A new club opened up in Portsmouth, NH about a year or so ago called Jimmy’s Jazz and Blues Club. Portsmouth is a funky little town located about 57 miles (92km) north of Boston with a lot of good restaurants and nightlife.
The guys who opened it up must have some deep, deep pockets. All the bands that used to go to other blues and jazz clubs are now coming here. And they are getting some heavy hitters. Herbie Hancock was here, Pat Metheny is imminent as is bluesman Walter Trout and jazz bass legend Ron Carter. I mean, some serious fucking shit. (I may have to go to the Carter show. This guy has played with everybody).
So it was inevitable that I would make my way north one night to check this place out. My first choice was bluesman Eric Gales who I had featured on this site a while back. Unfortunately, he didn’t do this tune last night but it’s too good not to resurrect:
Bio courtesy of Wikipedia:
“Gales picked up the guitar at age four In 1985 (age 11), the young Gales began to play at blues competitions with his brother Eugene backing him on bass. Although Gales plays a right-handed guitar “upside-down” (with the bass E string on the bottom), he is not naturally left-handed; he was taught by his brother, who is left-handed, and never second-guessed the untraditional technique.
Guitar World magazine’s Reader’s Poll named Eric the “Best New Talent,” in 1991. In 1994, Gales performed with Carlos Santana at Woodstock ’94. (This bit of information surprised me – ME). He also contributed a cover of “May This Be Love to the album Power of Sour: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix.
On May 9, 2019, he won the Blues Music Award for Blues Rock Artist of the Year. In his acceptance speech, he said he was celebrating three years of sobriety. In May 2020, Gales won his second consecutive Blues Music Award as the Blues Rock Artist of the Year.
So how was all this? Well, great, great playing as you might imagine but for me, mixed bag show-wise, and I’ll explain why. First, Gales’ four-piece (bass, percussion, drums, keyboards) band came out. (His wife LaDonna is on percussion.) Then Gales came out sans guitar and proceeded to give a 10-minute talk on how he’d been a desperate junkie for 20 years and had now been clean and sober for six.
Now, having dabbled in overuse of drugs and drunk in my previous life and knowing at least one recovered alcoholic, I am all in favor of people who made it. And it was a nice talk. Unfortunately, every song seemed to be about survival, and then little talks after each song and “Does Portsmouth love the blues?” Yeah, we do. But couldn’t you be a little more like Dylan and just not say anything and just play?
But enough whining. Here’s the opening number, “You Don’t Know the Blues” which I’d been listening to on Spotify on the way up:
In case you’re wondering about where I’m looking down from, it’s a (sort of) balcony. Here’s a picture of the place:
You see that area up to the right, that window all the way back? That’s where I’m sitting. Not a bad seat balcony-wise. But here’s the thing – I got lucky. There are three tables hard up against the window. But then behind us were a couple of rows of tables. These people couldn’t see anything.
To the left of the stage is an outside area which, ditto. And there is another balcony straight out in front of the stage. They sell some seats as obstructed or partially obstructed. I was also scoping the place out for a friend of mine and me to see Walter Trout later this year. But they only had obstructed seats left. Fuck that. I’m not paying good money to stare at a pole.
I don’t know the name of this tune but it’s some raucous shit. I wish I had kept recording because after they stopped, Gles counted out 1,2,3 and they jumped back into it. Mighty fine:
There’s one thing I want to say about the great blues guitarists who pump albums out and tour relentlessly. Really, most of them are just not very good songwriters. So you’re left listening to “my baby threw me out of the house” or some shit. I would just do a bunch of covers in that case and try to come up with a couple of hot originals.
I didn’t get any other usable videos but as a treat, I will throw in this YouTube video I found of Gales and Joe Bonamassa laying it down:
On October 21, 2021, Gales released the single “I Want My Crown,” featuring Bonamassa. The song serves as the lead single from his upcoming album Crown. Produced by Bonamassa and Josh Smith, the album was released on January 28, 2022.
The album highlights Gales’ “struggles with substance abuse, his hopes about a new era of sobriety and unbridled creativity, and his personal reflections on racism. (He did have some interesting songs about racism. “Why do you love what I do and hate me?” – ME). Upon release, it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Blues Album chart, his second to do so.
6 thoughts on “Concert Review – Blues Master Eric Gales”
Eric Gales sounds cool. I knew the name but had not listened to any of this music. I want to further check him out.
I guess there can be too much talking. Walter Trout will also tell you how grateful he is to be alive. Additionally, he advocates for organ donation, reminding his audience that had it not been for a donated liver he received in 2014, he wouldn’t be here today.
But he does all of that without giving a long speech. Instead, he intersperses his comments throughout the show. At least that’s what he did when I saw him at the Iridium in New York in April 2019. It didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I found it pretty powerful.
However, a 10-minute speech when I came to listen to music would probably test my patience as well. At least it looks like you got plenty of great guitar playing.
As for selling obstructed or partially obstructed seats, I find that a bit sketchy. I hope the club makes that very clear and doesn’t put it in some fine print! I suppose some folks are happy just to listen to the music. But then they might as well listen to a CD and save some bucks!
Yeah, it wasn’t a gigantic pain in the ass. I appreciate where he’s coming from. Maybe he’s so happy to be alive he can’t help himself.
Yeh, great gobs of guitar playing. I probably didn’t even catch the best of it. He really got wound up towards the end and played like a man possessed.
The club does give you fair warning on obstructed seats when you go to buy. I actually have two more shows up there, only one of which might be of general interest on this blog.
New Hampshire has got a couple of really good clubs and there’s another one in Mass I go to about 45 minutes west. Boston has been opening a few lately but by and large they cater to a younger crowd. The House of Blues literally never plays blues.
But a new one opened today down by Fenway, owned by one of the guys who owns the Red Sox. (Himself a guitarist who dropped out of college 50 years ago to play in bands.) Jeff Beck is coming. Tempting but Jesus. I’m running out of money. Unlike you I’m not rich. 🤣
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I like his heavy sound. Recovery songs? SRV’s ‘Tightrope’ is killer so is the Arc Angel’s ‘To Many Ways To Fall’.
Heavy for sure. He ain’t BB King. True enough about SRV. But he didn’t tend to lay it on with a trowel. BTW, I have tix to see a jazz guy that will blow what’s left of CB’s mind.
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SRV was a special guy, not just his music. I like the “trowel” comment, perfect. As far as “blowing” what’s left of CB’s mind, do your damndest.
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