So where’s the bass?
That’s the question that comes to mind when you first meet the blues group GA-20 from Boston, a trio made up of two guitars and drums. No piano. No organ. No bass.
Speaking via Zoom, GA-20 guitarist Matthew Stubbs explains that the band’s minimalist approach has its roots in the blues sides of Chess Records from the 50s and 60s. “There are a lot of Little Walter tracks. and other chess recordings where you don’t notice there is no bass when you listen to them. When we started the band, the idea was to keep a trio, to keep it stripped down, to keep it super simple.
After a pandemic-imposed absence from the road, GA-20 is back on tour, appearing at the Continental Club on January 14 on a bill with fellow blues purist JD Simo.
Taking its name from a 1950s Gibson guitar amplifier beloved by sound connoisseurs, GA-20 began performing in 2018 and released their debut album, Lonely soul, the next year. In Stubbs’ mind, the group fills a void in the current musical climate.
“There hasn’t been a revival of the traditional blues for a long, long time,” says Stubbs. “When you say you play blues these days, everyone thinks of ‘blues rock’ – guitar shredding, 10 minute solos. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when I look at my record player I’m like, “I don’t have any of those style records.” Hendrix maybe, but all of my blues records are from the 50s and 60s. A lot of modern blues sounds to me like classic rock or southern rock. They don’t sound like a Magic Sam record to me.
Stubbs can speak with authority on the subject, having spent the past 14 years supporting iconic blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite, not to mention the presence of James Cotton, another harmonica player who is no slouch on the Mississippi saxophone. himself.
Like most artists, the members of GA-20 were forced off the road in 2020. Luckily, an opportunity to fill the downtime presented itself when Alligator Records founder Bruce Iglauer took over. approached Stubbs to record an album. The band was already signed to Colemine Records, but Stubbs came up with the idea for the two labels to co-publish an album of songs by blues legend Hound Dog Taylor, perhaps best known for the song “Give Me Back My Wig . ”
The concept made sense, as Taylor was Alligator’s first signing in 1971. Not to mention the fact that Taylor’s band were bassless as well.
“We have compared him a lot because we are two guitars and a drumset and we play Chicago blues. I never really thought about doing a tribute album for anyone, but it felt right to me. ”
By the time of signing with Alligator, Taylor had been performing in Chicago for years, earning a reputation as an entertaining but sometimes unpredictable artist. It should be noted that Taylor was polydactyl, having an additional digit on each hand. The spare appendages did not help his guitar playing, as they were not functional. So much so that Taylor cut his extra right finger off with a straight razor one night while he was drunk, because he was bothered by it.
Taylor was never considered a virtuoso, and he didn’t want to be. When asked how he would like to be remembered, Taylor said he hoped people would say, “He couldn’t play shit, but he made it sound good.”
The album GA-20 Can Hound Dog Taylor… Try It, You Might Like It! was a big hit when it was released a few months ago, debuting at No.1 on the Billboard table of blues.
The band do an admirable job of capturing the sound of Taylor, a daring approach to the blues imbued with a sense of wild abandon. As Stubbs says, “It’s off the rails. Looks like he could collapse anytime.
The production is exceptional, using a combination of modern technology and vintage equipment to create a sound that would probably suit Taylor very well if he were here today. “I like vintage material,” Stubbs says. “I haven’t yet found a new amplifier that I like the sound of more than a vintage one.”
As for the guitars used on the record, Stubbs and his bandmate Pat Faherty (guitar and vocals) researched the same types of guitars Taylor used, including those made by Teisco, a low-budget brand that was popular. in the ’60s. “We scoured the Internet and bought four or five. I mean, they’re cheap.
While Chicago musicians have always held a prominent place in the blues pantheon, many would say Texas bluesmen cast equally long shadows. However, how does Stubbs compare the Chicago blues to the Texas blues? “The Texas blues?” I think of guys like Freddie King or T-Bone Walker or Gatemouth Brown. And Chicago, I love Buddy Guy and Earl Hooker. You listen to him, he has a different vibe. The lope on the shuffle is different for me when I hear a Texas shuffle versus a Chicago shuffle. With the Chicago blues, the instruments interact a little more. When I listen to a Texas shuffle, it’s a big backbeat.
GA-20 and JD Simo will perform at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, on Friday, January 14 at 9 p.m. ET. For more information, call 713-529-9899 or visit continentalclub.com. $ 15- $ 25.