Blues Show Review – Joe Price
(This is a reprint of a review posted September 24th, 2010 in order to celebrate Joe’s return to Legends on March 11th at 5:30)
Headed on over to Buddy Guy’s Legends tonight to see Joe Price for the free after-work set. Walked in and couldn’t believe the place was packed (hundreds)- a rare sighting for the early show, which started at 5:30. Joe was hammerin’ away and I was lucky to be able to share a table up front. He hasn’t been seen more than 2 or 3 times in Chicago the last 5 or 6 years, and I was fortunate to see him for a couple performances during that stretch. He mainly plays in Iowa where he and his playing-partner/wife Vicki reside.
Joe was in his usual rare form, and I had forgotten about his amazing, unique energy- a combination seemingly somewhere between in-the-gutter blues and the hills of the country, along with a touch of something else, but I can’t put my finger on what other influences his music has, and that’s the way it should be. I’d later speak to Joe and he’d clarify that “it’s just me trying to play the blues”, so anyone thinking this ain’t blues definitely has the wrong picture.
It was a two-plus hour stint of infectious
raucousness, and Joe would ask “are you having fun” but it was evident he was having even more fun than we were- a passionate player who was there to perform with heart and soul, in no way just going through the motions. His playing and the notes were too unpredictable to be anything sketched out beforehand, and you could tell he just played based on the mood and that night’s vibe. You can’t help but be drawn into his mesmerizing show. He’s comparable to none- I’d say a mix of Joe Cocker, L.C. Ulmer, Louisiana Red, Robert Pete Williams and the Standells (the band from one of the “Munsters” episodes from 1965), yet unlike any one of them. His personality, aloofness and focus might be compared to jazz great Chet Baker.
Okay, I’m crazy, but his music messes with your senses in the best way possible, leaving you wondering what just hit you. His music is simultaneously chaotic and hypnotic. Now I don’t know what gut-bucket blues is, but I’m sure Joe has some ideas- it just sounds like something Joe would intimately understand. He indicated that he was fortunate enough to grow up in Waterloo, Iowa where Earl Hooker died, and he was able to see Earl perform many times, and Earl gave him some early tips on tuning as Joe opened for him several times. He also was heavily influenced by Muddy Waters and met him early on as well. Ninety percent of the songs Joe played were originals, including his “25 degrees below”, in fine delta blues style, and his “Beer Tent Boogie” was a delight.
I’m not sure if Joe’s stage antics, including his wild foot dancing, are some for show or more likely inseparable from his emotive play, but you can’t help but enjoy his performance- the music, the shared stage with Vicki’s laughing smile, and his intertwined stories and quips.
Get out and see Joe if he’s within roadtrip distance- I promise he won’t hold anything back. See you at the next show…BlackJack