Four bars into the intro to their first song, a woman in the audience said “Wow, this is big music.” She was right; Joe Lowry’s version of the blues isn’t about subtlety, it’s about hitting you right in the chest with much force as he can muster and keeping it up for as long as you can take.
Lowry is such a nice and gentle guy in person that you wouldn’t expect this from his music, but it doesn’t take long after he plugs in his guitar for you to know what you’re in for.
Much of the drive in Lowry’s music is delivered by the 2nd Mile Blues Band, the rhythm section composed of drummer Greg Nash and Bassist Bacco Bergquist. Nash hits his drum kit like he’s trying to pound it three feet into the ground, while Bergquist’s bass lines shift from heavy to melodic, often within the same song.
Though their signature is guitar-driven blues rock, the highlight of the night may have been their version of Stevie Wonder’s “To Know You is to Love You.” After a full set of blazing guitar tones, this soulful break grounded the set, providing a launch pad for the rest of the concert. Despite the quieter nature of this song, the restrained power of the rhythm section was palpable, like a rodeo bull in the chute, and was cut loose as Lowry launched into his solo.
The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” was delivered just a bit funkier and with the beat driving a little harder than the original. It’s not a song you’d think a blues trio could pull off, but the stripped down arrangement proved to cut right down to the bone and captivated the audience.
The CRBN All-Stars kicked off the show. Lead by the potent tandem guitars of Jeremy Walz and Matt Mirabile, they ran through a set of blues classics that may have been new to much of the Lake George crowd, but were familiar to regular CRBN jam attendees. With a shifting line-up, you don’t see this band for their fresh material, but for their fresh take on songs you already know deep down.
Bolstered by the easy virtuosity of James Kirk on bass, many of these old standards took on a fresh life, particularly their funky version of “That’s What Love Will Make You Do,” and the blues standard “Good Morning, Little School Girl.” Taking a cue from the arrangement made popular by the Grateful Dead, the group let the song build on the main guitar riff the band locked in on a driving beat which set the stage for a a short string of solos where both Walz and Mirabile showed the depth of their repertoire.
Drummer Josh Bloomfield spent the night showing why he’s one of the most highly-demanded drummers in the area, every beat perfectly supporting the band, but he came to center stage singing the Allman Brothers classic “Cross to Bear.”
This was the first year that the Capital Region Blues Network partnered to bring a blues night to the Fridays at the Lake concert series in Shepard Park, and with the strong audience response there’s good reason to hope that this is an event we can look forward to every summer.