Thursday, January 31, 2002

Gazette Staff Writer

Experiencing Blues Alley live is all about the sounds of the Delta Blues, soul, funk and swing - all rolled into a rockin' wild night of singing and dancing.

The band was formed about 10 years ago by R.C., a Massachusetts native, who was playing with blues legend Buddy Guy in Chicago before moving back to Southeastern Massachusetts in 1991.

"I came back to this area because my father had a heart attack at the time. I the decided I wanted to stay, because I wanted to get a blues band started in this area," said R.C., the lead singer, guitarist, producer, songwriter, and music arranger for Blues Alley. "There weren't many blues bands in the area at that time, and it was something I just wanted to do."

Blues Alley has become a full-time job for R.C.

"I believe we're one of the hardest working bands on the south coast," said R.C. "We perform about 240 gigs a year and between bookin and rehearsing, there is a lot of work that goes into the shows. All that work is supposed to make the performances look easy. The audience shouldn't have to know it's hard work. It's supposed to look easy and fun. They just need to be entertained and have a good time."

R.C is also very involved in other projects. When he's not fronting Blues Alley, he's leading a 1950s Rockabilly/Rock&Roll?Rhythm&Blues band called "Daddy-O!"

"Daddy-O! explores the early birth of rock 'n' roll in the 1950s. That's when rock was fun," R.C. said.

Daddy-O! plays music like Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. "It's fun music that I've always enjoyed and that I've grown up listening to," he said. Daddy-O! members are Mike Lavoie on upright bass and J.B. on drums, with "Killer" Ken sitting in on second guitar sometimes.

R.C. said the connection he makes with the audiences is what makes performing worthwhile. A recent show at the Blue Lantern in Acushnet included a conga line around the room led by R.C. and several impromptu songs with local favorite Ralph Kingsley on vocals and harmonica.

As leader of Blues Alley, R.C. performs with Rubin on bass, Scott "the killing" Frost on drums and Lance Gunberg on percussion.

"I'm a performer and I love playing for the audience," he said. "We're very unpredictable and no nights are the same. We never have a set list. If the audience wants to hear 'Mustang Sally,' we play it. Many times they try to stump the band. We have a lot of fun with our audiences."

R.C. said he was first exposed to the Delta blues, western swing and old-time country by his grandfather at the age of 8. By age 11, he began a semi-pro career as a percussionist with local concert bands and symphony orchestras.

At the age of 14, he was performing in jazz clubs in Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. At 15, he performed with Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops, the New England Conservatory Orchestra at Tanglewood and recorded on percussion with jazz trumpeter Bobby Hutcherson.

R.C also toured with Roosevelt "Booba" Sykes in Chicago and has performed with Carey Bell, Muddy Waters' last harmonica player.

Blues Alley's last album, "Rather Be Alone," was released in 2000. The album includes 15 original songs, while the group is accompanied by a three-piece horn section. The songs are laced with R.C.'s various musical influences, such as Latin, soul, funk, swing and the blues.

Blues Alley's first album, called "Lowdown," was recorded live and features 12 original blues songs. The album featured the modest hit song called "Big Legged Woman".