So, given all that, Project Percolator’s presence at the 2013 Mystic Blues Festival in Mystic, CT was no surprise. The blues are just another course in their smorgasbord of sound – and this set from 6/28/13 proves Weider and company know how to dole out their blues in a number of different flavors.
Drummer Rodney Holmes has been Weider’s collaborator since the early days of Project Percolator, with a revolving cast of players much like Phil Lesh’s various Friends. Bassist Steve Lucas has been Holmes’ wingman for a number of years now: as fearless, funky and fierce as the situation calls for. Whereas Weider has usually had another guitarist to spar with (Percolator alumni include Mitch Stein and Avi Bortnick), the 6/28/13 show saw Clifford Carter sitting in on keys, offering up new paths for Weider to travel. And special guest for the Mystic festival performance was bluesman Hook Herrera on vocals and harp – a departure from Percolator’s usual all-instrumental format.
The set is a total blues sandwich, with a mix of Herrera originals and some old standards bookended by a pair of draw-off-and-let-it-fly jams. “You’re A Great Girl” eases things off on a funky glide, Holmes and Lucas building a launch pad for the rest of the ensemble’s liftoff. Herrera is there from the get-go: there are no vocals on “Great Girl” but he lets his harp do the talking with cool-as-hell chuffs and wails, building to a wild spiral of sound. Carter’s first solo of the night is total Sunday morning smoothness, giving way to a quick minor-flavored passage in the final seconds to transition to Weider’s angular workout. Applying a bit of wah pedal for flavoring and accents, Weider works his way into a powerful flurry – and then just as quickly retreats to let the song close. (The good ones know not to show too much too soon, boys and girls.)
The band proves their blues credentials with a run of tunes that begins with Herrera’s Chicago-style “No Matter What I Do”. For all the wild voicings that Carter pulls out of his keys during the set, his playing on this song simply nails the vibe of spilt beer on the yellowed keys of an old upright – raw and perfect. It’s cool to hear the Lucas/Holmes powerhouse settle into this selection of grooves – from the raunch of Willie Dixon’s “Bring It On Home” to the goofy-grinned rave-up of “You Know It Ain’t Right”. Herrera is the real thing: his vocals range from switchblade smooth to greasy growl, while his harp work is a combination of classic wails and moans with powerful rhythm chugs and intricately-delivered phrases.
And then there’s Weider, who cut his teeth on the blues many moons ago. At times, he tucks in with Lucas and Holmes to support the groove; other times he’s out front, sounding like a psychedelicized Hubert Sumlin (“Bring It On Home”) or channeling some of Roy Buchanan’s wild side in a squall of blistering bends and crazed harmonics (“Southside Women”).
Don’t stop now: click here to read the conclusion of my Jim Weider and Project Percolator review over at Jambands.com