“That’s how it started, the situation of being home, the label reaching out, and we’ve always felt pretty connected to Hound Dog’s music.”
New England has a long history when it comes to blues music. The likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters frequented clubs like Paul’s Mall in the ’60s, with acts like Johnny A., Roomful Of Blues, and the J. Geils Band put the region on the map in its own right within a musical style that’s much more synonymous with cities like Memphis.
Since around the start of last decade, there has been a resurgence of blues in the area, with Boston’s GA-20 being one of the acts at the forefront of it. The talented trio of guitarists Matthew Stubbs and Pat Faherty with drummer Tim Carman put a fresh spin on a classic electric sound which has made them a must-see live act.
People will get to see what the fuss is all about when the band headlines a show at Brighton Music Hall in Allston on Dec 17 with Brooklyn Americana act the National Reserve and Tyler-James Kelly from the Providence blues rock act the Silks sharing the bill.
Stubbs and I spoke ahead of the gig about putting out an album over the summer that pays tribute to both an anniversary and a legendary musician, a photo of a cigarette machine, building a home recording studio, and a bunch of other records that’ll be released next year.
Try It…You Might Like It, which came out in August, consists of renditions of songs written and performed by the Chicago blues legend Hound Dog Taylor. Who had the idea to do this kind of album?
The idea came about during the pandemic a little over a year ago in July. The owner of Alligator Records, Bruce Iglauer, emailed me about working with GA-20 to do a project. It wasn’t specifically about Hound Dog Taylor, he was just looking to work with us after the last time we came through Chicago. Bruce started Alligator Records 50 years ago to put out Hound Dog’s first record in 1971, so that’s a little backstory there. We couldn’t necessarily sign with Alligator when he called us because we’re already committed to Colemine Records out of Loveland, Ohio but there was an opportunity to somehow work with Alligator and Bruce so I cooked up the idea of doing a project where both labels could contribute and work together in a partnership.
It happened to be the 50th anniversary and we had a bunch of time off because of the pandemic so I pitched the idea to Bruce and Colemine and after a couple meetings both labels dug the idea so we got to work. That’s how it started, the situation of being home, the label reaching out, and we’ve always felt pretty connected to Hound Dog’s music.
I can definitely notice the connection too with you guys having an electric blues sound and Hound Dog being one of the pioneers of it. How did you go about choosing the songs for the album? Did you go searching through some archives or did you already have the songs on hand in a vinyl record or mp3s?
I ended up producing the record so for me, I like all of Hound Dog’s stuff but two records of his that always spoke to me were his two first records on Alligator, Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers & Natural Boogie, so we kind of started there. Like I said, we had a lot of downtime and this was probably late summer and early fall so Tim and Pat came over to my house. I have a screened up porch in the front, we each had ideas for a couple songs mostly from those first two records and we jammed them out to see which ones felt good while having the energy of those first two records. We’re never going to sound exactly like Hound Dog but we’re trying to get the spirit of those records which is kind of live and wild. We ran through different songs and we picked the ones that felt the best.
Before the release of that album, you released the singles “No No” and “Two In The Ground” back in April and May. Where were these singles recorded, were they done at your house? What inspired the use of a cigarette vending machine as a cover for both singles?
The Hound Dog record and those two singles were all recorded when we decided to do the record. During that time off I ended up building a studio at my house so all that stuff was recorded there. After we recorded the Hound Dog stuff, it was coming out on vinyl and everything which takes a while to get it out there so we decided to do a couple originals and release them as digital singles in the meantime. The cigarette vending machine is a picture my girlfriend took when we were on tour in Jacksonville, Florida. She’s always taking pictures on the road with the band and stuff and we’ve always liked that photo so we put it up there.
When those songs came out, it was announced that there are 4 LPs that have been recorded, finished and chillin’ in the vault. When can we expect those other albums to come out?
The next record, which will be all original stuff, was actually recorded before the Hound Dog album and it’s looking like it’ll be released in May next year. Following that, we have a live record we recorded in Loveland and that’ll be a full LP due out in November of 2022 as well.
This is still depending on everything going smoothly with the releases, records getting pressed in time and whatnot.
Especially with the supply chain these days when it comes to vinyls, it feels like a lot of people are either waiting to get or feeling uncertain about getting the final masters in the mail. It’s understandable how you’d feel that way. What are your thoughts going into the upcoming show at Brighton Music Hall?
We barely played live for over a year and a half other than a couple outdoor shows we did, so I would say that playing live feels better than it’s ever felt. We did 25 dates from the end of September to early November and after being home for a week we went back on the road with shows all the way out to the West Coast. The night before our show on Friday we’re going to be playing at the Met in Pawtucket and obviously we want everything to be safe. I know both upcoming shows are vax required and I like that, it makes it feel a little safer and it feels good to be back out and playing.
GA-20 at Brighton Music Hall. Fri, Dec 17. Tickets at livenation.com.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Brooklyn Rail, The Providence Journal, The Newport Daily News, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, New Noise Magazine, Flood Magazine and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.