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Jim Drake’s Entertainment Blog

Nick Moss’ ‘Root to Fruit’ CD celebrates roots, future of blues

By Jim Drake Hood River News

I’m pretty sure the stage outside at Springhouse Cellar is an assemblage of pallets and possibly some old wine-barrel parts.

I’m hoping there’s a little more support under there than meets the eye, though, because it looks like The Nick Moss Band is a fairly substantial affair.

Currently on tour (they’re going to a Florida jam-band festival after Oregon), band founder Nick Moss assured me he’s played on plenty of homemade stages.

“I started out my career on the south side of Chicago playing on pieces of plywood behind the bar,” Moss said recently.

“My brother Joe and I used to play with a guy named Buddy Scott, who had folks like Chaka Khan as backup singers in the early days. Anyway, he would play in these bars that didn’t even have a stage, like the one on 47th street, where they would put a piece of three-quarter inch plywood on the bar over to the back counter. So the drums and bass player would be up there, and the two guitar players would be out in front of the bar, and then Buddy would be on a stool in front of those guys. If the bartender needed to get in the cooler for more beer, he had to crawl underneath the plywood. I’ve played some small stages and I’ve made it work!”

Moss talked about his new release, which is 27-tracks on two CDs that explores traditional blues and the modern music that it inspired.

“We have a brand new CD called ‘From the Root to the Fruit,’ which was a project to bridge the gap between traditional blues and modern music today. One disc is very traditional blues and the other is modern era blues, plus funk, soul, and jam-band rock, and it shows how blues kind of branched out and led to more kinds of modern music. We cover a lot of ground with this band.”

Moss’s background includes playing with people like Jimmie Rodgers and Pinetop Perkins, and he’s performed shows with James Cotton and Junior Wells. But he grew up on rock and roll from his parent’s record collection.

“The first thing that interested me as a kid was rock and soul music; my uncle gave me records by Blind Faith and Led Zeppelin, my mom even listened to George Clinton and P-funk, so I had all these influences that led me back to blues,” Moss said.

Listening to these records made Moss want to go back and figure out where all this music came from, and when he and his brother came across their mom’s record collection that included 45s of Little Willie John and Muddy Waters, they asked the question, “Who are these guys?”

“We had to find out who these guys were. That, plus looking at magazines like ‘Creem,’ which had articles of Jimmy Page talking about the influence of Otis Rush had on him . . . that led to my exploration of the blues.”

Moss lamented the fact that most of his friends in the blues world, who were 20 and 30 years older than him, have now passed on.

“Now, I find myself in the role of the older guy, because the rest of my band is 20 years younger than me. They come from jazz, rock and even classical backgrounds, and I had to find a way to meld all of our influences together, and the blues was the answer for that,” Moss said.

Since the The Nick Moss Band started playing on some of the jam-band circuits, the band made a decision to allow people to tape and share their music and shows online. Moss said the online material has given them exposure to a younger crowd, something that the traditional blues shows has seen a decline in.

“The blues scene is definitely an older crowd (40-65), but with the last few CDs we’ve attracted a younger crowd, and that’s actually got us thinking of our band future, because in 10-15 years, our older crowd won’t be able to come out to as many shows. You have to start building a fanbase from a younger crowd now, if you want to have some longevity,” Moss said.

“We just did some shows with Gary Clark, Jr., and we’re trying to get on the same bill with some non-traditional blues bands to widen our base whenever we can,” Moss said.

The mix of bands at the bigger festivals brought back memories of learning about music from his parents.

“I’m old enough to remember my parent’s stories from when they went to see shows in the ‘60s, and the music scene wasn’t so segregated in the kinds of music that were at festivals — they had folk, country and jazz bands all on the same bill. Sometimes I wish there was more of that happening these days.”

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