Elkhorn, WI Oct. 23 -- Yesterday, late afternoon, my neighbor and best friend called me from Elkhorn, Wisconsin's favorite watering hole, The Sports Page, and told me that I needed to get down there because a really good band was playing and it was fronted by a harmonica player. As it was Sunday afternoon and the bar in question rarely, if ever, hosted live, music, I figured there must be a new blues jam in town.
To my surprise, as I approached the door, I was blown away by some of the sweetest harp playing that I've ever heard. Once inside, I was just flat knocked down. Not only were my ears the beneficiary of a wonderful treat -- but so were my eyes. There at the mic was Geneva Red. Gentleman (and ladies), Red is a tall lithesome beauty with flowing red hair. Dressed in black hip huggers and an open-backed, black leather halter, I would have expected her to be nothing more than eye-candy in any other band. But instead, when I closed my eyes, her tone and phrasing brought to mind the great Chicago blues greats -- Little Walter, Big Walter, Sonny Boy II, and Jimmy Reed. I don't know how to describe what I was hearing yesterday and do it justice. Fat? Rich? Instead, I recommend that you visit the Geneva Red web site: www.genevared.com and get the newest CD, In The Red.
If you like the classic blues sound, my guess is that you'll love it. I'm listening to it right now. Please beware, however, the CD can't capture Red's killer smile and charismatic stage presence. Her interaction with the band and the crowd is fabulous. Here is a beautiful woman skillfully playing what is typically a man's axe (with a bow to Annie Raines, of course) and yet she makes it all seem perfectly ordinary. She flaunts neither her looks nor her skill; you just get the impression that she loves singing and playing the blues -- which she does very, very, well.
Red's band, the Roadsters, are awesome in their own right. On lead guitar was Jack Wolworth -- "Jackie 5 & Dime." Jack is not only technically impressive, but plays every note with feeling. He also is the man behind the vast majority of the band's original tunes. In addition, Jack is the guy that tweaks Red's gear. He was very open and gracious with me between sets. We talked mics, amps, tubes, and all the other gear-related stuff.
When it was al said and done, however, he proclaimed that tone mostly comes from inside. As this mirrors what has been written so many times here within the harp-l community, this really impressed me.
Also playing guitar is Floyd Murphy who, if I'm not mistaken, is the brother of Matt "Guitar" Murphy of "Blues Brothers" fame. Floyd stands up without apology in his own right. He's just plain awesome. he gives the band a firm foundation in the classic Chicago sound, playing some tasty and very soulful blues guitar. Never a wasted note. And if you get the chance to hear him sing, it shouldn't be missed.
On bass is Mark Sorlie. Three words: solid, solid, solid.
I missed the drummer's name, but as expected, he did his job well. No flash, perfect volume, and a steady beat. After the show, I had the chance to talk to Red. Like Jack, she was very open and friendly. As an endorsee, she plays Hohners exclusively: Marine Bands (of course), Special 20's, and if memory serves a Chromonica 64. She's self-taught and has been playing about eight years. As Jack told me during the course of our conversation, "this girl's just a natural." I have to agree.