the white owls
The five master craftsmen that comprise the Boston blues band The White Owls are all well known entities that play a multitude of styles with several well known groups around the region. When they get together as the White Owls however, it's a straight on vintage blues assault that is, as a collective, as formidable as any in the city...or any other city for that matter. Fronted by the venerable Dennis Brennan who's gritty, guttural voice is tailored for the White Owls sound, pre-war Chicago blues. He's flanked by guitar ace Tim Gearan and lap steel legend Steve Sadler and backed by the rhythm section of Tim Haggerty on bass and Andy Plaisted on drums. Brennan has been on the Boston music scene for decades and has secured his place on the lofty list of Boston musical treasures, right up there with luminaries Peter Wolf or Steven Tyler although he may not be recognized on the global stage with those names. As a front-man he's crafty and picks his poison with care. It's easy to skim through the blues songbook and pick a set list of cover songs everyone knows, or at least blues novices know, giving the audience a reference point for the sake of comparison. It infinitely cooler to intersperse a collection of obscure deep catalog tracks that give the band a chance to stretch and sprinkle them between well crafted originals written in authentic time-period style. Pay tribute to the masters...follow the trail left by giants like Willie Dixon, Earl Hooker, Peter Green or Billy Boy Arnold and keep traditional blues alive and thriving...that's the beauty of the White Owls and when they get revved up a thing of beauty is unfolding right in front of you.
Among the high points of this incredible set of music was the long-play version of the Fleetwood Mac song 'My Heart Beats Like a Hammer.' It's pre-Nicks/McVie Fleetwood Mac...from back in the day when they led the charge of British Power Blues alongside Cream and Clapton and Mayall, when Peter Green was at his peak. Tim Gearan opened the song with an absolutely gorgeous solo that highlighted his soulful approach to his instrument...every note perfectly placed along a path that traveled from soul to fingers to Telecaster to an audience mesmerized by this instrumental magic. By the time Sadler chimed in on lap steel the sold out room was melted into their seats. If you don't know of Tim Gearan it's because the quiet, understated guitar master keeps himself in check preferring to let the guitar speak. He's one of those great players that never wastes a note...almost as though there's a finite number of notes each player is granted and all of his are going in the right spot. Boston legend Steve Sadler was also at peak brilliance on this night adding a little 'countrified' texture to classic blues music that's not heard much on recordings or live and it rounds this music out in a unique way.
There's a lot of great blues in this town and a long list of great storied players and rising stars that deserve to be heard and heralded in their own right. For The Fallout Shelter and the mission to keep traditional American Roots music alive, The White Owls was a perfect fit on a beautiful summer night. If you haven't seen them, don't miss the chance when you see it.
Tyler-James Kelly - guitar, vocals
Johnny Trama - guitar
Jonas Parmelee - bass, vocals
"Uncle" Sam Jodrey - drums, vocals
The Session Crew
Produced and edited by:
H. Nat Stevens