In the cozy and quaint confines of what I call "Little Switzerland", where the buildings reek of the history and lore of The Molly Maguires , a veritable maestro of the guitar took center stage with his band at the pub that bears the name of the 19th century Irish coal miners’ secret society. Of course, I am referring to Jim Thorpe and Molly Maguires Pub! Jim and Molly, meet Eddie! Eddie Bluestone, that is.
I was in my element on this first day of February. Just plop me in an historic Irish pub with great atmosphere, great people and great food and drink then throw in the supreme talents of Eddie Bluestone and his trio as the live entertainment for the evening and you’ve got a recipe for…well, let me put it this way… if I were Bill Murray and the clock had just struck twelve to ring in Groundhog Day, I wouldn’t have minded indefinitely repeating February 2nd over and over again.
The classically trained Eddie Bluestone (real name Ed Conover) rolled out all kinds of goodies at Molly Maguires with an eclectic blend of blues, jazz, rock, fusion and even classical, as he deftly performed his own interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" on electric guitar.
The Eddie Bluestone Trio features Bluestone on guitars and vocals with Brad VanEtten on bass and Ed Staloski on drums. Joining the trio that night was Luis Caamaño on harmonica. This group of players melded quite nicely as they presented an awe-inspiring array of classics covering the music of Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Wells, Johnny Winter, Be-Bop Deluxe, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Allman Brothers, ZZ Top, Robin Trower, Blue Oyster Cult, Yes, Cheech and Chong and others.
They started the evening with a jazzy instrumental to get warmed up before they paid tribute to the blues with songs like "Killing Floor" and "Messin’ with the Kid." A couple more blues shuffles prefaced a spacey version of Led Zeppelin’s "No Quarter" followed by Jimi Hendrix’s "Little Wing." They hit a nostalgic nerve when they offered up a rousing James Bond/Peter Gunn theme song medley. Eddie employed a pinky slide on Johnny Winter’s "Mojo Boogie" then switched back to some Pulp Fiction surfer rock before finishing up the set with SRV’s "Pride and Joy" and some psychedelic Hendrix.
Eddie didn’t use a lot of gadgets and gizmos to create incredible tones that emanated from his instruments. Two pedals on the floor, a couple tone knobs and a whammy bar on his guitar were all he needed to create a multitude of pleasing sounds. He was masterful in his use of intricate guitar tapping and touching techniques and judicious in his use of the whammy bar and finger slides.
The rhythm section of VanEtten and Staloski were obviously enjoying the opportunity to play with a guitar virtuoso of Bluestone’s stature. When you’re playing with the best, you tend to up your game and both players were steadfast in keeping the beats and rhythms all night long but also, expertly handling the myriad changes that Bluestone threw at them which meant that improvisational jamming and musical transitions were smooth and seamless. What I most enjoyed about Staloski’s and VanEtten’s playing was that neither of them attempted to overplay or show off. Very subtly, Staloski would sometimes revert to using a brush or two on the jazzier numbers and slow jams while VanEtten was able to provide rich bassy tones. Luis Caamaño on harp only enhanced the enjoyment of the evening.For their second set, the Trio played their new album,
Mr. Natural, in its entirety, and it was a wonderfully satisfying magnum opus of musical diversity. The album is comprised of Bluestone originals and it proved to be great listening with a little bit of something for everyone. They have yet to go into the studio to record and until they do, the live performance of the album is the only way to hear it. This tremendous album of songs must be put on disc, reproduced and distributed to the masses as soon as possible. It is just too good to be kept hidden away from the public with the exception of the live performance.
The third set featured Bluestone creating some amazing sounds from a custom-made Mahogany wood cigar box two-stringed guitar that he referred to as a "post hole digger." This "post hole digger" was put to good use on "Crossroads" as Bluestone transported the audience to the land of the Delta blues by ripping on the bizarre-looking and string-deficient axe with superb finger slide technique. Other third set highlights included Bluestone recreating the traffic jam effects on Jeff Beck’s "Freeway Jam" plus covers of ZZ Top’s "La Grange", Cheech and Chong’s "Earache My Eye" and Frank Zappa’s "Cosmic Debris." You’re gonna like this band. I guarantee it!
Eddie Bluestone is Mr. Natural as the title of his new album suggests. His instruments are only extensions of himself as he effortlessly and masterfully plays a wide variety of styles and genres. He has managed to cull other talented musicians in forming his band and the results are nothing short of astounding. The best place to catch their show is at Molly Maguires in Jim Thorpe where they have recurring monthly gigs.