Nick Moss and the Flip Tops

Nick Moss and the Flip Tops
Live At Chanís, Vol. 2

Blue Bella Records

By Art Tipaldi
May 2009

Visit artist page

The clichť says: “An hour after eating Chinese food, youíre still hungry.”

An hour after hearing Nick Mossí Live At Chanís, Vol. 1, Iím hungry for more of his blues. With the release of Live At Chanís, Vol. 2, Moss has satisfied my yearning. This record was recorded just two weeks after Moss and his band had their van and equipment stolen. Yet, the band, with special guest Lurrie Bell, touched off a two night, all you can eat, Chicago blues buffet.

Moss is one of the hottest young Chicago blues guitarists. Most in the new generation of blues guitarists are speeding down the blues rock road.

Not Moss. Heís completely grounded in the traditional vein of Chicago blues. He got his start playing with the late Jimmy Rogers, then continued his late night blues education with the cream of Chicago blues.

Lurrie Bell, the eldest son of Chicago harmonica legend Carey Bell, began gigging with Chicago blues legends like Big Walter Horton, Pinetop Perkins, and Lovie Lee as a teenager. In 1977, he was a founding member of the Sons of Blues band.

In 1996, I wrote, “he is still eminently qualified to be a major voice of the blues of the next century.” We are in that new century, and his work in the past six years has put him at the top of todayís blues guitarists - evidenced by the fact that heís been Blues Music Award nominated six times (three as Guitarist of the Year) in the past three years.

Why chose this tiny Chinese restaurant in Woonsocket, R.I., a town far from their Chicago roots, as the site for a live record? Chanís is a blues anomaly. Instead of Southern folk art on the walls of a faux juke joint, or blues memorabilia scattered throughout a dimly lit saloon, Japanese paper lanterns hang from the ceiling, tiny Xmas lights twinkle above the stage, and Chinese artwork adorns the walls. Inside John Chanís personal blues territory, a 150 seat, banquet styled room, there isnít a bad seat anywhere, and, because of the intimate nature of the room, most bands turn the volume down to where audiences can appreciate the musical subtleties. And that ambiance comes through in the 80 minutes of easy interplay between Moss, Bell, and harp master Gerry Hundt.

Backed by his Flip Tops, Hundt on bass, harmonica, and mandolin, Willie Oshawny on piano, Bob Carter on Drums, and his wife Kate Moss on bass, Moss begins the night with in a Chinese restaurant with “Spare Ribs & Chopsticks,” an eight minute instrumental appetizer patterned after Muddyís “Everything Gonna Be Alright.”

“Try And Treat You Right” has the band conjuring the ghosts of Chicago ensemble blues. Moss vocalizes, and the band, guitar, piano and harmonica, answer in the Windy City fury that made Muddyís Chess platters the talk of the South Side. You almost need another set of ears to catch the delicious weave of harmonica, piano and guitar.

“Whiskey Makes Me Mean” features Hundtís mandolin as the lead with Moss handling the harp duties. Folks often forget the role of the mandolin in early string bands that thrived up and down Highway 61 in the Mississippi Delta. This original is a reminder of that tradition. The band, however, is at its finest playing meat and potatoes Chicago blues. Like the finest traditional Chicago blues from the Chess days, Moss and his Flip Tops completely understand the complexities of doing this ensemble styled blues on “Fill Er Up,” and the nine minutes of Curtis Jonesí “Lonesome Bedroom Blues.”

When Bell jumps on the stage for the second half of the disc, Chanís explodes with the setís most spirited music. Bell takes the lead vocals and guitar on Tampa Redís “Donít You Lie To Me,” and Willie Dixonís “Iím Ready.”

But sandwiched between is the highlight of the record, Eddie Boydís “Five Long Years” - 13 minutes of slow blues heaven. The guitar work between Bell and Moss is a blues guitar primer. As always, Bellís playing is both sparse and dense, an arrow shot to the emotional core. His SIX minute guitar solo is the most transcendent musical vision of the record. Then, Moss talks his soul for another FOUR minutes before Bell takes the tune to the finish line.

Too many records give only 50 minutes of music; Nick Moss has dense packed almost 80 minutes of blues into the take-out container to be savored over and over. Instead of serving the listener a set of warmed up blues leftovers, you'll hear Moss and Bell bring down the house over and over with the finest interpretations of pure Chicago blues.

The first Live At Chanís record was nominated in 2007 as Album of the Year, I see no reason why Volume 2 will not garner similar accolades.

<- back to Features