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Thursday, April 12, 2012 05:52 am

Hurricane-powered blues


Hurricane Ruth plays selections from her latest CD The Power of the Blues... Feels Like a Hurricane at 8pm, on Friday, April 13 at Casey’s Pub in the K of C Hall on Meadowbrook and Iles.

Since we last talked with “Hurricane” Ruth LaMaster (NOW PLAYING, July 12, 2011) a lot has happened. A flurry of steady gigs elevated Ruth and band to winning a trip to the 2012 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, creating a new eight-song album The Power of the Blues… Feels like a Hurricane, and a host of festival gigs upcoming this summer including the Illinois Blues Festival, Old Capitol Blues & BBQs, Ain’t Nothing But the Blues Fest and Chatham Sweet Corn Festival.

“It’s been a whirlwind. Better than I ever could have imagined,” says Ruth. “It’s been a crazy ride.”

Though they didn’t make the finals at the IBC, Hurricane Ruth (and Tombstone Bullet) received a “people’s choice” invitation to play at a great club on Beale Street. Ruth and the band – David Lumsden, guitars, Gary Davis, bass and Jim Engel drums – are likely headed back down to Memphis for more Beale Street blues shows. According to Ruth, the highlight of the Memphis trip was receiving a shipment of the new CD, fresh from the press, amid all the wonderful music performances.

“It was Feb. 1 and we were on Beale Street, one of the original blues spots, and got copies of the record,” she says. “It was the best part of the trip.”

The producer of the record, Andon T. Davis, sent the CDs, proving one of the big reasons they decided to go with the accomplished musician to help create the magic on the record.

“We wanted to work with him because we trust him and he knows us and what we can do,” she says. “He came to practice, asked questions and took notes. He guided us every step of the way.”

Davis, known around town as the original guitarist and driving force behind Cats on Holiday, one of the most popular bands ever in central Illinois, spent the last 15 years or so in Chicago working with various bands and as a guitar repairman. He brought Ruth and band to Strobe Recording in Chicago for a live-to-tape session on Nov. 26 and 27, 2011, then transferred the result to digital for mixing and slight editing with a couple of overdubs. Just to let you know, most music these days is recorded one instrument at a time, if there is a real instrument even used. It takes incredible skill and performance powers to record a record live that stands up to today’s standards.

“The four of us knew exactly what we wanted from the product – a live vibe that captured our sound, what we call power blues,” says Ruth. “We beat ourselves blue rehearsing to get everything right. The band guys are just such excellent musicians to play like this.”

From licks to lyrics, melody and music, all the pieces fall into place nicely as the sound matches the band with a good balance of original material and interesting covers.

Six songs are credited to all four members and the remaining two tunes are Mississippi Queen (a different perspective on the old Mountain version) and the Sly and the Family Stone classic, I Want to Take You Higher, a tune Ruth wanted to record since first hearing it on the Woodstock album many years ago.

“Now when someone asks, ‘Do you have a CD out?’ I can say, ‘Yes I do.’ It’s a wonderful thing.”

The best feeling though, still comes from those live performances when the music soars, the lights are right and the audience is listening.

“Hearing music you’ve created live gives you such a good feeling. That’s the satisfaction,” Ruth says. “It’s almost like being born again every time you sing a song.”

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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