Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hamilton Loomis' Mixed Bag of Music Anything But a Trick Bag

Born in Galveston, Texas, and yet another important talent to come from the Lone Star State, Hamilton Loomis is an artist whose music is deeply rooted in blues with strong elements of soul and funk thrown in. This paragraph from his publicist’s website says this succinctly. “Whereas similar aged acts like Black Keys, Robert Randolph and White Stripes play American rock music with heavy blues influences, Loomis plays the inverse. His is an undeniably blues based artist escalating into what All Music Guide calls ‘…a mixed bag of modern blues, modern funk, and slick soul.’“

He was influenced and mentored by a variety of Texas blues legends such as Joe Hughes, Johnny Copeland, Gatemouth Brown and Albert Collins who schooled Loomis early on in the finer points of the music. Bo Diddley also took the young man under his wing with Loomis joining the late rock pioneer on stage when only 16 and who played on Loomis’ most recent Blind Pig CD. Loomis has matured into a exciting live performer which is evident on his most recent release, “Live in England” (Ham-Bone Music).

Recorded at the Famous Monday Blues Club in Oxford, England as well as the Liverpool (England) Marina, Loomis with vocals, guitar and harmonica is backed by saxophonist Stratton Doyle; bassist Kent Beatty and drummer Jamie Little. The music kicks off with a funk instrumental “Pull Strings,” with some greasy sax from Doyle as well as some impressive string-bending from Loomis. “Workin’ Real Hard,” is some road-house rock with a Stevie Ray Vaughan blues-rock groove as Loomis sings about working real hard at playing his guitar but sleeping all day before taking off with his guitar break. Loomis’ soulful vocals are as striking as his searing guitar solos, standing apart from the rasping growls of some of his less capable contemporaries. Bassist Beatty helps establish the funk groove for “Legendary,” while Loomis adds harp to “What It Is,” which evokes New Orleans in its flavor while Doyle quotes “Mercy Mercy” in starting his tenor sax solo.

Best Worst Day” may be the best of Loomis’ originals with strutting guitar and his strong delivery of the ironic lyrics. Also noteworthy is how he paces his solo before Stratton blasts his solo. Loomis’ big ears is evident by his straight-forward cover of what the late Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson would introduce as the dog song, “Bow Wow.” Loomis mixes some playing more suggestive of Watson with other that is more frenetic blues-rock and guitar oriented with a nice jam solo. Also included is an rocking tribute to his late friend, Bo Diddley This medley of “Bo Diddley” and “Who Do You Love,” starts with the Bo Diddley Beat before shifting gears for some hard Texas funk near the end. The CD closes with a lively bonus track, “Turnin’ Heads,” about a fine looking lady who causes the men to turn heads with a solo break that has Doyle and the group quoting of the “Second Line” before conjuring up some other blues and rock grooves.

The appeal of Hamilton Loomis’ music isn’t simply for those who want rocking blues or bluesy rock. A fine songwriter who also brings his own touch to songs he interprets, Loomis also sings soulfully and can rock out as a guitarist yet also swings. As someone whose tastes are perhaps more traditionally rooted, this listener was suitably impressed by all aspects of the music on “Live in England” from Hamilton Loomis and his exceptional band.

For FTC regulations purposes, this CD was received from the publicity firm handling this CD. This review originally appealed in Jazz & Blues Report Issue 324 (March 1 - April 15 2010).

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