‘What I’ve got is natural God-given talent,” Smokey Wilson says in a voice woven deep in Southern drawl.
“There ain’t no one who can come up today and say ‘I taught this man how to play guitar.’ No one never showed me ‘Smokey Wilson put your hand here’ or ‘Smokey Wilson come up to the house tomorrow and I’m gonna show you how to play this.’
“God gave Smokey Wilson what you hear today - this natural, Mississippi, corn-shuckin’ blues sound.”
Smokey Wilson’s speaking voice - so deep and soulfully textured - seems almost proof enough this man must know the blues like a best friend.
But it is his gravelled singing voice and his cutting guitar work that could make even a good atheist believe that God must have hand-delivered the Delta blues to this 60-year-old musician.
These are the very same blues that Wilson will bring to Tubs Cafe in Coeur d’Alene tonight with repeat performances Saturday and Sunday. The show will be the club’s first in a new outdoor beer garden - aptly titled “The Blues Garden.”
Robert Lee “Smokey” Wilson was born in the Mississippi of 1936 and was 3 when he first made himself a guitar out of the wire off his mother’s broom.
A few years later Wilson’s parents bought him an acoustic guitar for $2. His father killed a rattlesnake, cut the tail off and put pieces of the rattle inside the guitar.
“He said it would make it sound better,” Wilson says, his laugh rolling from a near-giggle to a thunder rumble.
It was in the juke joints of the Delta that Wilson along with artists like Tyrone Davis, Frank Frost and Sam Carr, began honing their skills.
And it was there that Wilson carefully studied - and received his legacy from - Howlin’ Wolf, one of the most influential musicians of the post-World War II era and a man who helped shape rock and roll.
“I used to look at Wolf in those juke joints, that guy was so huge that when he sing he shakes the floor,” says Wilson in a phone interview early this week.
“I was standing there watching him one day and he asked me, ‘What are you lookin’ at?’ That man scared me so bad because I was young. I told him ‘I’m not looking at anything.’
“But that man kept on lookin’ at me. He said, ‘One day I’m gonna give you somethin.’
“I said ‘What you gonna give me’ and he said, ‘One day I’m gonna give you my voice and you better keep it a goin”.”
And to this day, Howlin’ Wolf, who died in the 1970s, can be heard in Wilson’s vocal style.
“He knew something was in me and he just wanted me to bring it out,” says Wilson, who later moved to L.A. and became a pillar of that community’s blues scene. “So, when I sing, I have to put a little of the Wolf in it. It’s like he’s standing right there watching me.”
Wilson’s latest album, “The Man from Mars,” includes two Wolf covers along with Wilson’s original work. His previous album “The Real Deal” was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award (the blues version of a Grammy) for best Traditional Blues Album.
“I want to take the blues to the sky,” Wilson says with an enthusiasm unmarred by the years. “The sky’s the limit so that’s where I want to take it.”
Wilson is just the latest top-notch act to play at the year-old Tubs Cafe, 313 Lake Coeur d’Alene Dr. With the new beer garden, the establishment - which previously was limited to 40 people - now holds up to 400.
Outdoor music, however, will start early in the evening and end relatively early to avoid disturbing the neighbors.
Cover charge to see Wilson will be $10. Tonight’s show starts at 5:30 and ends by 9:30. The Desotos open.
The Saturday and Sunday shows start at 4:30 p.m. and last until 8:30 p.m. Charlie Butts and the Filter Tips open Saturday. The Brother Music Power House Blues Band opens Sunday.
Floater is finally here
For those who have been waiting to see the Eugene, Ore., band Floater, your big chance is this weekend.
Or at least we’re pretty sure it is.
After cancelling two Spokane shows earlier this year, this band that deftly weds soaring vocal melodies to searing metal riffs and psychedelic hooks promises to make up for lost time with two performances.
The trio plays at Outback Jack’s tonight with Big Elf and Neverman. Cover is $5 in advance, $6 at the door. Tunes start at 9:30 p.m.
On Saturday, Floater plays an all-ages show with Greg, Threasher and Distorted Silence at Area 51 (formally Club Oz), 117 E. Boone. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at 4,000 Holes and Recorded Memories - $6 in advance, $8 at the door.
The Craft has landed
What is that sound coming out of the garage on Garfield Street?
Could it be … ?
No, it’s not Mama’s Dogma. But it is BeeCraft.
Yes, four of the five members of Spokane’s favorite former jazz/rock group Mama’s Dogma are back in action with a new guitarist, a new name and a somewhat different sound.
“We’re trying to experiment with different textures,” drummer Scott Goodwin, a founding member of Mama’s Dogma, said after a recent practice session with his new band.
Now calling themselves BeeCraft, Goodwin along with former Dogma members - keyboardist Don Goodwin, bassist Colby Davis and drummer Bob Rees - have reformed the group.
Jamie Zyskowski has joined on guitar. He recently graduated from the University of Washington and previously played in a free jazz trio.
Mama’s Dogma, fronted by singer-guitarist Kelly Vance, grabbed the Spokane music scene by the throat last year. They developed a strong following of folks who dug their free-spirited jams and danceable beat.
But earlier this year, Vance left the group after a difference of opinion on the direction the group should take.
BeeCraft has since been preparing for a comeback. They plan to play out of town first - “to get the bugs out” - and then return for a Spokane performance the third week of July.
At their rehearsal, the group dished out a complex and catchy groove that ebbed and flowed nicely between trippy jam sessions and infectious rhythm-laden crescendoes.
With BeeCraft, the group is more jazz oriented and more focused on the instruments. Although the vocals remain spare, various members do take turns singing.
“Our basic concept is everybody gets to take the lead,” Scott Goodwin said.
Stay tuned for news on their first hometown gig.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
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