The modern guitar blues can seem like a game of finesse, infinitesimally subtle variations on stock themes, and back-channel gestures, jokes, and boasts among insiders. Its musical materials and its lyrical personae have been winnowed to a single truth, asserted so many times for so long that the guitar blues becomes, like the Elizabethan sonnet sequence, a cloistered game of microreference and very marginal claims to originality and style. Keyboard-based blues is another story. The piano in particular functions as a conduit through which all kinds of fresh winds jostle the blues out of its deep, comfortable rut: Expanded harmonic moves creep in from jazz, new groove possibilities from gospel and from Latin.
In the hands of a consummately fluent stylist like Bruce Katz (Gregg Allman Band, Delbert McClinton), the blues come to life with their rich and rightful confluence of regional and historical variations and musical possibilities, with difference and with color. The Bruce Katz Band's newest CD, Homecoming, is a rollicking history lesson. As he moves between originals and covers, between the old (a delightfully retro reading of Lightnin' Hopkins's "Sante Fe Blues") and the newer (the Allman-esque "It's a Bad Time"), Katz proves himself a high adept at the remote, old-world idiosyncrasies and mysteries of blues that so enchant the younger indie scene, and of the modern, funk- and jam-leaning blues as well. Homecoming's lesson is an enlightened inclusivity. Americanshowplacemusic.com