Get this crazy baby off my head!


D. K. Stewart

D. K. Stewart - No Excuse for the Blues - 1993 - Criminal Records

If you haven't heard D. K. Stewart and his band before, buy this record. D.K. Stewart is a big name in the N.Western USA. He has played with artists of the calibre of Buddy Guy, Willie Dixon, Albert Collins, Sonny Terry & Browny Magee, Junior Walker, Clifton Chenier, Ray Charles, Paul Butterfield, BB King, and Robert Cray. These are only a few of the greats that D.K has been associated with. You gotta be good to play with these guys, and D. K. Stewart is a sensational organist and pianist. Listen to his "Barrelhouse" piano style. This kind of music will get you movin'!. He sings the blues, "Chicago style" with a piece of New Orleans soul. The band play great rhythmic Southern blues/soul patterns, and the sax work here by Chris Mercer is really good. This guy has got to be heard by more people. Buy his amazing ""Don't Call Home" album. It's pure class. For more music in this genre, check out some of Dr.John or Proffesor Longhair albums. And there are even some similarities with Little Feat. You can't go wrong with "No Excuse for the Blues" which is HR by A.O.O.F.C


1 Junco Partner - Bob Shad
2 When I Get Lucky - Floyd Dixon
3 No Excuse for the Blues - D. K. Stewart
4 All Night Long - D. K. Stewart
5 Sky Blues - D. K. Stewart
6 Tell It - D. K. Stewart
7 Just Your Fool - Willie Dixon
8 Sweet Sunshine - D. K. Stewart
9 It's Not Rainin'- D. K. Stewart
10 I'm Just Worried - D. K. Stewart
11 Early One Mornin' - McKinley Morganfield


David Kirk Stewart - Vocals, Piano, Hammond B-3 Organ
Don Campbell - Bass, String Bass, Background Vocals
Mike Klobas - Drums, Background Vocals
Carlton Jackson - Drums
Chris Mercer - Saxes
Peter Dammann - Guitar
Lloyd Jones - Guitar (I'm Just Worried)
Esterlita Hill, Rhonda Sylvester - Background Vocals


When you step inside the Candlelight Café & Bar on a Monday night, you may think you're simply entering one of Portland's premier blues clubs. But think again. In fact, you're walking into a laboratory – a laboratory of the blues. So says D.K. Stewart, whose band the DK-4 takes over the Candlelight every Monday night. "Monday nights are a lab experiment," says Stewart. "When we play a festival, or go do a casual gig or a nightclub somewhere, we kind of stick to our book and our set list. We try to do things from the record. But Monday nights are a lab experiment, where we'll take songs that we've played for ten, fifteen years amongst us, and completely change them. I'll start out with a different rhythm, or move it to a different key signature, or something to make it sound different." These are the kind of musical gymnastics that you can engage in when you have a band composed of seasoned professionals like Don Campbell on bass, Carlton Jackson on drums and Peter Dammann on guitar – not to mention Stewart himself, a masterful piano player and an effortlessly expressive singer to boot. When you go to hear this band, you'll find yourself immersed in a groove-heavy gumbo of Chicago blues, swampy New Orleans rhythms and funky, muscular R&B that's carefully formulated to pull you out of your chair and onto the dance floor. These guys can play pretty much anything they set their minds to – a rocking, uptempo shuffle one minute; a spicy New Orleans groove the next; then a slow, rolling blues to let the folks on the dance floor have a little quality time together. And they aren't trotting out the same tired blues standards that so many bands seem to rely on – it's clear that a lot of careful thought goes into their song selection. Their set list is peppered with Howlin' Wolf, Earl King, Elmore James, Junior Parker, Buckwheat Zydeco, Professor Longhair, and even the occasional D.K. original. Almost invariably, though, they've taken those cover tunes and run them through the band's machinery to develop a new rhythmic feel, reworked melody or unique arrangement to give each song its own DK-4 signature. That's where the Monday night lab experiment comes in. And the experiment seems to be working. The DK-4 packs 'em in at the Candlelight every Monday night, and draws legions of fans at other gigs as well. In July, their set at the Waterfront Blues Festival was tagged by many as the highlight of the day. There was a palpable electricity in the air as the band led the crowd on an awe-inspiring journey through their favorite blues and R&B chestnuts, with the help of Reggie Houston on sax and even the added punch of the Texas Horns on their last few tunes. Looking back on that day, Stewart is quick to give credit to the audience for drawing such a remarkable performance out of the band. "There was just something about the energy in the air…something about that combination of people, with a crowd that was sort of expecting something," Stewart remembers. "They expected something to come from us when we hit the stage, and they sort of drew it out of us! Without the audience participation, this business sucks, as far as I'm concerned." Not surprisingly, appreciative audiences have long been clamoring for a DK-4 CD that would allow them to take a little bit of that live magic home with them. Stewart and his cohorts were smart enough to know that if their live performances had won them such ardent fans, any recording they created should attempt to duplicate that same feel rather than mask it with an over-thought, overdubbed studio sheen. "The general idea for the thing was instead of doing just what we wanted, we were kind of trying to give people what they had asked for," Stewart says. "Over the last year and a half, we've been getting asked, like for 'Bayou Girl' – 'Hey, where can we buy that? That was fun to dance to!' So we sat down and made a list of all these tunes that people had requested, and we recorded them." In order to create and reinforce an informal, live feel, the band decided to record at D.K. Stewart's house, setting up instruments and borrowed recording gear around the grand piano in his living room. Bassist Don Campbell describes the process: "We went at it like old jazz and blues guys would record – live, one take, no screwing around. If you don't nail it, move on and try something else. We did minimal overdubs. It's really a credit to these guys – D.K., Peter and Carlton – to have nailed these huge grooves in a living room in a couple of sweaty afternoons. It's a warts-and-all kind of record, but I prefer that, in the interest of copping great rhythms. It's easy to over-think the recording process, which can kill a blues record. It can suck the life right out of it." According to Carlton Jackson, the recording sessions were anything but grueling: "We laughed in the studio at Natty Rain while tracking it, and had more laughs with Dennis Carter, who brilliantly mixed the project for us over at Falcon Studios. I wouldn't trade those days and laughs for anything." These gentlemen clearly did something right, because the resulting new CD, In The House (available through Burnside Records and at www.cdbaby.com), is as skillful and engaging a blend of top-notch musicianship and a loose, live feel as one could possibly hope for. With only a few tasty organ overdubs added on top of the standard DK-4 lineup of bass, drums, guitar and piano, the disc offers a faithful depiction of what it's like to hear this band in its natural element, onstage. The playing is relaxed and natural-sounding, the solos have an exciting, unscripted feel, and Stewart's vocals come across as heartfelt and grittily authentic. While Stewart has released three previous recordings under his own name, he feels strongly that In The House may provide the best representation yet of what he's all about musically. His first release, 1985's The Sun Valley Sessions, had a primarily R&B feel, featuring songs by Irma Thomas, Joe Tex, Sam Cooke and others. He also feels in retrospect that the recording process was somewhat flawed due to time constraints. While his next recording, No Excuse For The Blues (1993), was built around a blues foundation, many of the songs were originals. As a result, Stewart feels that it doesn't quite accurately reflect the classic artists and styles that influence his playing. His third release, 1995's Don't Call Home, was even more of a departure. "That was all original, and I got into funk, straight-ahead New Orleans, Allen Toussaint-style stuff," Stewart says. "And I even crossed the line into sort of classical jazz on that one; that was really a mixture of everything I do." Regarding In The House, however, Stewart says proudly that "this one definitely belongs to the blues genre. We're paying homage on this record to Howlin' Wolf, to people that have been very influential, I think, for all of us in the band." Tracing those musical influences with Stewart is a fascinating exercise. As he recounts his introduction to the blues and his musical exploits throughout the years, it becomes clear that his role in the Eugene and Portland blues scenes has been far from minor, even if other regional names have been more visibly linked to those trends. D.K. Stewart was born in Portland, but raised primarily in Eugene. His mother was a classically-trained opera singer who had performed with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She saw to it that her son started classical piano lessons at age eight and continued for several years. In his teens, though, he began listening to blues and boogie-woogie music on the radio and was fascinated by it. He began playing the music, and jazz as well, with other local musicians. Eventually a friend introduced him to another Eugene blues enthusiast by the name of Curtis Salgado. Salgado had an extensive collection of blues records, and wasted no time sharing them with Stewart. "When Curtis and I started hanging out together, he turned me on to more of the Chicago-style piano: Otis Spann, Lafayette Leake, Hosea Lee Kennard. It made my skin crawl. I was a little white boy from Eugene, Oregon saying, 'Wow, this stuff's cool!'" Through Salgado, Stewart met Bill Rhoades, who was also living in Eugene at the time and boasted an even larger treasure trove of blues records. "Bill had a phenomenal record collection, and we drew material from him," Stewart recalls. "We'd go over to Bill's house and say, 'Hey Bill, what you got?' And Bill would turn me on to all these different piano players…Bill turned me on to one of my bigger influences, a fellow by the name of Big Maceo Merriweather, predominantly because of his left hand." The time he spent listening to Merriweather was clearly not wasted, because those in the know agree that Stewart has a remarkably agile and unrelenting left hand – not a trivial skill in the blues piano business. Don Campbell comments, "I don't think there's anybody on the contemporary scene who can touch his left hand. There are a lot of great piano players on the scene, but few that can stride and roll like he does." The solo piano break in "Shameless Boogie" from In The House offers a strong case in point. Eventually Stewart and Salgado joined the band Three Fingered Jack and enjoyed some regional success playing a mix of musical styles. That band then merged into Harold and the Nighthawks – finally just the Nighthawks upon Harold's departure – which was the group that really began to build up steam on the Eugene music scene. They were soon filling local venues and making decent money – something unheard of for a blues-tinged act at the time. Around the same time, in about 1975, a group of Eugene blues enthusiasts – Mike Moothart and Ray Varner along with Bill Rhoades, Curtis Salgado and D.K. Stewart – decided to take their appreciation of the music to a level beyond simply listening to the records. Pulling together their resources, they hatched the idea of bringing some of their idols to Eugene for small-scale blues festivals. Over the period that they ran these festivals, they managed to bring an impressive list of blues heavyweights to town: Big Walter Horton, S.P. Leary, Sonny Rhodes, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Jimmy McCracklin, Luther Tucker, Willie Dixon, Charlie Musselwhite, Albert Collins and George "Harmonica" Smith. An added perk of running the festivals was that many of the musicians would travel without a band, so the Nighthawks got the enviable opportunity to serve as their backup band. "We'd get these guys from Chicago to come out," says Stewart. "They scared the s--t out of us! I mean, these were big city cats, man! "S.P. Leary showed up with a snare drum and a cymbal – that's what he brought with him," Stewart recalls. "And when he played, he played on a snare drum and a cymbal – no bass drum, no nothin'. It sounded like a whole kit! This guy was a phenomenon. And of course he had this flask in his back pocket all the time." Stewart also has fond memories of playing behind Albert Collins. "Albert would show up with this big Quad Reverb guitar amp, and a 150-foot guitar cord. And he would just take off through the crowd. We'd be playing behind him for a half-hour, while this guy's out in front of the club flagging down cars and shaking hands and stuff. We couldn't see him; but his amp would be there…" And according to Stewart, Collins' amp was always turned up loud enough to be a potent reminder of his presence. Besides fulfilling lifelong dreams, these nights of backing up major blues stars also helped the Nighthawks to take their playing to a new level. In Stewart's opinion, "That was kind of our start as professional, hard-working musicians, and we were discovering that this was work, you had to be disciplined and patient, and just play through this stuff and let the soloist go." For Stewart, playing with these living legends cemented his musical destiny. "The experience was unprecedented as far as leading me to do blues. I mean, I was poisoned!" By now there are few Northwest blues fans who don't know the story of how the Nighthawks attracted John Belushi's attention while he was in Eugene filming "Animal House" and gave him the inspiration for the Blues Brothers act. Along with Belushi, however, a young Robert Cray also heard the buzz about the Nighthawks and traveled down from Washington state to check them out. Before long, Cray's band and the Nighthawks were sharing double bills and ripping up the Eugene area with their skillfully-played blues and R&B. In 1977, the Nighthawks band was effectively merged into the Robert Cray Band in order to provide Cray with a solid touring lineup. The resulting band consisted of Cray, Richard Cousins (bass), Curtis Salgado (harp and vocals), D.K. Stewart and Dave Olson (drums). Stewart stayed with the band for two years, touring up and down the West coast, until he finally grew disenchanted with the changing musical direction of the group and left in 1979. Stewart didn't stay idle for long, however. Soon he had joined the Paul deLay Band and was working hard alongside Portland's beloved harp blower. It was in deLay's band that Stewart first played with Don Campbell, who replaced the previous bass player soon after Stewart joined. His time in the Paul deLay Band also brought Stewart the memorable experience of touring in support of B.B. King, and even sharing the stage with King on a few occasions. After recording three albums and logging countless miles with the deLay Band, Stewart finally decided to move on in 1985. He had recorded his own album, The Sunset Valley Sessions, with members of deLay's band and wanted to form his own band to go out and play in support of it. This didn't quite work out as he'd hoped, but he had definitely moved past the Paul deLay Band and was on his own. He worked solo for some time and occasionally as a trio act, but ultimately became frustrated with the music scene and left Portland to pursue a college degree at Gonzaga University in Spokane. At Gonzaga, Stewart studied business computing and Voice Performance (Opera), ultimately graduating with honors in 1992 and earning a dual degree in the two areas of study. "It was kind of weird going back to school at age 40, and here's all these young kids…it was strange," Stewart recalls. "But on the other hand, they were very accepting. I sang bass baritone in the choir — what an incredible experience. I have to say that is the closest I've ever come to being deeply spiritual, singing in the choir. It would actually bring tears to my eyes at times. Here I am, 40 years old, and I'm singing with all these brilliant voices." After graduation, Stewart returned to Portland and again began working on his music. His goal now was to form his own band and play his own material. He put together the MFB (My F----in' Band) and was soon playing around town. During his time with the MFB, Stewart recorded his No Excuse For The Blues album and released it in 1993. In 1994, Stewart took a short break from the MFB to travel to England for several weeks with Margo Tufo's band, which included Robbie Laws and the late Phil Haxton. Like so many Portland blues musicians, Stewart has fond memories of playing and traveling with Haxton. "I feel so blessed to have been able to do that with Phil. We turned something that was not very much fun into something that was a unique adventure and a cool thing, and I think that was partly Phil's attitude…he was just a real positive guy. I really miss him." Stewart still laughs about one incident in which Haxton's good-natured attitude was put to the test: "We were playing some King's Row club in Gloucester and he was helping me take the case off the Leslie [organ amplifier] and I stumbled, and the case fell back and caught him in the eye; so he spent the last week of the tour with this big black shiner. He used to always tease me about it: 'I'm not movin' your gear anymore, Stewart!'" Stewart recorded his Don't Call Home album in 1995, and then disbanded the MFB to create a more adventurous group called Zydeblazz, whose members included Phil Haxton on bass. True to its name, this larger band (with a horn section) played a synthesis of zydeco, blues and jazz; they had a regular slot at the Candlelight from 1996 to 1998. Around 2000, Stewart took the opportunity to reunite with his old pal Curtis Salgado, and joined his band. He appeared on Salgado's 2001 Soul Activated CD and toured nationally with the band to support it. But after three years, Stewart felt that his time in the band had run its course. "It was getting to be a waste of my time to be in his band. I wasn't getting anywhere; I was just being a paid, hired gun," Stewart says. "I told him, 'Hey listen, I gotta get back to my own thing. I need to start my own band again.' So it got a little weird at the end, but any kind of relationship when you say 'I want out!' it's gonna be weird. But in the long run we parted as really good friends. I still call Curtis when I have a question about a song, or if I just wanna shoot the s--t I'll call him up and we'll talk for an hour. I still love him dearly. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything." Once he had disengaged from the Salgado band, Stewart went right to work putting together his next project. He called Don Campbell, Carlton Jackson and Peter Dammann, and the DK-4 was born. Anyone who heard the band could tell immediately what a musical powerhouse had been created through the synthesis of these four personalities. Renowned drummer Carlton Jackson comments: "I enjoy the fact that these four guys are great to work with, because they just 'get it.' Whatever it takes, whatever it is that we need to do to play this music with these four guys, well there is no struggle to get there and do it. They just figure it out." D.K. Stewart is understandably pleased with the band he's put together. As he puts it, "One of the cool things about this DK-4 band is that everybody is doing something different that lends itself towards moving the music forward, as opposed to trying to play out to feature." Stewart is all too happy to discuss the strengths of the individual players, as well… DON CAMPBELL - BASS: "He's one of the most fun bass players I've ever played with. That is one of the mainstay things about our sound in the DK4, is Don Campbell's bass. I mean, it's just so…there. Don is one of the more meter-specific bass players; he's just got really good time. Don doesn't play anything that's not necessary to make the fundamentals go on…and every once in a while, he'll throw something in just for kicks, just to let you know that he is a virtuoso, he can play. I think he's one of the most advantageous ensemble players I've ever played with, and I've played with a lot of different bass players. Don is such a team player when it comes to music. "Aside from his musicianship, Don is a tremendous writer. He brings a lot of other things to the table as far as working as a band. He's a great publicist, he handles stuff that I wouldn't have thought of; he comes up with promotional plans…amazing stuff. An essential element to the DK-4." CARLTON JACKSON - DRUMS: "Another guy that I played with on and off over many, many years. I think we go back to the '80s; I asked him to play Bumbershoot gigs with me in the '80s. Carlton and I have been in so many different bands together…he was in the Curtis band for a while with me. He's another guy that doesn't play anything that isn't actually essential to the ensemble; he doesn't overplay. He can put in a subtle accent somewhere and just completely change the groove. Carlton is the only drummer I've ever played with that listens so intently that I can actually, at the end of a song, change the rhythm, move the key signature and start another song, and he's right there. Amazing, just amazing stuff. Plus he's fun to work with, he's got a real keen sense of humor, and he's sick and twisted and demented, and I like that about him. That's why we get along." PETER DAMMANN -GUITAR: "Peter was one of the first guys that I called to come play in my rhythm section when I started in '92 after college. It's important to note that he's underrated and doesn't get a lot of attention as far as being a local guitar hero. But damn, he is one of the guys! He's been an essential element in a lot of really cool music that's happened in Portland over the years; I'm just honored that he would come play. What he says about the gig is he likes the fact that it's such an open forum, and we're not really telling him what we want out of the guitar part, and just sort of allowing him to do what he feels. And then of course, what he brings to the table is phenomenal! "Lots of times I'll be doing a left-hand comp, and he'll hear almost instantly what I'm doing and fill in the additional notes to make it fat, and do it in a guitar style. He manages to fit stuff in so well, without overplaying, and strengthening the meter. One of the cool things he does is when he solos, he will take the melody that's provided in the head of the song and work over the top of that and find a nice clean melody to go over the top – so he's actually telling a story with his solo. He's not just repeating guitar licks or finding cliché things to do; he is making a creative statement when he plays. He has a way to dig deep and get that real soulful, resonating emotional thing that will just touch a let of people. Gets you right in your gut. That's not a talent that just comes to people – that's something that's earned over years and years of playing and listening. You can tell when you sit down to play with him, he listens and listens a lot. He's just a phenomenal guitar player." With this lineup of heavy hitters, it's no surprise that the DK-4 packs such a mighty wallop, both onstage and on the new CD. There's an undeniable synergy that results from the union of four major talents like these, who at the same time are focused on working as a unit and helping each other to sound better. For Stewart, "There's nothing like that: when you're soloing and you feel the band strong behind you, supporting everything that you do, it just lends itself to being more creative with your solos." With many years of varied musical experiences behind him, D.K. Stewart is immensely pleased with his current situation, and eager to see what's ahead for the DK-4. "If I were to die tomorrow, I would still be satisfied to have been a part of this really cool music thing that's developed. It's a great entourage of folks that I get to play with in this particular band. It's a really cool collaborative effort, and I've just been really blessed to come into something that's wide open, and experimental, and creatively inspired. It's just been a very pleasant change in my career." © Pat McDougall, © 2004 Cascade Blues Association


bullfrog said...

dead link, will you please re-post, thanks

A.O.O.F.C said...

Thanks,bullfrog. New LINK for this album @ http://robius

Thanks to Robius Rockanblues