Rodd Bland and The Members Only Band
Live On Beale Street: A Tribute To Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland
Nola Blue Records
Publicity: Blind Raccoon
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © 2021
If everything in the above header reeks of familiarity, you certainly know your blues. From the iconic surname; to the band name; to the album’s name; and even the recording’s location; it’s all already happened. Yep, it’s reality, not a Déjà Vu. Rodd Bland, of course, is the son of the legendary Bobby “Blue” Bland; the Members Only Band is named after one of Bobby’s biggest hits, “Members Only”, off a 1985 album with the same name; the album’s title is borrowed from Bobby’s 1998 “Live On Beale Street”; and, of course, both of these recordings were done in locations on Beale Street, in Memphis, TN.
With this being a tribute to his dad, Rodd Bland’s recording is appropriately titled “Live On Beale Street: A Tribute To Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland”. It was recorded in May of 2019, during the week of the Blues Music Awards, at an afternoon showcase in B.B. King’s on Beale Street, in Memphis.
For this session, Rodd Bland – on drums – brought in a lineup of musicians whose common denominator was having worked with his father at one time or another. They are: Jerome Chism and Ashton Riker on vocals; Jackie Clark on bass; Harold Smith on Guitar; Chris Stephenson on keyboards and vocals; Marc Franklin and Scott Thompson on trumpet; and Kirk Smothers on saxophone. Not wanting to use Bobby’s mainstream work, Rodd chose to record six songs from earlier in Bobby’s career.
The show opens with “Up And Down World” (V. Morrison/Don Robey) and although there probably isn’t a singer in the world that would ever be mistaken for Bobby “Blue” Bland, Chris’ super soulful vocal style does offer up some similarities. As you’d expect from a band leader who isn’t a vocalist but one heck of a drummer, along with lots of horn support, the track does feature Rodd leading a drum rich rhythm.
So when you’re listening to an album that pays homage to arguably one of the best vocalists ever, it should be obvious you’ll be hearing some masterful singing, right? Right! This time that masterful singing comes to you by the fabulous voice of Ashton Rikers as he belts out the blues on one of everyone’s favorites – “St. James Infirmary” (I. Mills) – a song which also appeared on Bobby’s “Live On Beale Street”.
“Soon As The Weather Breaks” (R. Bland/ M. Evans/V. Pea) features The Members Only Band decelerating some and settling into a scorching slow blues groove. Being the third vocalist on the show, like the two before him, Jerome makes it quite clear he came to sing his heart out – and from this listeners standpoint, there’s no better way to do that than with a slow and low down blues song. Although the rhythm section – especially when an organ and a horn section are involved, give these types of songs their pulse – it’s generally the vocals and guitar that steal them. With that said, Harold – who is crushing the scorching blues licks – is easily at his disc’s best. Yeah, this track was as well.
The show closes out with a song that most likely ended the night with a jam packed dance floor. It’s titled “Get Your Money Where You Spend Your Time”, (T. Tate) and calling it funky would be a major understatement – this one’s funk on steroids. On his third consecutive vocal performance Jerome defines the meaning of soul; Rodd’s been on a drum rampage since the song started; with Chris lighting up the organ and Marc and Scott firing up the trumpets behind him, Kirk rips off an eye openin’, ear poppin’ sax lead; and at songs end, while putting on his best effort yet, Jackie is plain spanking the hell out of his bass. That’s how you send a crowd home.
Other tracks on this great live recording include: “Sittin’ On A Poor Man’s Throne” (R. Hiller/B. Mononen/R. Wamil) and “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me)” (D. Walsh/M. Omartian/ M. Price/S. Barri).
Somewhat of a bittersweet thought for me is the fact that these particular showcases at B.B. Kings that started in February, 2017 and ran through 2019 originally took place during the International Blues Challenge and not only was I present at them all, I actually emceed one. Ironically, when this was recorded during BMA week in 2019, it was the first one I missed in nineteen consecutive years. Oh well, there’s a blues song in there somewhere.
For more about Rodd Bland just go to his website – www.rbandthemob.com. Wherever you go and whomever you talk to, please tell them that the Blewzzman sent you.
“The Blues Is My Passion And Therapy”
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 “Keeping The Blues Alive” Award Recipient