This is a post from guest blogger, Jeremy Gottlieb, who’s a freelance writer living in the Boston area. He’s written for the Boston Globe, the Eagle-Tribune, the Metrowest News and other local online and print publications.
Somewhere between The Grateful Dead, circa 1973 and some serious Chet Baker, mixed with a few deep, swampy, New Orleans-style grooves lies The Blue Ribbons, a diverse, whipsmart, Boston band currently rocking the local scene. The group, six veteran players deep, melds genres with a polish that in some ways defies description, a fact that isn’t lost on bandleader/front man James Rohr.
“I don’t know what kind of band we are,” says Rohr, who plays keys and is one of three lead vocalists in the Ribbons current incarnation, between sets during one the band’s Tuesday night hangs at Toad in Porter Square. “I want us to be a band in which we can write songs that aren’t beholden to any particular style or parameters. It’s not so straight ahead or right down the middle. I guess you could call us a little country mixed with some free-form jazz.”
Indeed, Rohr, along with his rhythm section of Jeff Charland on stand-up bass and Taurus Biskis on drums, are “jazz guys.” Lead guitarist Mike Castellana also plays with a jazz background, but comes at it from a bit more of a rock perspective, according to Rohr. Together with guitarist/vocalist Steve Mayone (Sticky, Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck), and lap steel player/vocalist Martha Bourne (Nash Satterfield), both of whom joined the Ribbons for this Toad residency, the songs that emanate from the stage cover a wide swath of influences, from the Faces and Captain Beefheart to NRBQ and even George Jones.
“We want to be able to go anywhere,” says Rohr, who also mentioned that the band is currently working on a follow up to their debut album, “Rise and Shine.”
“We’ll throw it all out there. Sometimes it bombs, but we don’t have any fear. We’re open for business.”
Do yourself a favor if you live in the greater Boston area and treat yourself to some Blue Ribbons. They are a tour-de-force, a wildly inventive, shape-shifting outfit capable of navigating so many styles with both an incredibly cool, almost laid back ease as well as fascinating aplomb. Their Tuesday residency at Toad lasts one more month, through March, at 10 p.m.
– Jeremy Gottlieb
photo by Tom McNeill