Don't Touch That Dial! - Live at WUML
1 I Smell Smoke
3 That’s What I’m Living For
4 Queen Midas
5 Chain of Fools
6 Letter From Jail
7 Somebody Loan Me a Dime
9 Imaginary Conversation between Björk & Buddy Guy
10 Flat Earth Conspiracy
11 I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog (The Way You Treated Me)
Carol Band: keyboards, harmonica & vocals
Paul Giovine: drums & percussion
Adam Sankoswki: bass & vocals
Conrad Warre: guitar & vocals
Produced, Mixed & Mastered by Joe Egan
Executive Producer John Guregian
Recorded by Elizabeth Becz live at WUML
Bees Deluxe – Don’t Touch That Dial! Live at WUML
Blues Blast Magazine
Featured Blues Review – Blues Blast Magazine
Bees Deluxe – Don't Touch That Dial - Live at WUML
Slapping Cat Records SLAPCD022
11 songs – 56 minutes
A four-piece ensemble based in Boston, Bees Deluxe aren’t your standard blues band. For the past decade, they’ve been on a self-described mission to combine the sounds of 1960s Chicago blues and New Orleans funk with old-school Blue Note jazz and amp it up for fans in the 21st century. That’s exactly what they do with this CD, which was recorded live and broadcast from a radio studio on the campus of University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
And the Bees’ lineup is just as unusual as the music they play. They’re led by British-born guitarist Conrad Warre and Carol Band, who doubles on keyboards and harmonica. His work on guitar was a featured component in the U.K. ska/punk movement with The Specials, The English Beat and The Selector as well as with new wave giant Joe Jackson. He’s also a music journalist whose words have appeared in Melody Maker, Blues Blast and other major publications around the world.
Carol, meanwhile, is a Connecticut native who grew up in the church and played folk and rock in coffeehouses. With diverse influences that come from Bill Evans, Ray Charles and John Medeski, she came to the blues after meeting and sharing a drink with B.B. King when he came to Beantown.
Their rhythm section is just as interesting. Bassist Adam Sankowski is a veteran of Boston’s fertile indie rock scene, and, when not performing, works as a music therapist with cancer patients at Massachusetts General Hospital. And Paul Giovine is a Berklee College of Music-educated percussionist who spent his youth working in bands that opened for Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Bo Diddley.
The music on this disc first appeared on “Blues Deluxe,” a three-hour weekly radio show that executive producer John Guregian has been hosting on WUML-FM since 1979. It was recorded live and on vintage analog equipment by Elizabeth Becz and produced, mixed and mastered by Joe Egan.
An interesting version of Michael Burks’ “I Smell Smoke” opens the action with Band providing instrumental accents and the mid-tune solo as Warre handles vocals before delivering an extended six-string solo to close. While it lacks the potent, emotional attack of the original, it’ll still will grab you. Carol shifts to harp for the original, “Beer,” a medium-tempo shuffle in which Conrad states all he wants is a brew despite wanting, needing and preparing to leave a loved one.
The tempo slows for the percussive ballad “That’s What I’m Living For,” which advises the lady to take and say whatever she wants – but leave him his shoes — as she heads for the door. Warre’s guitar skills come to the fore throughout the six-plus minute “Queen Midas,” a lady who truly has a golden touch and a glance that can turn anything in her path to stone. It’s an odd number with the repeating, never clarified line – “Wait a minute/Something is wrong…” – which leaves the listener puzzled.
An instrumental cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” is up next, delivering a darker, bluesified, hypnotic take with Warre and Band trading leads throughout and Sankowski and Giovine mirroring the deep-in-the-pocket Funk Brothers beat. The feel continues in the quiet original, “Letter from Jail,” which recounts a day behind bars, before the Bees revisit two Windy City classics, a slowed-down, haunting take of Fenton Robinson’s “Somebody Loan Me a Dime” that Conrad makes his own, and a funky nine-minute workout of Otis Rush’s “Homework.”
Two more originals – the instrumental “Imaginary Conversation Between Björk & Buddy Guy” and the bluesy-psychedelic “Flat Earth Conspiracy,” which features Carol on mic – precede a sweeping, completely reworked take on Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog (The Way You Treated Me)” to close.
Definitely not your father’s blues and somewhat subdued throughout, but definitely worth a listen. Bees Deluxe delivers on their mission.
Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.
- Marty Gunther, Blues Blast Magazine