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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nick Moss: Sparse Winter Blues

Like most of America, Chicago's Nick Moss is trying to tough out a long cold winter in slow economic times. And the talented guitar player ought to know first-hand how rough it is out there: Live entertainment along with the food service industry (bars, restaurants, catering) are usually the first to feel the effects of a tight budget. As imperative as it seems in the winter, for some getting out to see live music is a jaunt they might have to postpone for a month or two. For as in-demand as this young Chicago blues player has been for the past ten years, his have gigs slowed down a lot more this past year. "In the Midwest things grind to a halt in the winter. But this time my schedule slowed down back in October which is a whole month earlier than previous years. For the past ten years I would have weeks go by where I would be working a full schedule. Now I have three week layoffs with not one single gig," Moss says from his home near Chicago. Nick Moss and his outstanding band the Flip Tops will be doing their part to shake off the winter blahs when they appear at the WYCE-FM, West Michigan Blues Society, and Billy's Lounge presentation of the first Cabin Fever Blues Series of 2009 on Feb. 7. Although Moss has performed with Buddy Guy, Jimmy Rogers, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Lynwood Slim, among others, it is the collective talent of his band which puts Nick above the rest. The Flip Tops consist of drummer Bob Carter (one of the best in the business, formerly of the Mighty Blue Kings), pianist/bassist Willie Oshawny (who could be a show all by himself), and Gerry Hundt on mandolin and guitar. Their muscular sound has a totally danceable rock and roll element but they can also finesse their way through the deep soul slower numbers. Look out for the stripped down portion of the show with Nick paired up with only one other band mate. Not all is a downer for Moss: He just firmed up an overseas trip to Riga, Latvia, and he has in the can the second installment of live recordings he did at Chan's Eggrolls & Jazz Chinese restaurant. Plus a 2009 Blues Music Awards nomination for Band of the Year, for an incredible third year in a row. With the cold month of January behind us, Moss looks ramp up for a month of gigs in February starting with a return appearance at Billy's, where previously the Flip Tops where the back up band for local harp player Hank "The Hawk" Mowery. In good times, Nick started his own record label, Blue Bella, where he recorded his own band along with Indiana harmonica master Bill Lupkin and blues mandolin player Gerry Hundt. "We're not a traditional label with a powerhouse roster or anything like that. For me it's more like a side project mostly for fun. Blue Bella is for recording the people whose music I think is worth something," Moss says modestly. Moss has performed previously in Grand Rapids at the Rhythm Kitchen Cafe (New Years Eve 2000), Blues on the Mall, and Celebration on the Grand. What you're in store for at Billy's on Saturday is the present and future of Chicago blues, the world renown brand of roots music that spawned rock and roll. "It will pick back up,"Moss says of the slowdown."Whenever we elect a new president there is an upswing of positive good-will that you can feel. We're just hoping to catch some of what is left of that while we're still slow on gigs. My booking agent tells me the summer festival season looks good for business. I'm looking forward to that."

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