Jul 10

Chainsaw Dupont at Nick’s Beer Garden

Chainsaw Dupont is the first musician I’ve ever seen take a cell phone call during a set. (It was a brief call and the band kept playing.) He played his blues loose, but raw, his Laguna electric guitar heavy on echo and reverb. Several times he asked someone in the audience for a beat and would use that as the basis for a song. He had mike problems, so it was hard to hear when he sang. Perhaps because of that, most of his numbers were instrumentals.

Chainsaw Dupont

Chainsaw Dupont at Nick's Beer Garden

His band consisted of electric keyboard, bass and drums. The bassist (Tom?) and drummer were outstanding. During the first set, a couple of young men carrying African-style drums came in the club and sat down to listen. Dupont asked if they were there to jam. I gathered that wasn’t their intention, but he invited them to join the band and they played along through the second set.

Nick’s Beer Garden on Milwaukee Avenue in the busy, trendy Wicker Park neighborhood is a typical long narrow storefront bar. The band was set up by the windows at the front. Patrons coming through the front door sometimes had to step around Dupont as he played. It didn’t seem to faze him.

This was the first time I’ve heard Chainsaw Dupont and I really enjoyed his playing. It was a fun show and I would definitely go see him again. Additional photos of him are here.

Jul 10

Guitar Lesson

At my lesson today, I suggested to Jim that we go back to Magic Slim and the Teardrop’s “Early Every Morning” (Grand Slam, 1982). We had started going over it two weeks ago. I asked specifically about chords and choosing voicings. He showed me several chords and ways of using them to create interest. In showing me the bass line for the song’s shuffle rhythm, he said he preferred to play the C7 chord at the 12th fret so that the notes stayed on the wound strings. He thought it sounded stronger than remaining at the 7th fret. That made sense to me.

Jul 10

Guitar Practice

This week I’ve focused on exercises and songs in the Key of G from Kenny Sultan’s Introduction to Acoustic Blues (2001). I’ve been practicing “Blues in G” (p. 23) for three weeks or so and am feeling more at ease with it and can play it more smoothly. I haven’t quite mastered the patterns in measures 6 and 11, but they’re getting easier. Compared to some songs earlier in the book it’s not a difficult piece, but there are new moves that my fingers haven’t quite gotten used to. My little finger, for example, doesn’t always make it from the first string to fret the third string reliably.

On Sunday (7/25), I started practicing “Step It Up and Go”(p. 25), which adds the C and D7 chord to the G chord. Again, it’s not that difficult, but my fingers are still getting the hang of it.

Meanwhile, I continue to practice scales, chords and the songs in E and A that I’ve learned. It’s frustrating to go back to a song and discover how unruly it’s gotten during the period of neglect.

Jul 10

Laurie Morvan Band

A band comes to town that you’ve never heard of. You check out their video on the Web. They’re playing at a club a few blocks away, so you take a chance. It pays off.

I saw the Laurie Morvan Band at Fitzgerald’s and was impressed. She’s a skilled guitarist, a good singer, and a lively performer. She had a tight band with Pat Morvan, her ex-husband, on bass, Tom Salyers on electric keyboard and Lisa Grubbs on backing vocals. They put on a good show, one that CDs can’t capture.

Laurie Morvan Band

Laurie Morvan Band plays the blues at Fitzgerald's

Morvan mostly sang original songs, but also covered two Albert Collins songs (“If You Love Me Like You Say” and “A Good Fool Is Hard to Find”), as well as “Messin’ with the Kid” and Muddy Waters’ “Got My Mojo Working.”

Her approach to the blues struck me as in the modern rock-pop vein, with less Delta than I like. It’s hard to explain, but it has a different feel to me. I thought she was very good at what she did. I also liked some of her original songs, but her style of blues is not one I aspire to. Needless to say, I’d love to be able to play at her level someday.

She has recorded four CDs, including Out Of The Woods (1997), Find My Way Home (2004), Cures What Ails Ya (2007), and Fire It Up! (2009).

Gear: Laurie Morvan played a 1956 reissue black Fender Stratocaster with gold pickguard from the Custom Shop. She used several effects pedals including a wah wah plugged into a 2006 Tone King Meteor II 40-watt head & cabinet.

Additional photographs of the Laurie Morvan Band are here.

Jul 10

Pick or Finger?

I’m fascinated by the fact that the many of the blues guitarists I admire most play without a pick: John Lee Hooker, Albert Collins, Albert King, Hubert Sumlin and others. Before I paid attention to such things, I assumed that one always used a pick to play an electric guitar.

There are advantages to each approach and the sound is certainly different. I’ve read that Howlin’ Wolf told Hubert Sumlin to stop using a pick and that was how he found his style. I’ve noticed some players (Buddy Guy, for example) switch back and forth during a performance. Guy plays mainly with a pick (and he’s hard to beat for speed), but he has a magician’s touch in concealing it in his hand when he wants to play fingerstyle.

In December 2009, I started practicing rhythm and bass lines without a pick and then practiced soloing fingerstyle. The exercises and songs in Kenny Sultan’s Introduction to Acoustic Blues, which I started working with in January 2010, need to be played fingerstyle.

A pick seems to allow one to play faster, but I enjoy the more intimate physical involvement that fingerstyle playing provides. It feels too early in my development to make a choice (versatility may ultimately be the best choice), so I’ll continue to practice both ways and to explore the pros and cons of the two approaches.

Most players who use a pick, use the traditional teardrop-shaped pick. However, Muddy Waters, for example, used a thumb pick and a pick that fit on the index finger. Magic Slim also uses a thumb pick. My teacher tells me these take some getting used to. I haven’t tried them yet, but would like to experiment with them.