Eliza Neals and The Narcotics at Darwin’s Burgers and Blues Oct. 21, 2017

By Rhetta Akamatsu

Photos courtesy of Takesi Akamatsu

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Eliza Neals looked every inch the star on Darwin’s stage Saturday night. She is still her same sweet self though, and before the show, we hugged and had a few minutes to catch up. The band recently got back from the UK, which she tells me was great. People loved the music, she says. Of course they did. There is absolutely nothing not to love about Eliza Neals and The Narcotics.

On one side of Eliza was Howard Glazer, master guitar player and often Eliza’s writing partner. Like Eliza, he is and always has been from Detroit. Bassist Darryl Lee is also from Detroit, but he has made his home in Atlanta for some years now and is a respected part o our blues scene. He had a health care not too long ago, so we were so happy to see him in fine form and sounding great with Eliza. The other “Narcotic” onstage was DeMarcus Edward Sumter and together they made a perfect blues lineup and a glorious sound!

Eliza Neals has a marvelously expressive voice and the personality to sell a ripping blues song like Koko Taylor’s “Wang Dang Doodle” or her own “You Ain’t My Dog No More” from their latest album, 10,000 Feet Down, or a blues heart-render like “Ball and Chain.”. She can get every ounce of emotion out of “Can’t Find My Way Home.” Whether she is doing her own songs or someone else’s, she puts her whole heart into it. I would easily put her in on the same level as Koko Taylor, Janis Joplin or Bonnie Raitt as a vocalist and as a performer, with her own special Detroit sass.

Many of the songs let Howard show off his amazing guitar chops, including “Call Me Sunshine,” and the truly incendiary “Burn the Tent Down.” In fact, he and Eliza complement each other perfectly and that is the core of this band’s greatness. Eliza also plays keyboard on some of these songs with great proficiency. Darryl and DeMarcus keep the rhythm steady and the audience eats it all up.

We were all privileged to be a part of this evening. I can’t wait until the next time they come around!

KODAK Digital Still Camera
KODAK Digital Still Camera
KODAK Digital Still Camera


Review: Jason Ricci and The Bad Kind, Darwin’s Burgers, October 14, 2017

Picture a packed house at Darwin’s Saturday night for Jason Ricci and The Bad Kind. At first sight, dressed in loose white pants and shirt and with his hair pulled back by a headband, Ricci looked rather like a decadent angel. But when he started to blow that harp, it was immediately clear that the sides aren’t that easily divided. But whatever side between sublime and diabolical or whatever line this music and this live performance falls on, it is nothing less than mesmerizing.

First of all, let’s make it clear that Ricci is the best harmonica player I have ever heard. At times I swear it sounds like he’s playing many instruments at the same time, like a whole orchestra issuing from his mouth, with his incredible band provides the structure that lets him soar. Harps appear and disappear. In fact, he is like a magician, moving fluidly whether he is playing, singing or directing his band with his body like a marionette master..point this way, the guitar dominates and now down…bam! point the other way, the bass and now hands flung upward..all together!

Now he’s telling a story about what it’s like to get hit on by girls and boys and possibly mountain lions and then he’s pouring so much emotion into the heartbreaking “Broken Toy,” the story of being the outsider in all sorts of ways, and then his amazing rendition of “I fink You Freaky” leads to his triumphant “I’m Too Strong For You” and that incredible harp solo, which he claims he had to “simplify” because on the test pressings for Approved By Snakes, the solo was causing people to have mass hallucinations and see visions and his agents said he had o change “So no more children get hurt by your music, Jason.” He then turns a basic scale into something incredible.

And that’s how it goes for the entire two hours we were there. “This is my 2,” Jason confided to the audience. “My 2 is most people’s 11. I always have to remember that.”

Maybe so, but the crowd is eating it up, all of us clapping and howling after every song. I have to keep remembering to change my slack-jawed stare of amazement to a huge grin of delight all night so as not to look as thunderstruck as I really was, not that it mattered if I was staring like an idiot. Everybody is looking at the stage, anyway.

Something must be said about The Bad Kind, who are, of course, incredibly good. Imagine what it takes to keep up with Ricci night after night! But they do, and this night they are brilliant.

Ricci says he often gets complaints that the music he plays is not blues, but after sharing Webster’s definition of the blues as “a musical lament,” he ends our set with an amazing version of “Walk On The Wild Side,”extremely moving from one who openly talks an out how far on that side he has been.

Stay healthy, Jason, and keep making music. You have a unique story and the will and talent to share it. And you’re good man, you’re freaking brilliant.

It should be obvious that I think you should see Jason Ricci and The Bad Kind every chance you get.

Jason Ricci courtesy Takesi AkaatsuOriginally posted by Rhetta to Making A Scene

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