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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Lots Of Time On The Road Just Part Of Being A Blues Musician

If you’re determined to reach national stardom by playing music, don’t play the blues.

Next to jazz, playing the blues is a tough road in that the record industry sees little commercial potential in the genre and therefore won’t invest any time or capital into furthering it. (Hot sellers the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion don’t count because they’re not a blues band.)

So blues players generally have to work harder than most. They build momentum more slowly and have to rely mainly on word-of-mouth and small publications to generate interest. And that only happens after they’ve been electrifying audiences for a couple of years.

Yes, the blues is one of America’s richest musical traditions. In the record stores, however, it’s about as popular as classical music.

Although fame, fortune and a hit song would come as a welcomed surprise to the blue-collared blues players, none of those are motivations for picking up the guitar or wailing on the harmonica.

They want to play music, even if it means sweating it out on the road 300 days a year.

“It’s what we do,” says blues guitarist Anson Funderburgh, leader of Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets featuring Sam Myers. The band plays the Waterin’ Hole in Coeur d’Alene on Saturday.

“I love to play music. (Spending so much time on the road) is just part of it. And after a while, you learn to accept it,” he explained.

Funderburgh, an angular, transcendent player, leads one of the country’s premier combos. The current incarnation of the band, which has stayed intact for more than a decade, merges sweat-drenched Delta blues with red-hot Texas blues.

Though they’re more than capable, Funderburgh and company have never burst out of the confinements of playing small rooms and recording for a tiny blues label, Black Top Records.

But they’re quite content to be plugging away. At least they have outlets.

“It’s pointless to sit and say, ‘The radio stations and record companies don’t give us any respect.’ I mean, that does no good,” Anson says.

“We’re better off putting our heads down and working as hard as we can.

“There’s times that I wonder why (the blues gets overlooked),” Funderburgh ponders. “I don’t know why.”

Funderburgh, Myers and the Rockets have left a marvelous body of work in their wake, including “Live at the Grand Emporium” and “My Love Is Here to Stay.”

In April, Funderburgh and Myers will commemorate their 10th anniversary together with the release of “That’s What They Want.” On the album the duo teamed with an all-star cast of sidemen, including members who have had long stints with Asleep at the Wheel, Delbert McClinton, Hal Ketchum, Lee Roy Parnell and Keith Richards.

Saturday’s show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. For details, call (208) 667-4858.

Sniffle, sniffle

Alas, my fearless readers, we’ve reached the end of my tenure as Nightwatch columnist.

Now, don’t get too choked up.

I’m bailing out of the old Lilac City. Hence, I’m leaving The Spokesman-Review.

I am turning the Nightwatch column over to Winda Benedetti, who has spent the last three years covering the cops and courts from the Spokesman-Review’s Coeur d’Alene bureau. In the next couple of weeks, she will begin leading you through the city’s array of nocturnal goings on.

At this point, I’d like to thank those readers who, over the past four years, took the time to write letters or leave messages on my voicemail, offering heartfelt words of encouragement. Without them, I might have never become the writer I am today. Here is a selection of that feedback:

“You are the worst writer I have ever read.”

“Mr. Ehrbar is a fascist.”

“The recent review (Aug. 2, 1995) concerning the Collective Soul concert can be considered the worst bit of journalism from our newspaper in a long while. Mr. Ehrbar’s off-the-wall and inaccurate comments about a cutting-edge band with an original sound need to be held in check.”

“Either you are not a Moody Blues listener and fan or you’re a baby boomer, or worse yet, an old fogy, that doesn’t know better, but your review was pure (garbage).”

“I am from Wisconsin and have seen the Moody Blues many, many times and to read your ‘critical’ comments on the (Internet) were insulting to me and I imagine the band’s, as well.”

“You’re an exclusionist.”

“Maybe it’s time for The Spokesman-Review to send out reporters who are more in touch with today’s youth and the music it listens to.”

“A final word of advice for the entertainment editor: Please find a new concert correspondent.”

“Mr. Ehrbar, you are clueless.”

“Next time, send a staff writer who has some idea of what he or she is going to hear, one who’s not prejudiced…”

“Mr. Ehrbar and his editor might consider other venues for his consideration hereafter.”

“In my opinion, your article on (Judy) Collins was ‘lackluster.”’

“The (Christian) bands and the fans were not there to impress secular music critics or secular rock bands. They were there to impress their Lord.”

“Mr. Ehrbar likes his Phish panned. I like mine well done.”

“How have you managed to keep your job?”

These aren’t the only comments I’ve received, nor do they represent the vast array of what’s been said about this music critic. The juicy ones just aren’t fit for print in this family newspaper.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo