica ace blew blues harp again, but when that time came it was with his old, guitar playing associate by his side.

The two men are now releasing their second full-length CD. Entitled Laughin’ When I See You Go, it hews closely to the format of their debut: lighthearted and mostly unadorned acoustic blues and swing. This Saturday, they’ll play a free show at Southside independent music store Silly Mad CDs. Multi-instrumentalist Joe Nelson (who also guests on their album) will accompany them and open. The duo will accept donations to benefit local musicians Jason Statts and David J. Williams, injured in last month’s Ardsley Park shooting.

Michael Amburgey says Laughin’ is not a radical departure from their first CD, but he does notice an improvement in recording quality.

“When you record acoustic music like this,” explains the guitarist, “the less you do in the mastering process, the better. Lots of bands compress the signal, but wind up losing something. It’s hard to describe, but this record sounds very much like we do live. It’s a much more natural approach.”

Hanson laments the fact that he and his partner play rarely in public, but says that’s the result of their decision not to gig in bars or restaurants.

“We’d sure like to play more than two or three times a year, but there don’t seem to be a lot of venues without alcohol. It’s not just my church affiliation that keeps us away from that. We’ve done it a lot in the past, and it gets old really quick (laughs)”

Amburgey says he’s completely in the dark as far as what the vibe of this free, afternoon all-ages show will be like.

“It’s gonna be fairly informal,” he reckons, “and I guess the mood will be dictated by the crowd — or how big of a crowd there is.”

I inform him that given the type of music they play and the environment (a small, suburban CD store and coffeehouse) I assume there will be stage diving and pyrotechnics. He laughs:

“Of course! I’m sure there will be smoke machines as well, plus caviar and champagne backstage!”


Amburgey & Hanson with Joe Nelson

Where: Silly Mad CDs (7090 Hodgson Mem. Dr.)When: 3 pm, Sat., July 19 Cost: Free (donations accepted for