I’ve always had kind of a weak spot for bar bands. I guess I spent too many years working with different ones, so when I hear that crunchy sound that is honed over years of playing on small stages over the roar of crowds clanking beer bottles in time to the music, I get a little misty eyed. It’s a tough existence, but that’s the way everybody learns how to make that crossover from performer to entertainer.
Sometimes it’s just not enough to be a good or even a great player, you have to give the audience that something extra to make them want to keep coming back to see you. I can name off a number of bands that made that transition and I bet if you think about it, you could add another few dozen to the list.
On their second album, FROM HERO TO ZERO, The Bob Lanza Blues Band is in the process of making that transition. They’re very loyal to their roots and I bet that they rock any club or festival that has them play. Heck, I would love to see them live – they have a terrific sound; Lanza’s guitar and vocals are good and Steve Krase rocks the harp like nobody’s business and I know they can whip a crowd into a frenzy.
Besides Lanza and Krase, the musicians on the album include the wonderful Trudy Lynn providing background vocals; Jake O’Handley on drums; “Mild” Bill Lagreca playing bass; Dan Skye playing bass on one song and adding background vocals; Ed “Doc” Wall and Randy Wall on keys; Jimmy Smith on banter; and Mike V on Rubboard.
The album starts off with a solid groove on For Loving You. This is the kind of song that gets the audience moving right away. Lanza’s guitar work is on display and the song sounds a bit like a George Thorogood number with the driving beat.
The band goes a little honkytonk with All Over Again. How many times have we all made that same mistake – the one we swore we would never do again? This is Lanza’s response and Krase has a few bars to add some stellar harp work.
Lanza slows things down nicely with Love And Kindness, a song designed to let the dance floor calm down with just a chance to hold tightly onto your partner. His guitar and vocals are strong. This is a good tune and should find some airplay with those of us who get the chance to share great music with radio and internet audiences.
The title track, Hero To Zero, is a bouncy number that has some clever lyrics and a zydeco feel. Aside from the washboard percussion, Krase has a very nice extended harp break that feeds directly into the piano. You just have to have fun while listening to this one!
The band then launches into a power rendition of Ain’t Nobody’s Business with a soaring guitar over a gospel fueled organ.
Lanza ups the tempo for I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog, the story of a painful relationship. That’s one of the great themes of the blues and here Lanza digs deep to expose the hurt he’s gone through. The band drives this number and I would love to see this one live.
My Home Is A Prison starts out with a screaming guitar – is it an alarm or just the anguish being suffered while living in a prison environment? This is more of a traditional style blues song and the power and pain is palpable.
We’re swinging again with It Ain’t About Me. Lanza is in a better place after the previous two songs. Even Krase’s harp takes on a happier tone and the band provides a solid driving beat to help our narrator “take care of business.”
The album ends with Evil World, a slower, kind of swampy number that helps show just how versatile this band has become. They can play with the best of ‘em and give a great show at the same time. This band deserves to be on the radar of all blues lovers everywhere.
You can find out more about The Bob Lanza Blues Band by checking out their website at www.boblanzabluesband.com. Despite recording in Texas, he’s east coast based, but I have the distinct feeling he’s going to be doing more traveling in the future. I can’t wait to catch the band myself, they have a great sound and obvious energy. That makes for a potent show!
Lanza’s label, Connor Ray Music is based out of Houston, which has a long tradition of supporting great blues acts. The label has been looking for more independent artists and this is the second album of theirs I’ve had the pleasure to listen to. As they continue to grow their roster of artists, I’m looking forward to see how they develop and evolve – keeping the music alive takes dedication, hard work, and more than a little bit of luck.
Discover their work for yourself at www.connorraymusic.com. They’ve got some great artists signed, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from them on a regular basis.