In Memoriam, Brewer Phillips

Excerpt From:
Boston Blues Week
in conjunction week with
Blues Trust Productions

September 23-30, 1999

Boston Blues Festival
September 25 & 26th at MDC Hatch Shell


About the Artists for Sunday, September 26th
In Memoriam, Brewer Phillips


In Memorium, Brewer Phillips who sadly passed away at home in Chicago on Aug. 30, 1999, will be honored posthumously at the festival.  Originally scheduled to play at the Hatch Shell today, his Lifetime Achievement Award will be sent to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi for display.  He will be honored at the festival during the Brewer Phillips Memorial Jam.  Along with bandmates Hound Dog Taylor and Ted Harvey, the House Rockers were the first band to record for Chicago’s Alligator Records.  Born on a plantation in Coila, Mississippi, he learned guitar from Memphis Minnie. Before moving to Chicago he worked in Memphis, recording with pianist Roosevelt Sykes.  Phillips had the unusualy role in the houserockers of alternating between basslines, rhythm and lead in a band with no bass player.  Since Hound Dog Taylor’s death in 1975, he had worked with Lil, Ed, J.B. Hutto and Cub Koda.

Aspiring to the Void and Finding Art

Excerpt From:
The Martha’s Vineyard Times
December 2, 1999
Music Scene

Aspiring to the Void and Finding Art

As great as it is to listen to blues artist Maynard Silva play music, it is almost more fascinating to listen to him talk about it.  “For a lot of people, music is a fashion issue.  For me, it is language.”  And for this native Islander, who just released his fourth CD, “Dancing With El Distorto,” music is also a life.  No one is more familiar with the conflicts and contradictions of that life than he is, more familiar with the stark difference between being someone who performs and someone who makes music.

The blues Maynard started playing when he left the Island in 1969 to be a philosophy major in St. Louis wasn’t the factory blues people had gotten used to hearing in these parts.  Instead, wen he slipped away from his studies to go down-river to Memphis, he found himself hanging out and playing heavy, hill-country blues at the homes of folks like Bukka White and Furry Lewis (immortalized in Joni Mitchell’s “Furry Sings the Blues”).  That was down-home blues, “pre-city blues” Maynard calls it, with more interesting, more complicated rhythmic textures than the formulaic stuff one hears all over the place these days.

When Maynard came back east in 1972, he came back to play.  And play he did for 15 years, in Boston and Providence, doing solo work, playing with bands, touring opening for high-profile blues acts.  “I melted enough guitar strings to build the Bourne Bridge,” he says of those years.  That kind of life necessarily revolves around gigs.  When you’re still up at 10 am, as he generally was, it’s an early morning.  And your day doesn’t end until you eat breakfast.

In 1987, Maynard decided he wanted a more normal life.  He returned to the Island, to a trade he had always known and could depend on, sign painting.  (From a seat at the Circuit Café in Oak Bluffs last week, he could point out several signs along the avenue he had painted.)  When he first came back, Maynard thought he was retiring from music.  In retrospect, he realizes that he had gotten “out of the business to practice the craft.”

Maynard started doing music as a harmonica player, but moved on to guitar when he found the guitarists in his early bands were not completely dependable.  (“You can have a band without a harmonica, but its hard to have a band without a guitar,” he notes.)  “My first influence was my rage,” he says quoting Robbie Robertson about the shape of his early music.  And citing Stevie Ray Vaughan, Maynard says, “I love music that sounds like an old motor running.”

But beyond these aural influences, Maynard had come to understand music as something central to being.  “I play to hypnotize myself.  It’s all about altered states and using music and the energy of people to get there.”  He looks to the visual artist Basquiat for inspiration.  “Carlos Castaneda is a bigger influence on me than Muddy Waters,” he states without hesitation.

Maynard’s understanding of music shines through in its latest incarnation, his fourth CD.  The project came together at the instigation of bass player E.J. Lynch, down to the Island on a visit from his home in western Massachusetts.  The musicians on the album had only performed together a couple of times.  But E.J. talked them all into a recording session, a chance for some time when they could just be themselves, listen to each other, and pay attention to the music.

“Everybody there was an improviser,” Maynard recalls.  “Guys with big ears who play from their hearts, who believe in the dignity of simple music and don’t condescend to it.”  Maynard credits E.J. with turning what might have just been a great jam session into the polished work of a band.  In addition to his ability to create dramatic backdrops with the bass, E.J. can, as Maynard puts it, “organize complex patterns of non-verbal communication.”  With the pattern in place, it all came together.  Rub board player Tom Shaw added rhythmic texture and variety to the work, in the tradition of good, heavy Memphis blues, over Chas Griffiths’ solid drumming.  Jeremy Jones on Leslie guitar infused the tunes with a young energy.  Multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist Tom Howland filled in with percussion on the acoustic tracks.

Maynard credits Charlie Esposito, owner/producer/engineer of Audiolutions in Vineyard Haven, with capturing the sound.  “Charlie’s a great sniper.  When something starts to happen, he’s ready to hear it.  He’s the best, a genius, totally Zen.  Egoless.”  Charlie ambient-mic’d the room.  “Had mics everywhere,” Maynard recalls.  Then, when the group trance set in, Charlie got it down.

The resulting energy leaps out through the music.  Five of the eight cuts on the album are first takes, with no overdubs.  A different, overlapping five are originals, with three covers filling out the mix.  The songs are carefully arranged to shape the energy, electric pieces to start and finish, with two acoustic cuts at the heart of the album.  “In music you stretch time, but you always come back,” Maynard says.  The CD reflects the pattern.

These days, Maynard structures his life with an eye to what matters the most.  His son, Milo a 12-year-old at the Oak Bluffs School, is a beloved priority.  When Maynard plays music, he plays the music he wants to play.  (He is not, for instance, all that involved in the Island wedding industry.  He only did four weddings last year, two of those for friends.  When people ask him to play, strict rules apply: “no requests, no polkas, and I get to play as loud as I want.”)

The striking graphics on the CD cover are the work of Maynard’s close friend and love, Basia Jaworska, another important aspect of his life.  (Mike Parker pulled Basia’s work into the CD format.)  “Basia creates a sense of space around herself.  She doesn’t just fill space up.  When she came into my life, it was like she put up another pole in the tent, opening up the space.”  Ms. Jaworska’s artwork, here acrylic on paper with ink and marker overlay, captures very accurately the sense of what Maynard means when he calls himself a “primitive musician”: a musician who has cooked song down to its essence, to its simplest, most potent core.  A musician who is past pretext, past empty technique, past anything that is not the heart of the music itself.  Likening what he does to peyote song, Maynard states, “you find your song by singing it.  You find your identity by stating it.”

“Basically, I aspire to the void,” he says, “and then someone else calls it ... ” he hesitates a moment.  “Art?” I suggest.  “Yeah,”  he says, and laughs.

Welcome to Prides Crossing

Excerpt From:
www.star.net/cch

Welcome to Prides Crossing

For the past year, in addition to a busy playing schedule, CCH has managed to compose and record eleven new songs.  These come from the heart, “edge-of-country” tunes packing emotional punch, good performances and even a sense of humor, display the band’s diverse musical influences ranging from Traditional Country, Rockabilly, Tex-Mex, Country-Rock, Western Swing, Bluegrass, Swamp-Blues and a healthy dose of contemporary Country dance music.  Although written by the various members of the group, the studio execution of the tunes gives testimony to the band’s tightness as a creative unit, bringing a cohesive identity of its own to the compositions.  The sessions were recorded, mixed and mastered at Cove Studios, Rockport, Massachusetts during 1997 and released on Black Rose Records.

Cold Cold Heart

Excerpt From:
www.star.net/cch

Cold Cold Heart

It’s a long road from Nashville to New England where Cold Cold Heart plies its trade.  In a region not known for Country musicians, CCH takes a love for the genre, adds a Rock edge and a lot of experience to form its own brand of Alternative Country.  Not content with merely following the latest Nashville trend, the band forges and identity of its own as expressed through original songs and tasteful covers, moving into the future while never losing sight of the past.  This is the sort of honest music that grows from stony soil rather than cowboy country.  Still, in it’s from the heart approach to the material, CCH creates “something country”.

The songs on their new CD “Prides Crossing” tell the story better than words can.  The train station motif of the artwork and the recording’s title are apt metaphors for the heart’s crossroads and on the eve of its second anniversary as a performing unit, the group, with this release, finds itself at a turning point in its career.

In November 1996, guitarists Joe Hannigan and Charlie Ortolani met with drummer Carl Berman to conceive what would be named Cold Cold Heart (after an old Hank Williams tune).  Although the three veterans of the New England Country and Rock scene had shared stages with such stalwarts as Charlie Daniels, Willie Nelson, Marshall Tucker, Patty Loveless (and more) in prior incarnations, they had decided to try a new formula in order to pursue their shared musical vision.  The completing element of the equation was added two months later when Charlie introduced John Tate, vocalist/bassist and fellow alumnus of BRMC (Boston Rockabilly Music Conspiracy) to the group.  The new band went on to establish itself as a popular live act in its own right through nightclub and concert performances throughout New England.

Having established a musical persona through performance and the songwriting process, the band further defines itself with the release of its first CD.  Taking its diverse influences and love of Country, Cold Cold Heart arrives with “Prides Crossing”.

Sweet Potato: What’s New

Excerpt From:
Sweet Potato
Vol. 13 / No. 15
June 8-15, 1988


What’s New
By Seth Berner


“T.H. & The Wreckage is another band, like House of Joy, I was prepared to write off based on the cover. Born to Rock is as mindless a name as I can think of, a foreshadowing, I thought, of the bombast a band called the Wreckage would engage in.  Surprise, the album (Black Rose Records, 24 Central St., Saugus, MA 01906) is so good that if I put together a best-of Boston list, this will probably be on it.

Tom Hambridge and his three buddies are spiritual, if not actual, disciples of Nils Lofgren – some bluster on the surface (“Bad Mood”), but underneath is innocence and sincerity.  Born to Rock is nicely subdued without the pounding, screaming and/or metal solos I had been dreading.  The songs are mostly about girls, Lofgren’s usual stomping ground, but Nils hasn’t put out an album this good in ages.  A real sleeper here.  T.H. & the Wreckage play in Portland occasionally, and Born to Rock has me interested enough to catch an upcoming act.”

T. H. and the Wreckage: Born To Rock

Excerpt From:
The Boston Globe
Records
March 3, 1988

T. H. and the Wreckage
Born To Rock
Black Rose-Rounder
By Kevin Connal


Sixties’ garage rock collides with bluesy southern boogey on a versatile debut by this North Shore quartet.  Despite low budget local production, the sound is surprisingly sharp.  Lead singer Tom Hambridge walks the line between a modern day Bo Diddley and Marshall Crenshaw.  On a raucous romp like the nasty “Bad Mood” or the feverish title track, he evokes images of George Thorogood, as piledriving guitars fuel the unrestrained rave-ups.  A whiplashing rhythm propels the catchy “Don’t Hold Back,” a melodic pop song sung with workman-like precision by guitarist Bobby Stanton.  While Hambridge and company are at their best when they kick up their heels and let things rip, they do deliver a pair of noteworthy ballads in “She’s My Girl” and “Certified Love.”  “Walking the Streets” is an intriguing ditty about feeling displaced to the streets of Boston.  Hambridge sings it with an annoying nasal tone, though it meshes comfortably with the accompanying twanging country guitar.  This is a solid first effort from a promising Boston band.

Studio Trax

Studio Trax
By Bennie Green


“Dimension Sound Studio of Jamaica Plain hosted a lot of familiar names in May, Bobby Hebb (remember “Sunny”?) was in with a twenty-one piece band to record one of two LPs done there.  (The Klezmer Band did the other.)  Rockin’ George Leh has been in to work out a demo. And a band called the New Hawks did a 45 for Black Rose Records.  Their producer was a gentleman named Cub Coda, formerly a Boys’ Room Smoker with Brownsville Station.  A rather unique act roundin gout the Dimension roster was the Harvard-Radcliffe Pitchers, an a capella, all-women quartet, who did a demo.”