Get this crazy baby off my head!


The Art Steele Blues Band

The Art Steele Blues Band - Ten Times As Live - 1991 - Jovee Records


Guitarist Art Steele Contemplates Tradition and Evolution in the Blues - "It's a music of cracks," says Art Steele, who's been playing the blues for decades. "It really can't be written down precisely. Someone has to show you or you have to listen to it. If you wrote it down and gave it to 25 people you'd get 25 different things. "You're working syncopated rhythms and fractions of beats and fractions of pitches, working in quarter-tones and less, and bending notes. What the music expects is that you'll bring to it how you feel that day. It'll be different every time, and you're making a personal statement each time. "This music for me has retained its strength for years and years because it changes all the time, and each time through you're expected to change it every time. You're always looking for a new crack to slip into. Other music offers more chords, but the blues offers you a tradition where change is the cover charge for playing the music. "In that way, I consider it a living music, one of the highest. You're not learning pieces, you're feeling the blues, you're feeling it. You don't know what something is going to be before you launch into it. The audience gets surprised, and often you get surprised. When you're playing in a band, everybody is with everybody to push and challenge. It's not like you have some passive people just to provide rhythm, everyone in the band is a band leader. "What I like to say is that if you put blues into any music it becomes blues, and you can take any music and stick it into blues, and it stays blues. It's a very virile form. "It's a very highly literary music. Blues is metaphor. It's metaphor, metaphor, metaphor, and a lot of times sexual innuendo. It uses all the functions of very articulate knowledge of the English language and application and then delivers it at Cruise missile rhythm. "A lot of people complain that blues musicians mumble, but the diction is very advanced. The rhythms cause the words to break, and if you listen to what they're doing, it's not mumbling, it's that the diction is dictated by the rhythm. Also, when people break language in blues, it becomes an index to emotion. The poetry is extraordinary." Art Steele plays every Tuesday at the Rt. 63 Roadhouse in Millers Falls from 7-11 p.m. He's also playing this Saturday, April 3, at Bishop's Lounge, 40 Pearl St., in Northampton from 8-12 p.m. by Daniel Oppenheimer, from the Valley Advocate- April 1, 2004 [ from www.artsteele.com ]

Amazingly, this album was recorded live on two - track digital im May, June and July at five clubs in Western Massachussets, Southern New Hampshire, and the Vermont areas. There is no overdubbing, remixing, studio tricks, or second chances. Considering these factors, the sound and mucianship on "Ten Times As Live" is first class. A very good album of classic blues covers from a relatively unknown band. Any info on Art Steele / band members, would be very much appreciated by A.O.O.F.C


1 I'm Tore Down - Freddy King
2 Double Trouble - Otis Rush
3 I Want You To Be My Baby - L.Jordan
4 Too Tired - J.Watson
5 Crosscut Saw - Albert King
6 Checkin' On My Baby - Sonny Boy Williamson
7 Little Red Rooster - Willie Dixon
8 Help Me - Sonny Boy Williamson
9 Mother Earth Blues - Peter Chatman
10 Chicken Shack - John Walker


Art Steele - Guitar, Vocals
Bob Wrzenski - Bass
Greg Lent - Sax.
Shelton Laster - Keyboards
Neil Zagorin - Drums


Art Steele's very first guitar was a Montgomery Ward Jumbo Western flat Top Acoustic that came into his possession when he was 12 years old. "I decided that I wanted it to be an electric so I went to the music store and put a pick-up on layaway," he remembered. "The pick-up cost $32.50 and it took me an entire summer to pay for it." That guitar was the first step in Art Steele's musical evolution. For a quarter of a century, the blues guitarist has been a staple on the New England scene. The Sunderland, Mass resident is truly a renaissance man splitting his time between working as a musician, and moonlighting as an author, designer, and businessman. Along with an overloaded touring schedule with The Art Steele Blues Band, he owns and operates his own sound company, delves into speaker design, and tours as the sound engineer and technical director for the legendary Sweet Honey in the Rock. Steele has had a working relationship with the group sincel978 and last June embarked on an overseas tow to such exotic lands as China, Copenhagen, and Singapore. Steele has also contributed a chapter to the group's just released biography ` We Who Believe In Freedom." The one constant in this jack-of-all-trades routine is his commitment to the blues. Blues is like religion for Steele and he has carried the mantle with fervor and zeal. Listening to him discuss or play the blues is akin to sitting in a pew as the sounds of a sermon rain down upon your soul. "I consider myself to be very spiritual even though I don't go to any particular church, he says. "Practicing religion to me is humility and openness and doing what makes you feel closest to the mostest. For me that is at the point of playing, when I am totally disconnected, going strictly on feel, and showing people who I am. That's when all the barriers seem to fall down. The guitar connects to a whole new power cell in me. I feel like I'm doing something important, like I have something to say. Playing guitar is as close as I get to religion, spiritualism, and magic." Steele combines the same facets of simplicity and intensity in speech as he does in a gut wrenching solo. Steele is striking chords and bending notes as he describes his music in "pastels, not priniaiy colors," and explains the "gestalt" involved with a live performance. "When we play we want to sweep people into our framework, paint a picture in their head and a feeling in their heart." (from Meet Art Steele - [from a 1996 interview with Donnie Moorehouse for BLUESWIRE magazine. Copyright Art Steele 2004 [www.artsteele.com ]

Art Steele looks remarkably young for a man who been on this earth for 43 years, many of which have been on the road. His outlook is fresh, his demeanor vibrant, and his expression almost childlike as he discusses his latest axe, a 1937 Epiphone hollow body. The finish on the guitar is worn from years of sweat and blood playing. The tall, angular musician cradles the instrument in his hands as he talks about how it called to him from the back of a music store. There are no numbers on the volume control," he points Out. Just `soft, medium, or loud.' And the tone button reads mellow, normal, or brilliant. It always tends to be towards loud and brilliant." Steele's indoctrination to the blues began in the 60's after listening to Savoy Brown and John Mayall. After seeking out the source of that music he found himself enraptured with the likes of A]bert King and Earl Hooker. "1 like the stuff with a little more edge, he says. But I don't believe in patterning myself after someone else. I think the highest praise you can give to the music is what part of yourself that you bring to it." Steele formed his first band solely for the purpose of learning how to play lead guitar. His approach to the instrument and the genre is grounded in one basic tenet which he recites as if it were his creed. "Honesty," he says with unbridled conviction. You know how some things will have that USDA stamp of approval 7 You'll never get that in the blues unless your dead-on honest. It doesn't have to do with chops. It has to do with whether or not people believe what your playing. If you're predictable, and your playing cliches, then there has been a lapse in your honesty. As a white guitar player in a medium that was born out of the black experience, Steele is likely to raise some red flags among sceptics when he talks about honesty and experience." But Steele has an answer for those naysayers, one that is delivered with sincerity and passion Blues is not rated on color it is rated on power, he replies without missing a beat. The form was a gift of the black experience. It should be cherished and disseminated as widely as possible. It's authenticity will be determined by the listeners." Steele continues, speaking as if complete awareness is were the only acceptable goal. "Part of playing the blues is knowing where it caine from and then taking it beyond that What the music demands is that you change it everytirne. You acknowledge the history, respect the origin, and play the reality." Steele has invested a great deal of time studying the origins of the blues He spent two years as an archivist for the Smithsonian Institute in Washington,D .C., recording seminars on blues music and hanging out with the likes of Memphis Slim, and B.B. King. "The seminars were responsible for bringing blues scholars and the purveyors of the blues together in the same room," he said. "It was a great experience, being there as B .B. King explained his technique in front of these people. He talked about playing to the chord in front of the one that was being heard, and in effect, building a bridge to the next chord. These are things that I knew on a very visceral level, but to hear him talk about it is amazing" The Art Steele Band has undergone several variations through the years and the current roster includes blues veterans Shelton Laster on keyboards and Billy Arnold on drums, and Greg Lent playing horns. The band has been popping up around town as a trio of late, playing with keyboards and drums, and Steele himself has been known to do the odd `unplugged "performance. ` There is something universal about efficiency," says Steele in an effort to explain the occasional downsizing. "There are situations where being in a band is like a gas guzzling car," he said. "There may be a certain power to an 8 cylinder but you have to decide if you can get where your going in a 4 cylinder.' With Laster and Arnold chugging along like a south bound Elkhorn Special, Steele's analogy is flattened like a coin on a rail. Playing a mid-week show at the Roadhouse in western Mass, the two players sound utterly orchestral as they course through blues standards, setting Steele up for his lead. Taking his cue, Steele steps off the small stage, walks directly up to a table, and spills the history, origins, and a little of himself right into their laps. "My learning crucible has always been playing in front of people," he says. "I didn't learn how to play guitar by locking myself in a room for five years. I learned by locking myself in a club thll of people. You take the risk and expose yourself and ask them to take it or leave it. MI the while, you're hoping that they take it." "Blues is testimony. he continues. When your playing, you are the authority on how you feel and what you believe and no one can discount that. You put out your voice and say this is me No apologies. Steele took the same approach to the only recording he has released to date, a live CD entitled Ten Times As Live. Recorded at various regional clubs, the CD is another example of the guitarists basic philosophy. I wanted a record that could be played over and over without being predictable, he said. " I wasnt overly concerned with the mix or the precision as I was about the emotional feel To me that was more important than the sound quality. My mission is to make the music evocative, not derivative," he said. Most blues bands state the blues when they play, we want to use the blues to state what we are feeling. We want to be rooted in the art and magic of the music rather than the science.' Steele begins to play the orphaned Epiphone that he rescued from that music store seven years ago. The stage lights reflect off of a small silver plate at the center of the guitar, a piece of cosmetic electroplating, used to cover a hole made when the pick up was moved. The legend that is emblazoned across the plate, bordered by lighting bolts and bouyed by a rising sun, reads Magic Electro. He winks at his visitor to assure that the significance is not overlooked. Its an amazing piece, Steele says. Its all I play. (from Meet Art Steele - [from a 1996 interview with Donnie Moorehouse for BLUESWIRE magazine.][ www.artsteele.com ] Copyright Art Steele 2004