Tangiers Blues Band

The Hall at MP / Brooklyn, NY

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos by Lou Montesano

Music fans who prefer their rock ‘n’ roll pure and unadorned might be wary, but it shouldn’t take long to warm up to the Tangiers Blues Band. There’s some definite schtick here in the form of wardrobe and posturing, but the core members are smart musicologists and solid players who probably own lots of vintage vinyl and savor the deep cuts you either don’t know or have forgotten. Add the frisson of a celeb connection in the form of harpist and vocalist Danny Clinch — who’s better known as one of rock’s most acclaimed photographers — and you have the makings of a fun night rocking to reinvented covers of
classic tunes.

In addition to Clinch, the Tangiers Blues Band features the sartorially audacious front man King on vocals and guitar, Chris Scianni on lead guitar and Dave Sellar on bass. Other musicians drop in and out depending on scheduling, but friends such as guitarist Matt Rae and keyboardist Peter Levin often share the bill and sit in over the course of the evening. Such was the case on a Friday night at The Hall at MP, a relatively new performance space on Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg.

For any other band, it would be a surprise to kick things off with a blues-strut version of Lou Reed’s “I’m Waiting For The Man,” but with the TBB, you have to expect the unexpected. And that’s how the set worked — a tour through a vast record collection, with extra-terrestrial arrangements that surprised and baffled. Bo Diddley’s “Can’t Judge A Book” veered into a dirty blues jam, with guitar licks that hinted of Mick Taylor-era Stones, before landing back in the Bo-Did groove. Peter Levin sat in for the rest of the evening on keyboard and Hammond organ, and helped Clinch offer up a punchy version of Tommy Tucker’s “High Heeled Sneakers.” The band reached back to the great Buffalo Springfield songbook for Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul,” with Levin adding calliope keyboards. The driving Mr. Soul melded into a funky take on Stretch’s “Why Did You Do It,” one of those deeps cuts you’d know only if you were into ‘70s Brit Pop or worked in a record store back then.

From Lou Reed to Bo Diddley to Neil Young to Brit Pop, nothing seemed too far afield for TBB. Why not some classic country — say, Merle Haggard? Sure enough, they served up “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down,” one of the great bar band “message” songs of all time, with opening act Matt Rae throwing down some hot Telecaster licks. Another not-so-hidden message followed with Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” and its timeless insistence that “everybody must get stoned.” Slim Harpo’s vamp, “Hip Shake Baby,” gave Clinch and a guest the chance to blow double trouble out of their hot-miked harps before the set closed with a jump blues version of “Fight For The Right To Party” — probably not the right most Americans are worried about fighting for at the moment, but who doesn’t love the Beastie Boys?

The Tangiers Blues Band is what’s known as a “kicks band”— talented working dudes who love the music and play for kicks. Judging by the set presented in Brooklyn, TBB is having a ton of fun —and so are their fans.

—Peter Jurew

Got something to say?