Hamilton Loomis Band
Live At The Hub – DVD
BluesWax Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Live at the Hub, recorded at The Hub in Cedar Falls, Iowa, is energetic, bluesy, and captivating. Within a two-hour time frame, I have gone from not really knowing who Hamilton Loomis is, to being a brand new fan. This DVD is very nicely produced and indeed captures the energy and playful vibe of the actual live performance. The band is composed of Loomis (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica), Kent Beatty on bass guitar, Stratton Doyle holding down the sax and keyboards, and Ryan Cortez, who keeps a funky and steady beat on the drums. Intertwined between songs, are little documentary pieces of Loomis filling us in on the band’s beginnings, influences, and generally what makes it tick. I liked these little windows into the band’s soul. It’s in these little pieces where Loomis talks about opening for blues icon, Bo Diddley, and generously being taken in under his wing.
Loomis’ mastery of the guitar and soulful vocals is well complimented by his hip and youthful presence on stage. The first song on the set list, “Best Worst Day,” sets the tone for the rest of the show. It’s funkified blues. Doyle’s saxophone adds lushness to the sound. The camaraderie between Loomis and Doyle reminds me a little of the camaraderie exhibited at a live Phish show between Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon. I definitely did a proverbial double take during “Working Real Hard,” when Loomis and the band segue into “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” by Stevie Wonder. They keep the funk rolling with “Stuck in a Rut,” singing, “I was stuck in a rut, but now I’m in a groove.” Full of the good kind of positive energy, this song reminds me a bit of Tower of Power.
Loomis’ Texas blues influences kick in on “Voodoo Doll,” where he knocks an “over the wall” home run all while just “having some fun” with Doyle on sax. After one quick round of rock-paper-scissors, the two began exchanging licks, or as some people call it “cutting heads.” Bouncing back and forth trying to stump each other in a fascinating display, they roll through song samples such as “Walk This Way,” “Sunshine of Your Love,” “Brass Monkey,” “Billie Jean,” and “All Right Now,” culminating in an over-the-top, full-on attack finish.
With Loomis being a protégé of Bo Diddley, you have to figure there is going to be at least a couple of tracks honoring. If you figured that, you’d be correct. Breaking out his red Gretsch Bo Diddley signature guitar, Loomis covers “Road Runner,” which is immediately followed by “Who Do You Love?.” The guitar was a gift from Bo Diddley, which makes these tracks even more special. Since Doyle is playing keyboards on this track, that leaves his saxophone available for other things, such as taking on the role of the largest slide I have ever seen used on a guitar. With the Bo Diddley guitar in one hand and saxophone in the other, Loomis slides the horn across the neck as he picks out the tune with the other, and afterward, tosses the sax back to Doyle, who is still playing keyboards.
Live at The Hub is delightful from start to finish. These guys are the real deal musically and cannot be accused of lacking in showmanship. As Psycho from the film Stripes would say, “They just made the list!” but in this case, the list is composed of bands I am keeping my eye on.
Phillip Smith is a contributing writer at BluesWax.
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