New Blood courses through Ricci’s veins

Saturday, Jan. 19
Zach Deputy is a not-quite-one-man band. He’s got his childhood friend Paul Kearns bouncing around bongos and congas and any number of percussion instruments.

But prepare to be amazed at the fullness of the blues/folk-cum-Caribbean fusions that’ll take over Tailgaters on Saturday. “I play synthesized guitar, so I can get any sound. Sounds like a six- or eight-piece band,” Deputy tells LEO. “And the rest, I do with my mouth.” The description seems like busking for the 21st century.

The synthesized-arrangements basis for the duo format was “nothing I meant to do. I never practiced it.” But, nine years after playing with his first band (“Hilton Head resort — a good place to put out a tip jar. People from all over the world are there”), Deputy’s about to put out his first studio album.

Previous releases were pulled from live sets, and although the vocals, instruments and percussion are all multi-tracked on the new material, the singer says, “It’s harder in the studio to match the energy. Gotta feel it 10 times more.” It’s no surprise that, whether on a bit of reggae-flavored philosophy like “Why Oh Why” or the snappy autobiographical “Bluffton,” Deputy can fill up a groove with an infectious style that wins over audiences. The precision on the songs is a sly complement to his joyfully scruffy onstage countenance (“My beard’s like a Chia pet — it just keeps growing.”)

Tailgaters is at 2787 S. Floyd. Tickets are $5 (ladies free). Doors open at 8 p.m., but the 18+ show starts up at 11. Call 637-1881.

Sunday, Jan. 20
David McMillin was a Louisvillian for a while, but you might not have noticed. The young folk-rocker says he lived in St. Matthews for maybe two months. Though he misses Third Avenue Café and BBC, he says, “I spend more time at home now that I’m in Chicago.” McMillin is back in town to support Martin Sexton’s appearance at Headliners on Sunday night.

We hope he’ll return excited, but there’s evidence that we don’t want him getting too excited. At the height of the holidays, after suddenly being pulled west to open for a couple of gigs for Third Eye Blind, McMillin flew back to O’Hare and promptly collapsed over by the luggage carousels. “Not the greatest day,” he says, thanking the anonymous soul standing next to him who called the ambulance.

McMillin’s acoustic often joins piano, drums and bass, and occasionally a second guitarist, but for his sets with Sexton, “It’s just me and then Martin just playing solo.”

What’s the result of mixing up the makeup of the band that’s playing your song? “From the stage, you get different crowd interactions playing with all your friends around than when it’s just you. I’m probably playing quite a few solo dates in the next couple of months.”

Whether he feels the need to show how he can make songs work differently with the varying arrangements, two releases will show off different sides of McMillin. A solo EP, Finer Points, will be out sometime around his appearance in town. Not too long afterward is the full-length, full-band follow-up Heartsteady. The disc’s April 1 release will be the harbinger of new dates with a full quartet. McMillin’s startup time at Headliners (1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088) is 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Tuesday, Jan. 22

“Lots of people would gladly tell me when I’m not playing the blues,” says Jason Ricci. Fortunately, the harmonica player has always known better than to be anxious about whether he was playing to a particular category.

“It’s not been my goal to define the music,” he says. Now that his ensemble, New Blood, continue to gather support, Ricci can watch his act’s growth with smiles and a ready candor.

He and his guitar/bass/drums cohorts should be in fine spirits at Stevie Ray’s on Tuesday night. Ricci likes to think that the band’s turned quite a few corners through their sweat and determination.

“We played 319 shows in 2006. A lot of little sports bars. Listen, the quality of a band that plays 300 gigs is tight! But it used to be the same 50 songs, and even though no two of our shows are the same, it gets to be like hanging drywall, if you know what I mean.”

Ricci keenly observes how the harmonica is used in popular song and takes an inclusive view of what gets done whenever the instrument is pulled out of famous pockets. Ricci can relate to how musicians want to imbue their material with extra character, even if they “border on not knowing how to play.”

A surprise favorite of this accomplished musician is Steven Tyler of Aerosmith (“Great. Not because he’s got such great chops; it’s because of his feel”). Ricci knows that “feel” is a golden ticket for some, but it’s not necessarily his own fate. “The more technical you get on the instrument, the more you limit your audience.”

From his teenage days gigging with Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside, Ricci’s made his name with solid performances that accumulated into an expansive style. He can see his band’s commonalities with North Mississippi Allstars (“They started with a primitive, but not simplistic or easy style”), Derek Trucks Band (with jams that’ll go into jazz and Eastern music, but “comes from a blues canvas”) and Gov’t Mule.

“We’re getting a lot of tapers. About 10 percent of our shows are going on the web now,” Ricci says. “And my opinion is that that group buys CDs and is supportive.”
Your opportunity to support is Tuesday. Stevie Ray’s is at 230 E. Main. Doors open at 6 p.m., Call 582-9945.

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