By Barb McCullough /BJFM, Marietta, Ohio
Columbus Blues Alliance BluesPaper, May-June, 2009
I’ve had this feeling, Ever since I rolled out of town
Like a slow moving freight train, I went down
I’ve got this fever and I don’t know why…
Feel like my house is on fire.”
House on Fire Lyrics © 2002, Deb Landolt
Fresh from their February, 2009, River City Ohio Blues Competition win in Marietta, Ohio, Long Tall Deb and the Drifter Kings continue to pack the house in well-known venues throughout the region including a sold-out March 28 performance at the Thirsty Ear in Columbus. Praised by fellow artists, blues critics, and a fast-growing fan base as rich in dynamics and technical skill, vocalist Deb Landolt brings a big voice and deep soul to the band’s tasty blend of Delta, Piedmont, Texas and Chicago blues, boogie-woogie, New Orleans style, and classic R & B with a generous helping of original music.
Seamlessly blending the wisdom gained from their collective experiences with fresh and youthful energy, Long Tall Deb and the Drifter Kings stages individual musicianship well crafted to complement the strength of each member in the group: Doug “New York” Oscard on drums; Melvin Powe on bass; and locally acclaimed Richey B. on guitar. Whether their dynamic and soulful live show connects to an intimate club setting or a large outdoor festival, one thing is for sure – “the stories of the blues, sincerely backed by Deb Landolt’s rich vocal quality, promises originality and depth to the lyrics as solid proof she’s familiar with the roots of the blues.” (Ken Renfrow/BJFM of Marietta, Ohio)
What sets Long Tall Deb and the Drifter Kings apart besides soulful immediacy, well-honed talent, and an eye on the prize at the International Blue Challenge in 2010? Meet the band!
Doug Oscard, on drums, came to Columbus for love but ultimately stayed for the music. As a full-time working musician from New York City, he’s played Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway shows. He signed for three years with Carrere Records and a New York band, The Method, which toured Europe for six months. In the US, Doug has toured most of the country with acts including Luther Allison, Johnny Winter, Bo Diddley, Joey Dee, Gary US Bonds, Zoot Sims, Jeremy Steig, Bobby Lewis, Alex Chilton from The Box Tops, Johnny Rivers and many more. Doug’s studio work included numerous commercials for radio and TV. Sessions with Salsoul Records recognized Doug’s expertise in Bumper to Bumper by the Avenue B Boogie Band, which reached #64 on the R & B charts. Doug worked for Tatianna Music in Newark, New Jersey. At this studio, he sampled many sounds for the Profile Record label, and worked as a studio drummer for Generation Sound in New York City. As a writer and producer for several soundtracks for Video Visits, Doug’s percussion talents were aired by the Discovery Channel. One production in particular, Welcome to Jamaica: Land of Wood and Water, won an award for best original soundtrack.
Doug’s early influences stem from his father Martin Oscard, who was lead sax player for Eddie Duchin and Sammy Kaye. Doug later studied with and was managed by Gary Chester who “changed my style of playing forever.” (www.gary-chester.com)Dubbed the “backbone that lets the band breathe,” Doug’s sharp timing powerhouses the high energy performances blues audiences come to expect from the Long Tall Deb and the Drifter Kings.
Melvin Powe, born and raised in Akron, Ohio, landed in Columbus by way of East Bay, California. “Work, friends, and family motivated me to move to Columbus, a place with the big city feel and countryside atmosphere.”
Melvin remembers the first time he heard the Blues live. “I was about 12 years old in Greenville, Mississippi. My parents and I pulled up at night…when we approached the shanties, all I could hear was the guitar screamin’ and the drums thumpin’ and the people shoutin’ the blues. That planted an everlasting seed in my head and soul.” Little did Melvin realize at the time that the guitar player that night was none other than the father of Earnest Guitar Roy, who travels often between Clarksdale, Mississippi and Ohio.
Early experimentation with slide trombone, tenor sax and various percussion instruments led Melvin to his instrumental love – the bass guitar. Starting with his first bass lessons from Akron’s well-known blues and rhythm player Arthur “Honey” Combs, Melvin then moved on to San Mateo, California. There he was groomed by jazz musicians from the Bay Area: Juziki (Duane Robinson) Key, Marvin Boxley and Mike Howell on guitar, Jeff White on drums, Mike White on violin and Carson Barns on tenor sax.
Melvin’s influences range from R & R’s James Gang, Grand Funk Railroad, Led Zeppe-lin and Jimi Hendrix to R & B James Ingram, Sly Stone, and Stevie Wonder. Add Jazz greats Roy Ayers, Herbie Hancock, Yusel Lateef, and Melvin Jackson to blues perform-ers Luther Allison, BB and Albert King, Robert Cray, and Buddy Guy
Melvin contributes a wide range of band experiences from The Children of Armogeton (San Francisco), The Dodge Band, Little Miss Muffet, the Patrick McLaughlin Band, The Dave Chisolm Band, Turning Point, and his own band Spank. Like Melvin puts it, “I got hit in the head and knocked out with the Blues – Delta, Piedmont, and Chicago. Blues is where I am.”
Richey B., originally from Mansfield, Ohio, came to Columbus in 1990 with a job change. “The people and the music made me want to stay.” Musical influences from home and church nurtured a young Richey who remembers seeing Muddy Waters on PBS and realizing, “I want to be that guy.” Over the years, Richey worked toward his own style while paying homage to the greats of the blues. Special recognition centers around the years Richey played with Chris Skrobot. “He always pushed the boundaries of what could be done to manipulate a song to make it more interesting. He helped me learn to think outside the box musically and to try new things.” In those early days, Richey sat in with anyone who would let him. Soon, though he fronted the blue/rock trio Three Ball Express. The band eventually expanded into Richey B. and the Red Liners which played Central Ohio for about five years. He hosted the Dolphin Lounge blues jam for two years, and the house band and Richey went on to be known as Hootie McBoob and the Inflatable Dates. “We still play from time to time, and we cover or molest music from virtually every genre.” Before spending time with the New Orleans style band The Shrunken Heads, Richey played guitar for Kathy Wolfe and the Wolfhound for several years along with Patrick McLaughlin; both are on her CD Songs of Men and Other Pastimes.
Even with blues recognized as Richey’s first love, many genres have influenced his career as a guitarist. “Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Albert Collins, Duke Robillard, Luther Allison, and Rory Block paved the road I walk daily.” Additionally the intricate styles of jazz artists like Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian, Grant Green, and Kenny Burrell taught Richey new ways to voice chords and “play around them.” Hendrix, SRV, and ZZ Top all played a role in teaching him to expand into playing vibrant, almost over the top, live performance. Armed with an explosive guitar sound with the voice to match, Richey commands attention and respect from the moment he moves the switch to “on.”
Though performances by Lyle Lovett, Buddy Guy, and Luther Allison helped Richey shape his voice into what it is today, it’s the influence of Long Tall Deb as his voice mentor that packs the punch. “I love the way she phrases. I’ve wanted to play guitar in a band with Deb from the first time I heard her sing. The musical journey I’ve been seeking my entire playing career is before me. Doug, Melvin, and Deb truly are my musical brothers and sister.”
Deb Landolt – The Big Voice. Fast gaining a reputation as one powerhouse blues and soul performer, singer/songwriter Deb Landolt continues to bring the audiences to their knees wherever she goes. Praised by other artists, music critics and fans alike for her dynamics and technical skill, she delivers a range of passion and rage, of freedom to and freedom from, that starts somewhere in South Texas, travels the highways into the Mississippi Delta where she shakes herself off to swing north up into the Piedmont blues, and right up your spine.
Raised on the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, Deb gained an early appreciation for blues and soul and the regional tejano and ranchera music that would ultimately define her as an artist and performer. Memories of her parents harmonizing old show and cowboy tunes while on road trips dovetailed into the gospel soul influences of her days brought up in church where the memory of her father’s booming baritone stands out. “There is something in the water in Texas that just breeds a certain kind of musical vibe that is difficult to describe.” Without realizing it at the time, she was exposed to some world-class homegrown talent baptized in the bars in Lubbock at places like the Main Street Saloon, Great Scott’s Bar-B-Q and the Legendary Stubbs Bar-B-Q. At Mr. Stubb’s place, there was a picture of him with a pimply, skinny kid named Stevie Ray Vaughn as well as a sign that read: “There will be no bad talk or loud talk in this place.”
Deb’s love for music cannot be defined by any one genre. She has shared the stage with such diverse artists as Austin-based zydeco king RC Banks, Jamaican ska legends The Skatalites, Baton Rouge Bluesman Kenny Neal, and St. Lucian Reggae master Deighton Charlemagne, among others. She also credits the wealth of regional and international talent from Central Ohio with whom she has shared the stage: Willie Pooch, Colin John, Ray Fuller, Linda Dachtyl, Shaun Booker, Rick Collura, Keith Blair, Teeny Tucker, Nikki Scott, Patrick McLaughlin, Ric Boals, and Sean Carney, as well as Eric Henry and Joe Edwards, two of the original Drifter Kings. All have helped shape her style in some significant way.
Perhaps the best piece of blues advice ever given to Deb came from guitarist Frank James Boyd, Jr. from Mansfield, Ohio. “One night, drummer extraordinaire D’Arco Smith invited me to sit in on a gig he was performing in Galion, Ohio. Mr. Boyd kindly took me aside afterwards and told me that the best thing I could do to phrase a song was not to sing it but to talk it.” Deb also walks the walk as whatever degree of soul, irreverence, pain, or joy she brings to her performances come directly from her life experiences. “I won’t sing about anything I haven’t experienced”.
So it seems only natural for her to bring these experiences to the songwriting. Her songs, with arranging input from all the Drifter Kings, may highlight pain and regret but also joy at the simple pleasures in life such as food and lasting friendships. One catchy original in particular “Chef Jen’s Kitchen” was actually inspired by a bloody mary-fueled Sunday picnic in the park a couple years ago. “Jennifer Earl is one of my best friends and together, we have a group of some wonderful women that share a lot of good times. Chef Jen is famous for providing the incredible food at our gatherings and I felt it was right to honor her with a song that reflects what these gatherings are like. All the women are mentioned in it. I remember that day, a lot of people were kind of looking sideways at us because we were kinda lively and obnoxious for a Sunday afternoon but what they may not have known at the time was that it was all part of the creative process. We got a great song out of it and I can’t wait to do research for the next one!”
With its New Orleans style feel and second-line street beat rhythm pattern, it has become a crowd favorite at shows. “I hope that when we play songs like that at shows, folks will come away with a feeling that they, too, were all at the park with us having a good old time that day!” Deb predicts that the band may be selling CD’s and T-Shirts alongside some of Chef Jen’s own creations someday. “It is a true homegrown family affair, this band”. Truly, nothing goes together better than good food, friends, and music.
Long Tall Deb and the Drifter Kings deliver a true love for music as they feed into each other’s talents for the best in sound and stage presence. Whether the audience leans into the electric call and response of the blues or listens for a hint of their own lifes’ stories, they can be sure “The questions that haunt us at night” (In the Middle of the Night) will be answered by Long Tall Deb and the Drifter Kings.
Look for Long Tall Deb and the Drifter Kings at the Creekside Blues and Jazz Festival in Gahanna, Ohio, at 4:45pm on Friday, June 19 in the good company of Kenny Neal, Sonny Moorman, and Teeny Tucker. They are scheduled to enter the studio in August of this year to begin work on their debut CD. You may also catch them with Paul Miles (solo acoustic performer who will also compete in Memphis next year) for future “Memphis-Bound Get-Down Blues Show” dates in Detroit, Columbus and Marietta.