© 2018 The Grass Roots Cultural and Performing Arts Center

THE WILLIE J. LAWS BAND

Some people are born entertainers. Sometimes it's by blood...sometimes it's by luck. For Willie J. Laws entertaining and music is part of the DNA. It's a family thing and it goes back a long way. The Laws lineage stretches back in Texas and branches out to uncles and aunts, cousins and grandparents, juke joints and churches, blues and jazz, food and music. It's all there in the history and Willie will tell it to you if you ask him. He was schooled for the blues at an early age and his teachers include the great Lightnin' Hopkins and jazz greats Ronnie and Hubert Laws. Listen to 'The Prophet of the Funky Texas Blues' from this session and you'll get a taste for yourself.

Willie writes a lot about that history in his songs...how much of it is true , well no one knows for sure, but the stories are familiar. From 'The Smuggler' to 'Black Maria'...folk tales about running moonshine and drugs that lead to the hot steel paddy wagons that haul you into the abyss of the Texas outlaw justice system. Willie may not have been there personally but you can bet he knows someone who was...he's keeping the names safe but not the stories. This is true Texas troubadour blues. Old school style. Film at eleven with faces hidden.

 

The Willie J. Laws Band is a locomotive. Laws is an incendiary player with hard core chops but a lot of blues "smarts." He's a player that gets blues guitar at it's core. Take your time, build the song to a solo, don't overplay. You learn that from the masters and you never forget it. He's also a great singer and can wander from a traditional blues singer to a more soulful side in the vein of say an O.V. Wright or Bobby Bland and his music follows along. it's not all blues or soul or funk...it's a well shaken cocktail with distinctive flavors. Great bandleaders surround themselves with strong players that know how to serve the song before the ego and this band is filled with strong players.

Longtime Gregg Allman Band keyboard master Bruce Mattson handles Hammond organ and piano and has worked extensively on the writing and arrangements of the songs from the latest album 'Black Maria.' Mattson is a master of New Orleans blues and jazz styling and he adds texture and solid lead instrument fills alongside Willie's guitar.

The rhythm section in this band is as good as it gets. Ksenia Vasileva is for all intent and purpose a young, southern black girl mistakenly born into a young white girl's body in St. Petersburg, Russia. How she was blessed with the soul for blues music is for some ancestry.com expert to figure out. She is a rock solid bassist with a complete and mind boggling mastery of traditional blues, funk and rock rhythm. She found her way to the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston and then walked some 10 miles with an amp and a bass to audition for The Willie J. Laws Band. It's a true story! And then there's Osi Brathwaite on drums. Osi is a machine, an intricate, complex and perfectly calibrated machine and probably one of the best, if not most unknown, drummers in all of New England. He, like Willie J. Laws, can play 400 notes per minute but realizes that only 63 are needed to make the song.

Yeah, this band is a locomotive...big, noisy, shiny, imposing at times and smooth as glass when you're along for the ride.

THE WILLIE J. LAWS BAND

Willie J. Laws - guitar, vocals

Bruce Mattson - piano, Hammond organ
Ksenia Vasileva - bass

Osi Brathwaite - drums

(Guest) Evan Goodrow - guitar, vocals


 

The Session Crew

Produced and edited by:
Bill Hurley

Cameras:
Maribeth Arena

Bill Hurley
H. Nat Stevens
Joanne Craig


Audio:
Eric Nordstrom
Connor Quigley

Mixed by:
Connor Quigley

Lighting/Special Effects:
Rick Smith

Stage Production:
Gerry Earabino

Photos:
Dan Busler