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Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015

Local ensemble brings new twist to familiar flavor

Thursday, October 20, 2011

When local music fans pick up "Ain't Got the Time," the latest offering from local band Blues Side Up, they are going to find some familiar licks.

That's because five of the songs are drawn from "Grey," Blues Side Up's debut EP. When listening to the other six songs on the collection, though, close listeners will find a different feel from the ensemble fronted by Steve St. Pierre and Jonathan January.

"There's some different twists in the songs," St. Pierre, who handles guitar and background vocal duties, said. "They have some different qualities about them."

Some of the differences can be attributed to lineup changes, with Jay Thompson replacing Alex Puga on harmonica and Darrell Cox taking over for Rick Provine behind the trap set.

"The harp lines have a different quality about them and Darrell is a different drummer than Rick," St. Pierre said.

Another reason for change is the simple evolution of a band. Sure, the new players make a difference, but so does the difference in St. Pierre and January as songwriters over time.

There are different influences at work, different instruments in play.

Jonathan January
"I just enjoy the whole process. The songs are different," said January, who sings, plays bass and even another instrument he hasn't recorded in a while.

"I was able to put flute in. I haven't been able to play flute on record since I left San Francisco."

The song with the inflection of January's flute-playing is "Solitude," which he and St. Pierre agree is one of their favorites on the disc. It's a song that takes the group away from pure blues, taking the band in the direction the songwriters would like to see it go.

"We've got a lot of different musical influences," January said.

"I just like the arrangement of ("Solitude")," St. Pierre said. "I, personally, like my guitar solo. If I look at everything I've ever done, that's one of my better constructed solos."

They both also list "Grey" as a favorite. Ironically, the song is from the latest session and was not on the EP with which it shares its name.

In the album's two recording sessions, both of which took place at WingDing Studios in Nashville (the real one, way down south), the band has had the opportunity to work with George Marinelli as producer and Reese Wynans on keyboards.

Marinelli is best known for his work with Bonnie Raitt as well as Bruce Hornsby and the Range. Wynans made his name playing in Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble.

It's some pretty heavy company for a band January describes as "a bunch of sidemen who got together."

"George's ears are just off the scale," St. Pierre said. "He's done this so long and produced on so many discs -- he just brings out the best in you and makes it easy on you."

The band's subtle changes in sound were not lost on the Nashville veterans, even though they are in the studio hundreds of times a year.

Steve St. Pierre
"These CDs are a little over a year apart and Reese looked at me and said, 'Steve, these songs are a little bit different than the first time you played,'" St. Pierre said.

That little observation meant more to the band than Wynans could have known.

The other new tracks are "You've Been With Me," "Business Man" (featuring Thompson on vocals), "Highway Getaway" and "Baby I Ain't Got the Time."

These join the songs from a year ago -- "Had My Fill," "Steve's Shuffle," "My Last Meal," "Wild Life" and "To Help Your Brother."

The tracks are intermingled throughout the album, giving it a cohesive feel in spite of the changes the band has seen.

Besides listening to the new record, fans will have a chance to catch Blues Side Up in action this Friday at the Swizzle Stick. The four principal members will be joined by Al Bearman on keyboards. Bearman is doing a good job at the unenviable task of filling Wynans' shoes.

"Al's doing a really good job. He hears the parts -- a lot of people don't hear the parts," St. Pierre said.

This CD release party will give fans a chance to hear the new tracks, the old ones and whatever else the band might want to play.

"Whenever you get to play in front of your hometown, that's good," St. Pierre said.

The show runs from 9 p.m.-midnight.