Time for a Shot of Blues

Random note: There’s a good documentary on Showtime called Hitsville: The Making of Motown. There’s a lot of good footage. (Stevie Wonder speaks but Diana Ross is conspicuously absent.) But the best part is that Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson return to Detroit and spend a fair amount of time talking about how Motown came to be. Great stuff. 

In musical theory, an altered five chord refers to a chord where a note has been raised or lowered, hence “altered.” I can’t say prove this for a fact but I’m gonna assume that the five guys in the Altered Five Blues Band (pictured above) got their name from that.

Beyond that, it’s kinda hard to find much information about this Milwaukee-based band who were born, per their Facebook page, in 2002. But I’ll say this – you think that they came up the hard way, singing the blues back-down-in-the-alley Chicago blues clubs? Well, maybe.

But according to an interview in Blues Blast magazine, lead singer “[Jeff] Taylor’s day job is Principal of a school in Wisconsin.” (There’s hope for me yet for a musical career. My full-time job is running the Fry-O-Lator at McDonald’s.)

According to the same interview, guitarist Jeff Schroedl’s day job is “being executive vice president of Hal Leonard Corporation, the world’s largest creator of music publications and music education materials.”

Yikes! I have no idea what the other guys do. For all I know one of them is Secretary of State. But I will agree with Downbeat Magazine which says, “frontman Jeff Taylor “sings powerfully” and “Jeff Schroedl’s live-wire guitar reaches the high bar of mixed invention and fluidity.” Blues Bytes magazine declares the group features “the funkiest rhythm section outside of Memphis.”

Here’s a funky boogie from their new album, Ten Thousand Watts. Right On, Right On:

Spotify link

A little while back I was doing a blues thang and I got to talking about how there are more women wailin’ away on blues guitar than there used to be which is a good thing. Music can be a macho thing and like so many of those things, for years they got relegated to being the “chick singer,” playing bass or strumming chords. But eventually, they said, you know, fuck you and just went for it.

Heather Gillis at one point in time was a singer with Allmans’ drummer Butch Trucks’ band. Per online mag IndiePulse, “At only twenty years of age, she was discovered by Trucks in Florida in 2015 and personally recruited by him to play in the Freight Train, the latter who performed to packed houses all over the U.S. until Trucks’ sudden passing in January 2017.”

According to Heather, “I played [at a local club] with my band often so, when Butch said he needed a house band for the jam, they gave me a call. We only played a couple songs that night because there were so many musicians there, but we exchanged information. Around that time was when the Allman Brothers had just stopped playing and Butch was looking to put together a project of his own.

He did a lot of shows in Florida to audition different musicians and get ready for the tours.  He always invited me to play a couple songs at the shows and I never missed an opportunity. After a couple shows, and filling in unexpectedly when needed, Butch said, “Just keep showing up.” And that was that.”

Here’s a tasty, swampy tune called “Gonna Be A Storm,” with Heather on lap pedal steel. YouTube version is live:

Spotify link

I can’t believe I’ve never featured – or seen live – bluesman Tab Benoit, a major oversight. The guy is from Houma, Louisiana about which Wikipedia says, “Houma and the surrounding communities are steeped in the French and Cajun history of the region.

In the late 18th century numerous Acadians (later known as Cajuns) settled in the region. As the French, Spanish, Acadians and Native American people mixed over the decades, a unique Cajun culture was born.

The swampland around Houma resulted in the area being quite isolated from the rest of Louisiana and the United States well into the 1930s, thus outside influences, such as radio and WWI patriotism, failed to inspire the Cajuns to become more “Americanized.”

Out of this stew came Mr. Benoit who -in the blues community at least – is a quite well-known, highly regarded singer and guitarist. (One of the clubs I go to recently offered Tab Beignets on the menu. Quite tasty, I might add.) I won’t go into all the awards Tab has gotten but let’s just say he’s the real deal.

Here he performs with Jimmy Thackery who I mentioned in my post on the Fabulous Thunderbirds-like Nighthawks. This slow burner is called “Nice and Warm.” To sweeten the pot, the rhythm section here was Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble.

Spotify link

I mentioned earlier the (relative) profusion of female blues guitarists. Fellow blogger Christian picked up on that and did a nice post on the same topic. One of the guitarists he featured was Ana Popović. (Who, I just found out is playing in a club about an hour away from me tonight. Not sure if I can get free, but hmm.)

Ana is from Belgrade and has been playing guitar since she was 15. She soon fell in with the right crowd and per Wikipedia, “In 2000, she appeared, alongside Eric Burdon, Taj Mahal, Buddy Miles, Double Trouble, Eric Gales and others, on the Jimi Hendrix tribute album Blue Haze: Songs of Jimi Hendrix with a cover of the song “Belly Button Window.”

This cooker is called “She Was a Doorman” and it’s got not only Ana’s great voice and smokin’ guitar but some nice horns:

Spotifiy link



6 thoughts on “Time for a Shot of Blues

  1. Great stuff and thanks for kind shoutout.

    Ana Popovic definitely kicks butt. I also dig Heather Gillis and her pedal steel guitar. It’s definitely great to see some female blues rock guitarists!

    The Altered Five Blues Band is definitely unusual. The fact that at least two of these guys seem to have “regular” and well paying jobs reminds me a bit of N.E.D., a rock band of physicians I featured a while back – like two years ago.

    The Altered Five surely rock. In fact, the tune you highlighted has a bit of a ZZ Top/La Grange vibe to it.

    With blues, most of the time you can’t go wrong!😀


    1. I was totally surprised that Ana was playing locally tonight, complete coincidence. But she’s relatively young and will be touring for years. so I’ll catch her down the road.

      Altered Blues sure don’t sound like part-timers. And yeah, that shuffle boogie beat goes way back, at least to John Lee Hooker and God knows probably the acoustic guys. Loves me some blues. And yet, I don’t listen to it all the time even though it’s on Sirius 24/7. But when you’re in the mood you can’t beat it.

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