Jump, jive and blues

Jump, jive and blues
June 2009
By Ossie Bladine
The Vancouver Voice

Hot off a 2007 Cascade Blues Association Muddy Award (Best Contemporary Blues Act) and a 2008 Blues Music Award nomination for Nest New Artist Debut for their first album, “Left Coast Blues,” The Insomniacs took only two days to record a full album’s worth of music for their sophomore album, “At Least I’m Not With You.” The album blends their youthful vim and vigor with an all-too-classic sound.

Portland is home to a wide array of blues musicians. Mark The Insomniacs under the pre-rock and roll bluesman. Led by guitarist and vocalist Vyasa Dodson and his emulation of 40s jump blues/jazz guitarist Charlie Christian (and the schools of musicians influenced by him), The Insomniacs channel the swing and jump eras, adding modern touches along the way.

“The blues isn’t dead,” says Dodson, 27-years-old. “It’s just going in different directions. B.B. King and Buddy Guy got started when they were young. The same thing is happening today.”

Dodsen and crew can play with humility, like the roadside blues of “Broke and Lonely,” as well as braggadocio, like the be-bop-tinged title track. The album takes a number of twists and turns, but it’s all wrapped in a 50s roots classicism. The piano wails like Jerry Lee Lewis is at the helm on “She Can Talk,” rolling instruments crash like waves on “Angry Surfer,” and the band takes on early Rhythm & Blues with Lowman Pauling’s hit, “She Can Talk.” Finally, the band sums up the repertoire with a four-minute jam session, “Insomniacs Boogie.”

This style of blues wouldn’t work without the high level of musicianship shown on the album. It takes a lot to have a glossy sound and to still capture the raw emotions of the blues. The Insomniacs do both. The rest of the band is Dean Mueller on keyboards, Alex Shakira on drums and Dave Melyan on drums.

Some Northwest blues bands put a lot of effort in standing out with alternative variances and rockier edges — Kolvane, for instance. I prefer a group like The Insomniacs, who focus on smooth, flowing compositions meant for crowds dancing the night away.
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