Harmonica player Mike Chipperini called to say his new lineup of HooDoo Revelator has been playing lots of gigs - and having lots of fun - since he and bass player Jeff Fabrizio reformed the band.
After releasing their 2006 debut CD Do Me Right, Chipperini and Fabrizio realized they wanted their blues to segue into rock and roll, while the previous four members wanted to play straight forward blues.
“I had left because I was very busy. I just bought a new house. That needed a lot of work,” Chipperini said. “Three guys left because they wanted to pursue more of a blues roots style, like Delta blues stripped down. Totally.”
“The bass player kept a handle on playing out,” Chipperini continued. “He gave me a call one day and said he wants to reform the band with me and him and a couple of new players, and get back to the essence of what it was supposed to be. So he and I recruited three members and we’re back on track.”
The new members of HooDoo Revelator are Daniel “Moe” Moriarty on guitar, Kevin Haney on vocals, and Bob Palumbo on the drums.
All three musicians had the qualities Chipperini and Fabrizio were looking for when they put this new band together.
“The initial mission statement of the band,” Chipperini said, “was to play a guitar and harmonica driven rockin’ blues band.”
This found the new lineup playing early J. Geils Band material, early Rolling Stones songs, and old Muddy Waters numbers.
“Hard core blues is hard to get any gigs through,” Chipperini said. “People, for whatever reason right now, are not into it. Things go in cycles. So when you’re playing out, you have to play something a little bit contemporary as well. When I say contemporary, I’m talking the last 35 years - songs that people are used to hearing. A lot of music is rooted in blues. A great example of that is “Honky Tonk Woman” by The Rolling Stones. That’s kind of a country blues tune with a rock edge on it. That’s where I wanted to be. “
The new lineup, Chipperini said, likes to vary it up so more people can have fun at their live shows.
“A lot of crowds will sit there and listen to good music, but they may not relate to it. As soon as they hear something they’re familiar with, and it’s good, then they’ll get up and dance and you’ll get a better reaction out of them,” he said.
Each band member contributes something important to this driving blues-rock quintet.
“Bob Palumbo is the drummer,” Chipperini began. “He has a rock and roll drumming background, so he’s new to blues, but he gets it. He plays with different elements to what we’re doing as opposed to having a straight up blues drummer. Kevin comes from a rock and funk background. He’s the lead singer. He plays guitar. He has a lot of funk rhythms working for him. He reminds me of Detroit - Motown. The guitarist, Moe Moriarty, is a blues guitarist. He’s played with guys like Chris Stovall Brown and Silas Hubbard. He’s got a pretty decent resume. Jeff is a blues AND rock bass player.
HooDoo Revelator play a lot of the same rooms they played before they changed their members. In fact, they have more work than ever. Chipper said he wants to put out a positive vibe, keep it loose it fun, and keep people dancing.
“The audiences have been overwhelmingly receptive,” he said. “A lot of people have said they love the new sound and they love the new lineup. They feel it’s an improvement, as to what they want to hear. The old lineup was really rooted in blues, and they threw in a couple of rock songs. Now, we’re rooted in blues but we also have a lot more songs that are also rooted in blues but could be considered classic rock. But we really don’t play them like they’re played. That’s not what we’re about. We’re not a jukebox.”
HooDoo Revelator has its version of “First I Look At the Purse,” a song the J. Geils Band recorded in its early years. They also arranged the Rolling Stones classic, “Symphony For the Devil,” with Chipperini playing harmonica in place of piano.
They keep arrangements loose so they can perform a different rendition every night. They might have their guitarist take the first solo, instead of Chipper playing the harp.
“People like the way we do stuff,” he said.
The new lineup is really upbeat, playing danceable stuff.
“Our first four gigs, we got instant pay raises and instant bookings,” the harpist said.
HooDoo Revelator had three gigs on their schedule at the outset of the year, but they had 40 gigs on the books after people started turning on to the new sound of a driving blues band with rock overtones.
They start their first set with blues staples such as “Mudcat,” “Help Me,” and “The Thrill Is Gone.” Then they roll into J. Geils Band tunes such as “Give It To Me,” which Chipperini feels is a reggae rock tune. At the end of the third set they’re back into blues with “Boom Boom” and “Got My Mojo Working.”
HooDoo Revelators, Chipperini revealed, plan to write and record some original material as a new band. He, Moriarty, and Haney are all songwriters, and they will shoot for eight to ten songs. They want to avoid covers, since they have to pay royalty fees for each record sold.
The first HooDoo Revelators CD received airplay on WZLX and WBOS blues programs. The disc also sold well online. They’re going on hiatus from December until March to work on the new recording. They also want to avoid driving to gigs during blizzards - and lugging equipment up icy sidewalks. Chipperini, though, does have one advantage over many other players. He’s a full time firefighter in Gloucester and he’s used to lugging equipment, as well as knocking down doors and breaking windows.
Chipper’s personal musical taste includes bands like The Clash. He said it is not unusual for a musician to have influences outside of what they perform on stage. He pointed out that Little Walter, the legendary blues harpist, used to check out big bands and learn to copy their horn riffs.
“The influences on people can come from anywhere. The Clash was kind of an English reggae band.” Chipper also noted the Beatles used harmonica on many of their hits. He cited his influences as Magic Dick, Little Walter, Sonny Terry, Sonny Boy Williamson, John Lennon, Alice Cooper, and James Montgomery.
His microphone of choice is a Shure Green Bullet with a switchcraft connector and a volume box. He uses a 1971 Fender Champ amplifier. He prefers vintage tube equipment. But he knows it comes down to the player.
“With harmonica, everybody looks for that tone. Little Walter had awesome tone, and Magic Dick had that,” he said.
At age 50, Chipper has had an interesting life long before he became a working musician. He didn’t start playing in bands until he was 45. He was a heavy music fan for several years, but 20 years in the Army kept him busy. He started going to his local North Shore blues jams at age 43.
“Up until then, I couldn’t tell you what 12 bars was, what 16 bars was. I couldn’t tell you what a 1-4-5 was,”” he said.
He learned fast that when you play with people like Joe Mack and Mark Early: “You started learning quickly because otherwise you won’t be playing with them again.”