Blues guitarist Chris Fitz and blues drummer Steve Peabody have been hosting their Sunday Funday blues jam at Brodies’s Seaport Café in Salem, Massachusetts for several years now. Last night’s jam showed what great things could happen when they invite superstar locals musicians. Guitar ace Ricky King Russell and journeyman bassist Bob Worthington joined Fitz and Peabody to rock the room for four hours.
The four went into the hard-charging blues of Albert Collin’s “Black Cat Bone” like nobody’s business, like their instruments were Harley’s at top speed. One could feel the rumbling pulse from the rhythm section while digging the notes and chords being churned out by Fitz and Russell. The four made a Junior Reid song mosey along with a solid rhythmic walk, RKR drawling out the lyrics as only he can, with the spirit of a young man who just learned about rock and roll. Fitz’s phrasing here was a greasy, crunching lead line that was just dripping with blues gravy.
Another slow boiler heartbreaker found tension mounting with every chord RKR knocked out of his axe. And boy, could Russell make you feel what the song was about with his sly delivery. Briefly taking over the lead guitar duties, Russell delivered something fierce, scorching. He owned the upper register and Fitz boosted him with a solid chord progression.
The four performed Buddy Guy’s “Let Me Love You, Baby,” giving Peabody a chance to play like a mad man, his frenetic pacing reminding more of a raving genius piano player than a blues drummer. He kept things moving at a brisk pace. RKR offered plenty of high pitched twang on a rockabilly standard before milking Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home” for all of the tenderness its worth.
The most fun the four had last night was when they played Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love.” Its bucking groove reminding of all sorts of physical actions. Worthington’s took a knobby joyride through the lower register with his hefty bass guitar solo. Segue into a Steve Peabody solo and the man was smacking out bumpy fun beats that reminded of jazz with his free from motions and changes. RKR paid out a screamy guitar line, one that felt at once possessed and strangely melodic.
A little guitar work out near the end of the first set was built upon the tune “All Night Long.” Whether supporting the other with chords or whipping out a unison lead line, Fitz and Russell clearly enjoyed their merry musical exchange. The next set began with the four playing a blues version of Fitz’s song “Freedom.” They moved it like a shuffling beat number. The Fitz rasp coating it with soul, Russell accompanying it with another of his tasty, greasy lead guitar lines, his phrased rushing like a river, expressing joy and release. By this point, the four had been joined by harmonica man John Devine, a man who blew tufts of thick high notes that sailed sweetly, breezily over the groove.
Russell showcased more of his classy, elegant side with a self-restrained version of Muddy Water’s “Blow Wind Blow.” Before you knew it, Russell was unleashing a rushing rivulet of traveling notes during Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor.” Fitz got into the groove with the breezy “It’s All Living” then jumped into thumpier territory in which Russell’s smooth, flowing vocal work was gliding over a pulsating groove. Fitz directed a current of guitar energy. Harmonica man John Devine breezed into the tune with a jittery line that merrily hop scotched through the open spaces in the song.
The band lulled people onto the dance floor with the jumpy, uptempo “One Way Out.” Peabody took the song for a joy ride with his wild motion technique while jammer Kevin Willis played bass guitar. The players eventually closed out the night with some classic rock by The Who and other late 1960‘s artists, RKR’s personally narrated story of becoming a musician, and a birthday celebration for Brodies’ Owners. Married for 38 years, both have the same birthday.
Although Fitz and Peabody only had two guests show up to join them and their two features, they kept Brodie’s packed, rocking, and hoping for over four solid hours. Having Russell and Worthington there was a treat for the serious listeners in the room, and Brodie’s always attracts serious blues fans. They all seemed like very happy fans by the end of the evening.