I’m always delighted when an artist contacts me through hearing the show of stumbling onto us on Facebook. Ron Fetner, the guitarist, vocalist, and driving force behind a Virginia-based band found us and sent me a copy of the band’s first effort, the self-titled BlueHouse Project.
You have to know that whenever a band based in my home state gets in touch with me, they move to the top of the ladder very quickly. That’s a big hint for the rest of you Virginia Bands!
After the first listen to the album, I was pretty well hooked. They have an interesting blend of sounds and seem very comfortable with rocking numbers, quiet sentimental blues, and even a flat-out instrumental. Even though this is the first effort by the four key members of the band, it is definitely not their first radio.
The four guys who make up the band are Ron Fetner on guitar and vocals; Mike Tramonte on keyboards, piano, and vocals; Tom McCarthy on bass and vocals; and Corey Holland on drums. The saxophones are handled by Mike Caffi and Bobby Read on three tracks each, and Scott Ramminger on two. Fetner is also the songwriter for all eleven of the album’s songs.
Special guests on the album include Mark Wenner from the Nighthawks playing harp on two numbers; Tim Tanner on guitar, slide guitar, and vocal; Randy Short on drums for two numbers; Rich Ridofino on bass for two numbers; Jordan Ponzi on upright bass for two numbers; and Tom Dikon on harp.
The very cool swamp flavored Piece Of My Heart starts off the album. And while most of the old guard probably would shy away from using the words “cell phone” in the opening line of the song, we all know the blues change. They are universal and adapt to their times. It’s a strong song and a good way to start it off. Nice sax break by Bobby Read.
The follow up song, Black Widow Spider, features Nighthawks front man and master harpist, Mark Wenner, in the first of two appearances. It’s a swinging number with some very dark lyrics. This will be the first song we play on Time For The Blues.
I Can’t Lose These Blues starts off with a very mellow sound behind Tramonte’s keyboards. It’s a slow number that is greatly aided by Mike Caffi’s sax. It’s beautiful, quiet, and more than a little heartbreaking.
Wenner and his magical harps are back for White Cotton. It’s the band’s version of some country blues – they are demonstrating that they are at home in just about every sub-genre of the blues. Tim Tanner adds some nice slide guitar to the song.
They pick up the tempo with Coal Mine, a song with more than a little rock beneath the lyrics. That’s not some kind of geological pun in case you were wondering – just a mix of genres to create their own sound.
The next song is the haunting Newport Blue. Fetner adds a mandolin to the mix – I don’t see who played it, but I’m guessing it was Fetner himself – and the song takes on a Mississippi String Band feel. It’s a sweet blue song, one of lost love. Beautiful number.
Changing the feel of the album close to 180 degrees, the band then launches into the instrumental Uptown Strut. It’s not as raucous as it could be, but you can tell the band is having a good time jamming. Fetner’s guitar plays well against Tramonte’s keyboards. I can’t tell who plays sax, but I recognize Tanner’s guitar lead. Fun times.
BlueHouse then shifts gears down with It’s A Good Thing. The song is a fairly straight forward blues-rock hybrid. The harmonies are good and Holland’s drums have a stronger presence in this song.
There’s a little more country on Play You The Blues, and that makes this a fairly accessible song. I like its simplicity and it works well as a solo or duo piece. This will be the second or third song we play on the show – it’s a good quiet number that has a good hook and plenty of sentiment.
Next up is the blue collar driving number, Going Down To Texas. This is one that’s got to be a hit when performed live. It’s got a full party behind the song and when they can stretch out, I bet it’s great. Read and Ramminger both add some sax appeal to the song.
The album closes out with Black Cat Blues (For Velvet). It’s another quiet song with an old-school sound. The opening is almost spoken word as opposed to singing but the guitar work is very strong. There’s a harp in the mix, that’s played by Tom Dikon. It’s not Wenner’s pyrotechnics, just a few notes here and there that are very effective and add a little spice. Cool song, very low key.
The members of the band are scattered around the Old Dominion. Some are in Northern Virginia, Fetner is in the Piedmont area, and they are all involved in other projects. I’m not sure how many opportunities we’re going to have to catch them live, so we should all check out their website at http://www.bluehouse-project.com/.
Even with their involvement with other bands and other commitments, I hope they will find the time to record a follow up to this very promising album. Fetner is a strong songwriter, and the various players work well together. It’s an all around winning combination.