It might be a good idea to invite a lot of big name talent to a blues jam. They get to share the stage with many different players. But during a three hour show, it can be a disorganized mess to have too many people on the list. A three hour gig cannot accommodate as many players as a jam or a festival. I hope this lesson was learned by the hosts of last weekend’s Bob Margolin show at The T-Room at Hajjar’s restaurant in Weymouth.
The Mighty House Rockers opened for Margolin with their arrangements of blues standards with Satch Romano’s harp playing and saxophone man Uptown Clay Brown’s work creating a huge texture of sound around the hard-driving rhythm. Romano went over the top on “Sugar Coated Love” with an emotive wailing on his harp. Romano took turns with the sax during solo spots before taking both instruments into a soaring two prong approach, stabbing into the soul of this song. Lead guitarist Slick Jim Murray unleashed his icy cool melodic phrase, bringing it up high on the Junior Wells classic “Help Me” and continuing to unfold his precise melody. The band also had a lot of fun on Teeny Weeny Bit, with the sax moving coolly around the rhythms of the crowd pleaser.
Gil Correia of The Blue Gills came up to do some blues guitar and he went over well with the crowd. His oldies sounding guitar, that he played at an easy going pace, each notes one by one, each a sharp accent around the beat that made the tune really cool. MHR closed out their set with The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” a 1960s rocker done justice with MHR energy and big sound that pulled a throng onto the dance floor.
Then it was time for the guy himself. Local blues DJ Holly Harris introduced this blues man from Boston who went onto bigger and better things with Muddy Waters. Margolin went to town on the opening number with his slide guitar magic, a sound developed after many years studying under the watchful mentoring eye of Waters. On “Rock This House,” Margolin served up those shuffling blues with really fast chords in an oldies rock and roll guitar style. So talented and so steeped in blues traditions Margolin could readily take the audience back in time with the timbres he kept coming up with. On “Whole Lotta Shakin” he went into the oldies style again before pulling a lot of couples onto the dance floor with slower blues numbers.
Through it all, it was Margolin’s low steady baritone singing voice and the way he gently caressed those deep sounding notes that let the true blues men reach deep into the heart of man and pull out the pains of life. Margolin sounded like a man possessed on Bo Dudley’s “Who Do You Love?” Chugging sounds from guitar chords and eventually the Twilight Zone theme music were just a few of his musical treats.
Margolin was eventually joined by Shirley Lewis, Richie Rosenblatt, and Dan Lawson. Shirley Lewis, at age 73, has a seasoned voice that sends out vocal phrases like a skater on ice, smooth, her singing easing its way onto the audience that she kept in rapt attention. Rosenblatt had a happy fullness in his harmonica and Lewis shook it during the more uptempo “24 Hours A Day.” Professor Harp was in the house and he came up to put his harmonic twist on things. Harp has a lot of gusto in his lungs, and he put it to good use in this show. Harp is like the sailing ship that adjusts to the wind and sets course in whatever direction he chooses.
Wild Bill Gleason and Robert Ledger came up to join Professor Harp for more blues magic. By the end of the three hour show, it was clear that the best thing about the show was also the worst thing about it. There were simply too many individual blues artists to accommodate time wise and after the Mighty House Rockers opened, it became more like a jam than a cohesive show. The opening act could have been eliminated and or there could have been fewer guests joining in during Margolin’s half of the show.