Sunday, June 19, 2011

Young Men Blues: Jonny T-Bird and The MPs in Waukesha, WI

The audience may have been sparse, but no matter: it didn't stop them from delivering a tight, rocking 3-part set. Jonny T-Bird and the MPs plowed through their Waukesha debut at Magellan's last night, and though I've said this before, I'm continually amazed at the depth and breadth of their material. Every time I see them they've learned 2 or 300 new songs. Young blues fans, take note: listen to these guys and expand your mind. B.B. King may be the perennial image of the blues, but the genre runs deeper than that. Last night they grooved through numbers by Lonnie Mack, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and my favorite, Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers. Jonny and co. brought two of their songs to life. Hound Dog's ragged, slide-driven style doesn't easily lend itself to covers, but the MP's did it well. Drummer Isaac Berg and bassist Brian Morrison held down the beat and smoothed out some of the rough edges in the shuffling “She's Gone.” Similarly, they recreated the down-and-out-at-3am-blues of “It Hurts Me Too” with that moaning slide guitar and that bruised vocal. Isaac's drums were a close study of the original, all syncopated, and jittery. But, they're more than just a blues cover band: the MP's set included classic rockers like “Come Together” and “Born On The Bayou,” as well as Jonny's original blues songs. His “Blues For Asperger's” could stand as the international anthem for those, like Jonny, who have that condition. His guitarwork drips with emotion—he puts everything he has into his guitar playing and it shows in his meticulous playing. He is more than just a student of the blues, he's a purveyor of it. The same goes for his bandmates. Don't let their ages fool you: Isaac, Brian, and Jonny know their stuff.

Check out their Facebook page for upcoming gig info.

Full disclosure time: Like many of the Milwaukee bands I write (or will write) about here, these guys are my friends and I'm writing about them because I want to spread the word about their music. I introduced Jonny to Hound Dog Taylor through a mix CD I made for him. I've helped him write songs. Like he said at Magellan's, I co-wrote the tongue-in-cheek “Ice Your Cake” with him. But I must say this: Jonny did most of the writing though—I helped with writing the 12-bar G shuffle, a few lyrics, and made suggestions for revising the song. I do feel honored at the co-credit and thank him for giving me the shout-out onstage.

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