New York City was a mess this past week! Not anything too serious, but for a few days the blistering winds and seemingly endless rainfall made the daily commute much more difficult for many. Luckily, there was an easy solution for the strange winter qualms. Earlier last Monday, when the chaos was at its peak, City Winery hosted a classic blues-rock jam session featuring the amazing musical talents from The National Reserve and The Band of Heathens. Both crews were successful in unleashing the necessary warmth and comfort for the evening.
Listeners had to brave the treacherous city streets down to the Lower West Side for a musical escape. Even the trains were delayed all over the place making tensions higher for the average passenger. What made the trek worthwhile in the end was the pleasant reward of City Winery. Each member of the staff at the venue were on top of their game as they easily greeted and directed folks to their seats that immediately followed with some glorious drinks. Quite a few guests took seats by the high tables with black leather bound stools near the bar for more access to some serious alcoholic hydration. Despite the assigned seating, everything flowed nicely leading up to the musical events of the night. An hour before the show began, the lively dinner crowd were bustling with activity and enthusiasm was full at every table. The small stage tucked in the back of the venue, with its wine barrels all sprawled as a backdrop and its red curtains pulled back, was a perfect intimate platform for live tunes. Out on the floor, a bartender made the rounds offering red wine tastings of their special wine of the night, which was made on site for the event. Of course, many patrons partook in the tasting with relish. Eventually, the giant plasma tv screens promoting the coming shows of the month were turned off and the lights dimmed to give way to the first set of the evening.
The men of The National Reserve, lead by Sean Walsh, all came on stage nice and smooth with wine glasses in hand. Mr. Walsh, bearded as ever, began strumming away on his guitar and was supremely relaxed. They started their set with a grinding rockabilly tune that was all pure thumping goodness. Together, all of the men have a harmonic glory that brings rock and roll front and center at its best. Guitars endlessly twanged and individual solos were slightly just above the rhythm of the crew. What often stole the show was the wailing of the organ that beautifully swept over the audience. It just flowed perfectly in between the classic rock thrill. Listener’s heads were bobbing no matter what played next. Guests at City Winery were sailing on a slow southern rock cruise for the ages. Sean’s scratchy vocals worked well their music. There was obvious soul within. Everyone in the band were beautifully synced and held a strong alignment with their vibe. Each held their instrument in high regard, which was equally matched with their original skill. Other than their attention to instrumentation, their facial expressions were widely extreme and made watching them entertaining. Across the floor, restaurant tables were vibrating as ripples in the drinks were seen in Jurassic Park form. Despite the fact that quite a few people were invested in their meals, that did not stop the avid fan from whooping and hollering with appreciation. Finally, the twang of the blues guitar lingered in the space for a powerful hold. Constant guitar wails were another one of their key attributes, which keyed into their excellent slide work. The organ always rang true as well. Sometimes the blending of the instruments turned into a pleasurable cacophony of sound that turned swiftly into a more refined classic blues rock with a grind. Towards the end, the jam band flair appeared and the men finished with a raucous cheer from the crowd. They succeeded in winning many a fan over.
Next up would be the headliner of the night, The Band of Heathens. Musicians; Ed Jurdi, Gordy Quist, Trevor Nealon, Richard Millsap and Scott Davis, took their time setting up for their set. After a little bit of time, the lights dimmed again once more and soulful blues took things off. These men took a more mellow approach to the inception of their show. They had much more of a breadth with their vocals being shared among all of the men in both harmony and solos. However, those classic and strong harmonies were thrown in early on and would stay a part of their performance all night. Even the solos had a more softer and somber feel that made them unique with an ache and longing. There was heartfelt loss that was celebrated in their tunes. The appeal remained in a different form for all. Highways blues were their specialty with long harmonies that kept listeners hooked. People wanted more after every song. Speed was their additional attribute. Somehow, these men could transition between unbelievable speeds on their instruments that baffled even the most skillful observer. The fingers on the necks of their guitars and bass were a flurry of activity. From there, the sounds that were emitted were impressively captivating with catchy beats. Their genre was hard to place because at times they were using blues to serenade the crowd while other moments they rocked on with true dancing enjoyment. Tender and graceful melodies left a powerful feeling that was supported by the organ once more, extended feeling was given. Towards the end of their set, the music turned into old school blues. It was more lazy Sunday blues to be exact. For example, their efforts were much more relaxed but it came with a smile. Everyone could still have a good time with these guys. Extreme focus remained and the inclusion of the harmonica was a nice touch. Loud and glorious music. Their hit song, Sugar Queen, popped in and many fans were overjoyed. Intermittent twisting and screeching were just candy to the ears. Clapping from the crowd ensued and their set continued to be sublime all the way through.
Music fans who have not jumped onboard with both of these guys are truly missing out. If solid and classic blues rock are available, all should take it and dance away, preferably with a drink in hand. The National Reserve and The Band of Heathens are the perfect duo of bands to get those vibes into the lives of the musical elite. Give them a listen and see their art in action, completely worth it.