Grasp meets reach

Many modern-day blues bands, both locally and nationally, can be counted on to reach into the grab bag of the past for the majority of their material. Whether they are reaching for prerecorded material to cover or tried-and-true styles to imitate, the usual result is far too many bands reaching for the same spot, both geographically and musically. No surprise that so many blues bands sound alike, or at least not different enough for the average ear to notice.

The Motor City Sheiks have obviously figured this out. Their smooth, we’re-gonna-take-our-time-if-you-don’t-mind sound doesn’t draw from the usual well of influences such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, or Stevie Ray Vaughan. This is jump blues, which band members happily acknowledge comes courtesy of T-Bone Walker. Listening to the Sheiks makes it hard to understand why more bands haven’t mined T-Bone’s jazz-inflected sound.

All this isn’t to say that the influence of other blues artists can’t be heard – there are definitely some echoes of Muddy – but what comes through strongest is that T-Bone sound where every note counts, every note fits, and nothing is rushed for the sake of the stage (staged?) pyrotechnics that have become so popular today. The guitar artistry of Emmanuel Garza, a veteran member of the Detroit blues scene who has spent 23 years with the Detroit Blues Band, demonstrates some of the most tasteful, understated licks that I’ve heard from anyone on the local scene in quite awhile. This is an awfully good first effort.

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