The blues finds a home, again, at Sierra Nevada
Blues fans got a heavy dose of the real deal Sunday night when Magic Slim (a.k.a. Morris Holt) and his band, the Teardrops, played the Big Room. Holt, a Mississippi native who moved to Chicago in the ‘50s—as did so many “modern” blues men—interspersed songs from his most recent Blind Pig CDs with classics like “Little Red Rooster,” “Mustang Sally” and, as an encore, Little Milton’s anthemic “(Hey, Hey) The Blues Is Alright.”
A powerful singer and guitarist, Holt, along with his band (Jon McDonald, rhythm guitar/ vocals; Chris Biedon, bass; and Vernell Taylor, drums), adroitly mixed tempos between medium and uptempo items and such serious belly-rubbing songs as Muddy Waters’ “Still a Fool” and his own “Crazy Woman” (who’s got “a mind just like a goose, I believe I’ll go downtown and buy a toolbox … that woman’s got some screws loose"). As the show was being taped for both DVD and CD release for Blind Pig, we got two versions of the latter, each of them slightly different in form but not effect.
Grinding out the blues night after night can create unique situations, and one occurred during the first set when Holt began singing about a pretty woman whose beauty was so powerful that she “brought eyesight to the blind.” He made up the song as he went—the band had never heard it before but slipped right into the groove—yet for us it was just another piece in the band’s repertory.
McDonald, who’d played a couple of warm-up numbers before each set, took a terrific solo here, his smoother style in sharp contrast to Holt’s raw-edged approach. Holt is no slouch either, and proved it in spades on "Goin’ to Mississippi," when he dug into a solo that really got the crowd going.