Nick Moss and Flip Tops
February 4, 2012
By Gary Weeks
Although you won’t get the traditional blues sets Nick Moss used to do in years past (Check out his Live at Chans CDs), it doesn’t mean you will away walk from one of his gigs unsatisfied.
(Filmed at Blind Willie’s on another date)
Moss has changed band personnel to reinvent the Flip Tops’ sound. Now with Michael Ledbetter (actually a distant relative of Leadbelly) on guitar and vocals, Travis Reed on keyboards, Matthew Wilson on bass, and Patrick Seals on drums, Moss is forging ahead to shine a different light on the blues.
Playing to a packed house at Atlanta’s Blind Willie’s, Moss played three sets of music that genre jumped and crossed the lines of rock, gospel, funk, and blues. While this change in direction doesn’t go over well with all of his following, it was enough to make the dancers spill onto the dance floor and turn it loose.
Of course there were cuts featured from the new CD Here I Am, which is a continuum of the previous release, Privileged. In interviews, Moss has stated the trouble of getting bookings because of sticking to the formula of traditional blues. But it doesn’t mean he won’t stick in a Freddie King number as he did in the first set or turning the vocals over to Michael Ledbetter to get down and dirty in a twelve-bar blues. And the band could get so funky you would swear you were at an Earth, Wind and Fire concert. Then again you have Nick leading the troops with sizzling fretwork and getting down to serious jamming.
(Live performance cut from new album Here I Am, Daytona Beach)
This leads to the arena of how Moss can stretch things beyond the breaking point. Blending the ethos of Cream, Zeppelin, and Free, Nick could become the darling of the jam-band community. Songs ran at the ten-minute mark if not further than that. Yet Moss’ guitar work was improvisational and fluent enough that it wasn’t just an exercise of clichéd runs. For those reasons alone, any guitar player in the audience was getting a clinic of how blues-rock guitar was meant to be played.
Throughout the sets Moss was happy to let his band members take the reins while he stood happily in the background. Whether the rhythm section of Seals, Reed, and Wilson were left alone to get down to a honky-tonk groove, or Ledbetter taking over lead vocal chores, or having friends or family come onstage to join the musical proceedings, Moss himself can become his own sideman.
As expected, the club was mostly cleared out by the third set. But those who remained still got down and boogied with Nick taking things into the funky side of life once again.
There’s no denying Moss’ generosity in giving recognition to others. Yet, while the dancers were having fun, it sometimes took the energy level down a notch or two. Not that it’s a bad thing. Things work best when Moss is the focal point doing what he does best: Combining electric blues-rock with a Fillmore East philosophy but never ignoring the original teachers who passed down the knowledge in the first place. Moss as a guitar player can hold his own and if he has to shift gears to keep his family from starving, than more power to the man.
Gary Weeks is a freelance writer based in Atlanta, Georgia.
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