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Thursday, Feb. 2, 2006 10:40 pm

Cruisin’ for a bluesin’

Nick Moss and the Flip Tops perform Saturday at Bourbon Street Rhythm & Blues

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Nick Moss
What most people hear in their heads when they think of the blues is the electric Chicago style. Perfected in the 1950s and ’60s by such artists as Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, today it is much imitated, sometimes degraded, and only rarely perpetrated with the heart and soul necessary to achieving the level of intensity and restraint required to make it good. According to many of the world’s finest blues musicians, Chicago-blues guitarist and songwriter Nick Moss seems to have found that mysterious plateau. Not only does he get kudos from Chicago-blues legend Buddy Guy, but many other North American blues stars praise his abilities as well. In reading their quotes, one essential element runs throughout their comments: Moss has that unnamable, unlearnable, and undeniable gift for playing the blues. Moss may have been blessed with the talent, but it took years of steady playing to hone the ability and understand the complexity of those simple old blues. He began by watching his older brother perform in Chicago-area taverns. Then Moss played bass with the Legendary Blues Band and gigged on guitar with Jimmy Rogers for a few years. In the late ’90s he went solo and formed his own group, the Flip Tops. Since then he has traveled all over the place, working the live magic of the blues. He got busy in the studio and produced four CDs, each pushing his capabilities while staying true to the solid basis of his hometown blues. The latest disc, Sadie Mae (named for his firstborn child) has been nominated for two 2006 Blues Music Awards (formerly the prestigious W.C. Handy awards), in the Best Album and Traditional Blues categories. Moss has been featured in prominent blues magazines, discussed in guitar-player publications, and trotted out on radio stations as the standard-bearer of traditional Chicago electric blues. Perhaps Moss says it best on the biography page of his Web site. “I’m trying to find that fine line of not compromising the integrity of that classic music and yet still make it a little fresher-sounding and contemporary-sounding where I can get across to the element of the crowd that isn’t hardcore.”
Nick Moss and the Flip Tops perform at Bourbon Street Rhythm & Blues, on the northwest corner of 11th Street and South Grand Avenue East, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 4.

Walko Music (1120 S. Second St., 217-528-6494) hosts a workshop/exhibition with acclaimed fingerstyle guitarist Dennis Neff, 3-5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4. Neff lives in the area, but his fame has reached beyond our community as a result of his incredible ability to fingerpick a six-string. His son Scott will also be appearing, marking the first time father and son have performed together in public. You are cordially invited to celebrate the birthday of Wingo (no other name needed), 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday, Feb. 3, at Floyd’s Thirst Parlor (212 S. Fifth St., 217-522-2020). Mobscenity, Wingo’s favorite band, performs. Brain Regiment, a popular St. Louis rock band, lands at Viele’s Planet (126 E. Jefferson St., 217-525-9029) on Friday, Feb. 3, with fellow rockers Frequency and Membrada. The band, led by southern-Illinois native Corey Saathoff on vocals and guitar, released a six-song CD, Ancient Spaceman, last April. The Hilton Springfield (700 E. Adams St., 217-789-1530) will be awash from top to bottom with great live music this weekend. Jazz Central Station hosts the Tiffany Christopher Band on Friday, Feb. 3, and Chicago’s Treologic on Saturday, Feb. 4. Christopher, who blends elements of jazz, rock, blues, and folk to frame her lyrical compositions, also collects rave reviews on the jam-band circuit. Treologic walked away with the grand prize at the Discmaker-sponsored Midwest Independent Music World Series in May 2005. Down below, in the Underground City Tavern, two nationally acclaimed roots-rock bands take the corner stage. On Friday, Dave Insley, accompanied by the Careless Smokers, cruises in with a bucketful of Americana songs from the Arizona native’s newest release, Call Me Lonesome. The disc features an all-star support group of alt-country performers, including Rosie Flores, the Dave Alvin Band’s Rick Shea, and members of Roger Clyne’s Peacemakers. On Saturday, Feb. 4, Stephen Simmons, a current Nashville resident and darling of the hip country scene, unveils his style of singer/songwriter music. Simmons, who is sonically linked to the likes of Steve Earle, Chris Knight, and other dark and unruly songsters, broods his way through a stellar collection of modern hillbilly tales.
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