(The Ghost Town Blues Band presented by the Canada South Blues Society performing during their Shine album release concert tour at Rockstar Music Hall in Windsor, Ontario, on Saturday, December 7, 2019. Photo above by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)
It is the 21st Century, time for a little reworking of the blues genre of music and, apparently, the best way is to enjoy The Ghost Town Blues Band. The six musicians of this fast-rising group were in Windsor on Saturday night at Rockstar Music Hall.
If nothing else, the seasoned, but youthful, musicians proved that if Friday night is for rock and roll, Saturday night ought to be a fitting time for the blues, but in a much more updated style. Although admittedly this new blues has a considerable amount of rock which could be why Shine, the group’s latest release – which handsomely and formally put their interpretation of the blues on the map – shot directly to the top of Billboard’s blues chart and reached the elevated status of #26 on Billboard’s rock chart.
Putting a single together, guitar and harmonica playing vocalist Matt Isbell, told the audience is something the band does every once in a while to “see how it does. As my mom says, its like throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing if it sticks.”
Brought to town by The Canada South Blues Society, the packed Rockstar Music Hall was nothing if not testament to the popularity of the band. Its first time in the city was back in 2014 and it has returned a few times, including a set at a recent Bluesfest.
No surprise the members hail from Memphis a town rich in the history of blues and the subject of W. C. Handy’s famed composition The Memphis Blues. Handy is known worldwide as the Father of the Blues. The city’s main entertainment venue, Beale Street, is where the genre grew up and, with Ghost Town, now where its future resides.
Ghost Town’s members, in addition to Isbell, are trombonist Suavo Jones, lead guitarist Taylor Orr, bassist Matthew Karner, keyboardist Tim Stanek and drummer Andrew McNeill.
In a conversation with Eyes on Windsor, Blues Society President Mike McCann calls this new blues “in your face.” He adds that, like Ghost Town Blues Band, there are a number of new young bands coming on scene and most are from Memphis.
This in your face was no less evident in a rousing remake of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love. It was also a time for guitarist Matt Isbell to really shine. The band put a surprising twist on the song, taking it one step further into new limits of pure psychedelic with Suavo Jones’ trombone and Isbell adding even more blues refinement, playing his part on one of his cigar box guitars, this one a three-stringer. Nothing says true blues more than a hand-made cigar box stringed instrument. It is actually one of 360 the enterprising Isbell has made.
At one point, he faces off with his cigar box against the incredible hip-hop trombonist Jones who is, for all intents and purposes, nothing less than a perpetual motion machine.
It is his trombone playing, Isbell tells Eyes on Windsor, which really gives Ghost Town a critical edge adding a rich element to the mix of instruments.
Psychedelic blues is probably a useful alternative to describe the Band’s full bore sound. Other words could be fusion or even experimental. No matter what, the sextet takes its music to a very high plain with all of its musicians totally right on their game.
There will be much more to see of Ghost Town Blues Band in the months and years ahead. There will also be much more blues in Windsor. Next year the Blues Society will be celebrating its 20th year of keeping the blues alive by sharing and promoting various artists of the genre. On February 14, it will kick off the new year with a concert by the Cash Box Kings from Chicago.
For more information about the Ghost Town Blues Band visit http://www.ghosttownbluesband.com
For more about the Canada South Blues Society and upcoming shows visit http://www.bluessociety.ca
Upcoming shows at Rockstar Music Hall include a fundraiser concert for the Windsor Youth Centre featuring the Smoking Purple Monkeys, Incoming and Godzillaz (Dec 13), and a birthday celebration concert for the venue’s owner David Michael which will also be a fundraiser for the Downtown Mission (Dec 21). For more information about the shows and upcoming events visit https://www.rockstarplatinum.com
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.