Review: Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons with Phil Wiggins – ‘A Black & Tan Ball’

 

Since winning the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2016 the Seattle-based duo of Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons have been busy young men taking full advantage of the opportunities the contest afforded them.

One of which was the chance to tour with eclectic legend of American blues harmonica Phil Wiggins and record a new album A Black and Tan Ball, released in July of 2017. The sparkling stripped down all acoustic album features the multi-instrumental talents of Hunter and Seamons and vocals from all three troubadours. The 13-song set is a collection of classics from the great American songbook that may be familiar to some and new to many, but nonetheless deserve the tender loving care given here. A Black and Tan Ball helps to preserve these classics, while progressing the art of folk blues, country jazz and work song tales from the rural south and African American tradition.

The three work seamlessly together for the first six tracks, beginning with the devilish “Do You Call That A Buddy,” and the speedy instrumental “Shanghai Rooster,” and old-time swing and scat of “How’m I Doin,” is charming. Wiggins shows off his tender side on the sweet swaying” Do Nothing You Hear From Me,” and spars with Hunter’s fiddle on the rambling “Struttin’ With Some Barbeque,” Live recordings of the mournful tome “John Henry,” and the pleading “Longing For My Sugar,” are dropped in the middle section. The final four tracks dig deep into delta and depression pre-war blues with “Hard Times Blues,’ from 1935 and Hunter wails on “Bullfrog Blues” from 1928, the tale of a killer, “Bad Man Ballad.” The trio closes the set with the Mississippi Sheiks’ “Stop And Listen,” a true prototype of the blues that encapsulates the vernacular of the genre.  

(Listen to a track below via Soundcloud, and get more info about the band HERE.)

 

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Rick Bowen

Rick grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan playing in school band, choir and show bands. While earning a BA at Western Michigan University in History and Social Science, he was a member of the Bronco marching band and jazz ensemble Gold Company. Moving to the Northwest in 1994, Rick soon landed gigs and sessions with many diverse local artists and is currently a member of the award winning Stacy Jones Band and the host of the all ages School of Jam. Rick is also an associate producer and session musician for Critical Sun Recordings, a contributing writer at Innocent Words, Seattle Examiner, No Depression, The Washington Blues Society and S.T.E.A.M magazine, and serves on the board of directors for the Washington Blues Society. Rick is endorsed by and plays THUMPER CUSTOM DRUMS. Awards: Washington Blues Society “Best of the Blues” award 2009 Best New Band –Stacy Jones Band WBS “Best of the Blues” award 2012 Best Blues Jam - Oxford Saloon Monday Night Jam 2013 & 2014 WBS Best Blues Writer award. 2014 WBS Chris Leighton Blues Drummer BB Award. Nominations: 2009 & 2013 Best Blues Drummer WBS BB awards. 2012 Best NW recording “No Need To Spell it Out –Stacy Jones Band (Rick J Bowen co producer)