The 11th Annual “Slutty” Pete’s Birthday Jam with special guest Travis Colby gathered many of the usual suspects in the local area of Goffstown, New Hampshire’s Village Trestle. “Slutty” Pete Zona has been hosting the Wantu Blues Jam every Sunday at the Trestle for several years now. Nicknamed “Slutty” by other musicians because he’ll “play with anybody,” Zona has become a popular fixture in his area’s music scene, and this annual event recognizes him in grand style. With a little help from his friends.
Wantu’s house band started out with standards like “Crosscut Saw,” with special guest Travis Colby on rhythm guitar and vocals. Local guitarist Chris Noyes carried the sharp melody on lead while the rhythm boys, drummer Bob Pratte, bass player Dave Guilmette, anchored it something palpable. Colby soon took over lead guitar duties, pressing out a fine edge in his style.
Things got even better when Colby found his rightful place at his keyboard. He was soon laying out a down tempo organ cloud over Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” Noyes’s lead guitar line spearheaded the melody with clear precision while organ and rhythm section kept it free, soulful.
A special treat came next when harmonica man Otis Doncaster joined the cast to blow harp beside the husky, wide lead vocal of Stephen Clarke. There’s no mistaking Clark’s indelible belt. He sang it like he meant it, and it was the perfect ignition to ignite an explosion of guitar madness in between his verses. “That Will Never Do” was one Clarke brought to vivid life his force of nature vocal power. “Texas,” which Buddy Miles wrote for Electric Flag, was another treat Clarke pulled out of his bag of tricks.
Junie Vaillancourt went up next to do her charming and rootsie rockabilly, oldies, country mash up. Her best number yesterday afternoon was “Whole Lotta Shakin’,” one accompanied by Colby’s lavish piano rolls, layering an extra treat over that yesteryear classic. Vaillancourt’s take on “Folsom Prison Blues” got another fine boost, this time from Doncaster’s unwavering, country fried blues harmonica.
Hot shot guitarist Don LaCurse took to the microphone to deliver “The Sky Is Burning.” With backing from pianist David Moore, bassist Angelo Mullen, drummer Bob Pratte, and harmonica player Don Amidon, LaCurse cleared a path through the bush like a man on a mission. “One Way Out” was another great standard that got a power boost from the talent on stage. Moore slapped out some piano chords that augmented well the barking melodic thrust from the guitars. Soon after, Rick Amidon sang a nice version of “Keys To The Highway.”
Worcester, Massachusetts-based blues vocalist Amanda Cote was in the room. She sang Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home” with a touch of jazzy class. Getting some support from Reid Tre’s guitar work and Steve Roberge’s sax line, Cote used her vocal power to match the fires burning all around her. She also performed “Voodoo Woman” with emotive force before she rode the chorus well on “Bit By Bit.” Cote can go from sweet, seductive coos to a throaty roar in zero seconds flat. Keep an eye on this girl. She’s going places.
With drummer Rick King, bassist Guilmette, and organist Colby giving support, rhythm guitarist Jim Nicotera and lead guitarist Kevin Alexander Herrera played some serious material. Oldies “All Over Now” is one the youthful lead guitarist played advanced guitar techniques on. With wild, frenetic guitar flourishes, Herrera went to town on his rendition of “Pride And Joy.”
Next, a trio made up of guitarist Paul Dickinson, Angelo Mullen, and Rick King got to showcase their chops. Dickinson made his lead guitar phrase whir all over the groove during “Rock Me, Baby.” His guitar sounded powerful enough to take off on him, as if it had a stubborn, willful mind of its own. Mullen, too, played some marvelously funky stuff, up tempo, twangy, with plenty of thump. Mullen proved a first rate vocalist on the Hendrix classic “The Wind Cries Mary,” nailing the emotive nuances in that piece. “Too Rolling Stoned” was a tune the trio used to dazzle the audience with their talent while keeping listeners guessing which piece they were playing.
Carol Townsend went up to the microphone to sing a few numbers. In a low key manner, Townsend performed Dion’s “Runaway,” Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me A Reason,” and Melissa Etheridge’s “Come To My Window.”
Shortly after “Slutty” Pete’s birthday cake was sliced up and passed around, Bill Ingalls showed up to sing a few numbers. In his usual laid back demeanor, Ingalls sang Steve Winwood‘s “Feelin’ All Right” and Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Round In Circles.” He also played some bass guitar while he was at it. Ingalls owes a little credit to Steve Roberge for the sax shots in these tunes.
Reid Tre turned the Village Trestle into The Cotton Club with some jazzy excursions from Roberge on “Route 66.” Amanda Cote returned to the microphone to sing an early version of “Hound Dog” before Angelo Mullen serenaded everyone in attendance with his take on “Purple Rain,” a tune that drew several couples to the dance floor. Colby classed up the Prince number too with his appropriate organ swirls. Bob Pratte then got pretty funky singing Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman.”
Drummer C.J. Chaplin lead a Doncaster line up into Lowell Fulson’s “Tramp” with her busy rhythmic groove. “Mercury Blues” and “Boom Boom Boom” were a couple more blues tunes in which Chaplin drove the action home.
Singer-harpist Dave Glannon tackled Freddie King’s “Big Legged Woman” with his unique timbre before getting all deep and meaningful on down tempo blues material. His voice sounded electrified as he belted “Long Distance Calls.” Thankfully, Colby’s tasteful high notes spiced things up a bit.
Another fun filled “Slutty” Pete Birthday Bash had come and gone. As usual, the event brought a brisk amount of business into the Village Trestle, a room that could be the next Rynborn if the owners play their cards right. For now, the Village Trestle and the Wantu Blues Jam is a shiny penny among New England’s blues happenings.