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  • Writer's pictureLuke Wolk

Misty Blues "Outside The Lines" Review.

Artist: Misty Blues

Album: Outside The Lines

Release: 2023

Misty Blues is a powerhouse of a band that straddles blues, gospel, funk and everything in between. The newest release, Outside The Lines captures the sound of this spectacularly unique band perfectly on their 12th release. Although the band is always deeply rooted in the blues it is tough to say it's a blues album in the traditional sense. One of the things I like about this band the most is their ability to gracefully walk the fine line that divides so many subgenres of roots music. They seem to have a piece of everything in their music without it ever feeling like it’s been shoe horned in. It's funky, pocketed and very greasy.

The first track Where Your Blues Comes From comes out of the gate letting the listener know this band 100% means business. The groove is deep and executed with patience and astounding deliberation. Misty Blues is a unit that is locked and fiercely comfortable in their skin. They build and drop the dynamic effortlessly and it is unapologetically driving and unique.

Been A Long Time Coming features guitar great Eric Gales on a very funky and soulful cut. The band has a way of showcasing all of its top shelf musicianship without any musician ever struggling for the spotlight. They share the space so comfortably and are intertwined seamlessly that it's like the soundtrack to a snake pit. The den is much more lethal because of the sum of the snakes as opposed to the bite of just one.

Days of Voodoo and Laughter is another standout for me. This one is a straight blues track in structure but still somehow quite unique. It is difficult to put my finger on what makes it different from countless other songs that rely on the time tested blues form and groove. It's mellow and smoky and garnished with a wonderful instrumental pass that showcases the effortless virtuosity of the musicians.

The Hate is a track featuring a couple of guest artists, Kat Riggins and slide guitar giant Justin Johnson. Although the song comes from a terrible situation, it is haunting and quite wonderful. It's drenched in soul and sad realities, punctuated by a weeping saxophone. The Hate and Where Your Blues Come From perfectly capture the unique and deep sound of this band. They are anchored in the blues, but stretching the limits far beyond the traditional approach, while tactfully and respectfully moving the ball forward.

This album is such a unique set of music that goes from whispers to screams, using all the colors to paint a vivid picture of a band that can churn out some serious blues and roots music. The eleven songs are very diverse, taking unexpected twists and turns that leave the listener wondering what will be around the next corner, but still always sounding just like Misty Blues. It reminds me of Led Zeppelin in the way that they were able to move from hard rock to acoustic ballads while never losing the sound that made them legends. The depth and maturity in the writing and performances is glaringly apparent across the whole production. The key to their sound is just that...depth, coupled with bravado and grace. If you like roots music with deep ties to the blues you will love this band!

Core Musicians:

Gina Coleman / Vocals, Guitar, Cigar Box Guitar

Seth Fleischmann / Guitar and Vocals

Bill Patriquin / Bass, Trumpet, Vocals

Benny Kohn / Keys, Vocals

Rob Tatten / Drums, Trombone, Vocals

Aaron Dean / Saxophone

Diego Mongue / Bass, Guitar, Drums, Vocals

Featured Guests:

Eric Gales / Guitar

Petri Byrd / Vocals

Matt Cusson / Vocals

Kat Riggins / Vocals

Justin Johnson / Guitar

Check out this interview as well with lead singer Gina Coleman!

Tell us the brief history of your band or musical career. In the summer of 1999 I was asked to perform in the Williamstown Theatre Festival production of A Raisin In The Sun. That production featured the acting of Ruben Santiago Hudson, Viola Davis, Kimberly Elise and Gloria Foster. I was cast as a gospel singer. Nearing the end of the show’s run, Ruben Santiago Hudson gave me a cd collection entitled Men Are Like Streetcars. He told me that my voice was well suited for the blues and urged me to take that musical direction. I heeded his advance, and after nearly 25 years, Misty Blues has stood the test of time. Who are your musical and non-musical influences? I am most influenced by the female pioneers of the blues genre, such as Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Big Mama Thornton, Koko Taylor, and Blue Lu Barker. My non-musical influences are my family and closest friends; their stories and life circumstances have fueled my creative musings. What album has had the greatest impact on your life as a musician? The double-disc collection entitled Men Are Like Streetcars has had the greatest impact on my blues career. It contains 22 tracks featuring female blues singers from 1928 to 1969. It is the reason I became a blues artist. Had I not been introduced to that collection, I may still be performing acoustic funk. Is there a particular song that has resonated with you for a long time? Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out by Bessie Smith. It’s one of the earliest blues songs I ever performed and one that I never get tired of performing. The music is great, but its lyrical content has always held deep meaning to me. What’s your favorite accomplishment as a musician thus far? I would say managing to put out three albums during a global pandemic was a major accomplishment. Tell me about your favorite performance in your career. I have been incredibly fortunate to have numerous performances to call upon, but the one that garnered us the most recognition was our performance in the finals of the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2019 at the Orpheum Theater. What's the best piece of advice another musician ever gave you? Bob Stannard, of Bob Stannard & Those Dangerous Bluesmen, once told me, when I expressed concern about not being more widely recognized in the blues world after grinding it for nearly 25 years: “You know you made a great album and you know that you have the capability to write and sing great songs. You know this. It’s who you are. To heck with the awards engines linked to exclusive airplay stations and anyone else who can’t see what’s before them. That’s their problem. You just keep doing what you’re doing and let your music speak for itself.” What's new in the recording of your music? Well our new album was creatively fueled by some hard realizations about the industry, so I really had something poignant to say. I also allowed us to more freely tap into musical influences outside of the blues, while still maintaining a strong reference to our core genre. How has your music changed over the years? I’m leaning into the varied musical passions of my bandmates and writing more with my 19 year old son, Diego, who is becoming one of the finest musicians I know. His fresh perspective is thrilling and his penchant for all things usual have created opportunities for us to be more inventive in our approaches. What inspires you to write the music you write? It’s hard to say what inspires me to write as I’ve never really purposefully sat down with the intention to write a song for the band. Songs just flood to me with no rhyme or reason. The pattern of my windshield wiper combined with the resonance of my tires on a wet dirt road have inspired whole songs. I’ve had songs come to me in my sleep (which I do very little of), or when I’m doing the most mundane chores. Thank goodness for smart phones with voice recorders. Back in the day I would have to find a land line telephone and leave a message on my answering machine to capture songs. What made you want to play the instrument you play? Well, my primary instrument is my voice, and it's convenient as I carry it with me everywhere. About 7 years ago I was gifted a cigar box guitar by a dear friend and as soon as I tuned it, a song flooded to me that remains one of the band’s most requested songs where we live, Hear My Call. I love the raw beauty of its sound which transports you back in time. The notion that the necessity to create music bred the invention of such a wonderfully primitive instrument. How are you continuing to grow musically? We are keeping our minds open to what the blues is and can be without completely abandoning its origins. There is a line I wrote on a track on the latest album that sums it up for me... “I can still honor the past and tell my stories of the present. If I’m true my lines will last, if they're not I'll be repentant.” Are there any musicians who inspire you that are not famous? What qualities do you admire about them? Yes, there are honestly too many to name. There is an incredible community for musicians where we live in western Massachusetts, Berkshire County who inspire me on a daily basis. I am truly fortunate to occasionally have opportunities to do some side projects with them. In turn, I bring in my local musical friends into recordings with Misty Blues whenever possible. Describe your worst performance. What did you learn from this experience? We had a show where there was confusion as to what song was being played and I pushed through singing the lyrics to one song while the band was playing another. We managed to get through it without too many people recognizing something was off. I should have stopped the song and clarified what song we were playing. Audiences are very forgiving and would have understood. In fact it’s a very humanizing act to admit one's failings and that probably would have engendered even more appreciation from the audience. Tell me what your first music teacher was like. What lessons did you learn from them that you still use today? My first music teacher was Mrs. Horowitz. She taught me piano from the age of 5 to about 14. She would crack the back of my hands with a wooden ruler whenever I dropped my wrists. What I learned from her was a great disdain for playing the piano. I still have the piano from my childhood, it serves as a shelf to place my oddities that have no other place. I don’t have it tuned or the dropped keys fixed.

How would your previous band mates describe you and your work ethic?

They would probably describe me as tenacious and hard-working with high expectations for myself and the band. If you could play anywhere or with anyone in the world, where or with who would it be? I’d go anywhere on the planet to perform with Mavis Staples. I do have a handful of bucket list venues … Tipitina's, The Cotton Club, Radio City Music Hall, The Hollywood Bowl, Sydney Opera House and Royal Albert Hall. If you could change anything about the music industry today, what would it be? I expand the amount of gatekeepers, who are key to getting artists the best revenue generating airplay, festival and venue bookings. What are your biggest obstacles as a musician? My biggest obstacle is getting the exposure needed to make it to the next level of national and international recognition in our genre. What strengths do you have that you believe make you the musician you are? I refuse to relinquish my need to have our music heard and appreciated by audiences across the globe. Also refuse to pass on an opportunity to mentor talented young musicians and provide them a taste of what’s on the horizon if they stay focused and are willing to work extremely hard. Do you have any weaknesses that you're actively working to improve on? I am a painful introvert, so stage banter is my biggest albatross. I would love to keep my eyes shut and sing song after song and not utter a word, but not engaging, especially performing a genre of music that is all about storytelling. Describe your favorite and least favorite part about being a musician. My favorite part of being a musician is witnessing the palpable impact of my music on audiences; realizing the emotions I intended to evoke when writing a song were actualized. Do you have any anxiety about performing live? I wouldn’t say anxiety, but a healthy dose of butterflies. I feel being void of any nervousness is a signal that something is wrong. If you had to choose one... live performance or studio work, which do you prefer and why? Live performance. The energy I garner from a live audience makes our music better. Wish we could bring in an audience to every recording session. Describe your creative process when you write new music. I never sit down to write a song, a melody and lyrics generally flood to me at the same time. When that happens, I bring the skeletal melody and lyrics to the band and we flush out the arrangement collaboratively. Other than being a musician, what was your dream job growing up? Growing up I wanted to be a psychiatrist; I wanted to be a medical doctor without having to have to deal with blood. Give us some advice for new musicians just starting out in the industry. They should surround themselves with a trusted and brutally honest team of people, and to get out of their creative spaces and get out in front of an audience. What is your favorite piece of gear and why? That’s my Mavis by Mule Resophonic Guitars. It’s a custom made resonator guitar that my son was instrumental in raising community funds to get for me. It is the most beautiful looking and sounding instrument I have ever owned. How do you prepare for your performances and recording work? I write out very detailed notes for major performances and recording sessions, so I have all pertinent information at my fingertips. What does your practice routine consist of? We have one formal rehearsal a month to work through new songs we’d like to add to our shows. We perform a substantial amount of shows in our local area, so we are able work through a lot of songs on the fly to very forgiving audiences; they enjoy going on the creative journey with us. What do you like most about your new album? As a whole, it tells a story of our perseverance in the wake of unexpected adversity, and it's done in a way that honors our blues roots, but celebrates our other varied musical tastes. What artists do you enjoy listening to nowadays? Mavis Staples, Joe Louis Walker, Eric Gales, Tedeschi Trucks, JD Simo, Rat Riggins, The Black Keys, Bonnie Raitt, Kingfish, Tank and the Bangas and Larkin Poe to name a few. How do you promote your band and shows? I promote the band and our shows by any and every means possible. I take a leave no stone unturned approach. What is the best way to stay updated on current news; gigs, releases, etc. Our website and ReverbNation account fuel most of the content on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter social media pages. Anything you would like to share, from new merch to upcoming shows/tours or songs/albums? We have a few tours in 2023. We have a southern tour to Montgomery, AL, Birmingham, AL, Muscle Shoals, AL, Oxford, MS, Tupelo, MS and Knoxville, TN February 18-24. We are embarking on our first UK Tour June 26-July5, and we have a short run out to Chicago in early August. What's next for your band? We even intend to record our first live tribute album this year. It will be a tribute to the great Odetta. What are your interests outside of music? I really enjoyed carving wood and creating pieces of sculpture, but that was really before having kids and writing original music in earnest. Tell us a fun fact about yourself. For the past 27 years, I’ve been the head women’s rugby coach at Williams College in Williamstown, MA. Are there any artists outside of your genre that have not had much influence on your music that you enjoy? Snarky Puppy, Tuck & Patti, Celia Cruz, Tito Puentes and Hector Berlioz

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