Fighting Market Forces

Excerpt From:
Arts Media
Boston’s Culture Magazine

Fighting Market Forces
By Joseph Viglione

The story of the musical group Stonecrazy and the creation of their album, “Stone Crazy,” is a snapshot of just how hard it is to record and market important art as the new millennium rambles on.  One would think the pairing of blues guitarist Kenny Pino – sideman to the legendary Johnny Copeland – and J. Geils’ bassist Danny Klein – would be the kind of combination major record companies would snap at.  You’ve got two players who toured Europe with Debbie Davies, giving these professionals time to find their own groove, along with seven to eight years to carefully put the pieces of Stonecrazy together.

Factoring in the collective longevity and ability to track solid music efficiently and effectively, signing the group to one of the J. Geils Band’s old homes, EMI or Atlantic, should have been elementary.  But we are talking about the nuttiest business in the history of the universe, and important art doesn’t always get its due.

With a torturously slow incubation, the initial Stonecrazy tapes, much like J. Geils’ starts and stops when Jon Landau was producing the early (1969 or so) sides that never made their way to vinyl, Danny Klein, Ken Pino, harp-playing brother Babe Pino and drummer Steve Shaheen put some music together in the studio.  With Shaheen’s drumming they had a good, laidback style, a live show in Chelsea caught on video back in the late 1990s documenting that part of their evolution.  The first CDR of studio material had a special charm in a world where the blues market is just glutted with material.  No label picked it up, and though it got aired along wih a Danny Klein interview on Mark Snyder’s AM radio show on WMSX, and with college radio play recognizing there was something here, the early Stonecrazy demos became casualties of record label indifference, and sought after collector’s items by hardcore Geils fantatics.

Enter Mark Hylander of the groups Sass and Duke and The Drivers.  Hylander phoned this writer up and asked if there was a band looking for his talents.  Knowing Shaneen was about to leave Stonecrazy, the thought of Geils’ bassist playing alongside Duke and The Driver’s drummer made perfect sense – “Duke,” after all, was a band that idolized the Geils attitude and mystique.  The union worked, and despite an interruption when Geils got back together to tour in 1999, the group has stayed intact with Babe Pino, Ken Pino, Danny Klein and Mark Hylander.

A little background on the concept’s development: Danny Klein is a Boston rock & roll pioneer and legend.  When Peter Wolf and Stephen Jo Bladd were in a 1960s band called “The Hallucinations,” Danny, John “J” Geils, and Magic Dick were taking classes at Worcestoer Poly Tech and playing in their ensemble – The J. Geils Blues Band.  When they all joined forces and signed to Atlantic, their unique brand of blues/pop-fusion started taking hold, especially with the classic “Homework.”  The band eventually recorded with the great duo Buddy Guy and Junior Wells on Atlantic in 1972.  A decade later Buddy Guy went on to release an album on Alligator entitled “Stone Crazy.”

Come 2005 the band finds their music released on Al Cocorochio’s Black Rose Records, a label that boasts Sal Baglio’s Stompers, Tom Hambridge, Boston Rockabilly Music Conspiracy and others.  That it took over eight years for the fourteen tracks to finally see the light of day is a good indicator of how tough it is to get the formula just right when major labels are too busy buying each other up to get behind the work of musicians who have already paid their dues.  Musicians who are the real deal.