Last Sunday afternoon, Aug. 18, I walked into a performance at the Assembly, which is nose to nose with the Crest Theater on the other side of K Street, thinking that this Sacred Steel Guitar and Blues music event about to happen – with Maria Muldaur and the Campbell Brothers, along with the Bay Area-based rural blues trio known as HowellDevine – was really going to cook. I was way wrong.
It boiled. And it wasn’t because of the high temperature and humidity abiding just outside, and so uncharacteristic of Sacramento.
What’s more, it felt out of the ordinary for me to be listening to Muldaur and the Campbell Brothers putting solid gospel blues in my ear while I sipped at my margarita (with salt). Glory!
Needless to say, HowellDevine (I’ll use the singular) was well up the road past being merely divine in the blues department, I’m here to say. These three guys: Joshua Howell (slide guitar, harmonica, vocals), Pete Devine (drums, washboard) and Joe Kyle (acoustic bass) put any blues buff back in Mississippi Hill Country with a sound that harkens back maybe seven decades. It’s been so long, it’s like something new but not really … just great and listenable. HowellDevine has been known to deftly lean into mighty fine Delta blues, too. I guess that’s why the trio was a recent Golden Gate Blues Society winner.
I used to play Muldaur on my radio show back in flyover country a few more years ago than Maria or I would care to add up. I had to swing by the Assembly and check out Ms. Muldaur some more; this time, without having to cue up a record by her on an old-fashioned turntable.
The lady has put herself in front of a gospel-and-blues steel guitar crew of men who know what the blues is all about – and then some. The Campbell Brothers defy one not to clap hands or stomp a foot or two while the guys are in the midst of some stellar picking, strumming and maintaining a strong, steady beat to that final chord. It’s called, “Can’t Keep Still Time.”
For the fun had last Sunday in Sacramento, anybody who was there needs to thank Swell Productions’ advance planning for devotees of blue-ribbon blues and gospel.
If I were you, and you were keen on this really basic, fundamental, living and breathing music, I’d keep an eye out for when Maria Muldaur with the Campbell Brothers and HowellDevine head back up and sing and play music down in the valley.
Only problem with seeing and hearing these fine artists is that the palms of my hands hurt all the way home.
Copyright © 2013 by Gary Chew. All rights reserved. Assembling for Muldaur – with the Campbell Brothers – and HowellDevine by Gary Chew