What defines a really good blues band? Is it the signature guitar licks? What about the heart pumping bass that pulses from the stage out to the crowd? Is it the blues harp blowing loud and strong? Is it the precision drums that keep the whole band together on cue? Maybe the cool threads, fedoras, and soul patches? Some would say yes to one or all of the above.
To me, it is that special element – coolness. The modern blues bands carry with them the tradition of cool from the greats such as Elmore James, Big Sandy & the Fly-Rite Boys, and John Lee Hooker.
I recently caught up with a few of the band members of Big Cat Blues at a gig in Newport.
“What are the names of the band members and their instrument?”
Matt Bruneau – Lead guitar
Brian Rodrigues – Lead vocals, rub board
Jason Borden – Bass
Dave Underwood – Drums, percussion
Mike Rand – Harp, guitar
“Is this your typical lineup?”
“How long have you been playing together?”
With this lineup, 2 years. Actually, Big Cat Blues has been around in some form for about 20 years. Some of us played together as early as 8th grade, although I’ll keep the year and who it was a secret.
“How would you characterize your style of play?”
What we tell everyone. Upbeat, swingin’, danceable blues music.
“Who are your influences?”
Fabulous Thunderbirds, Rick Estren, Big Sandy of course. And Howlin’ Wolf. We just love that sound those artists produce. Man, it is a special feeling listening to the blues.
“Who are some current artists you are listening to now?”
Eric Lindell, Jimmy Vaughn, and Tab Benoit off the top of my head.
“Where can fans typically catch Big Cat Blues playing?”
We play in RI mostly, and some gigs in Southeastern MA heading out to the Cape.
“How did you come up with the name for the band?”
Actually our original bass player had a stray cat that he sort of helped out in the neighborhood. The cat had a gigantically huge head, it was massive. That’s it in a nutshell. Big Cat Blues is named after that cat’s huge head.
“Are you a cover band, do you play originals, or is it a mix of both?”
Covers mostly with a small mix of originals. But, mostly covers of the blues greats. Even if you are just a casual fan of the blues, you will recognize the great music we play.
“What, if any, connection do you have to Wickford?”
Mike our harmonica player is from South County. Actually, Wickford is one of our favorite places to relax on a Sunday ride with our motorcycle buddies.
“What did it mean for the Big Cat Blues band to play this year in Wickford?”
To be honest, we love playing for a crowd that appreciates good music. We’ve seen the lineup for the series and there are some outstanding bands in this series. We are so honored to be included, especially since its such a well attended community event. Just wanted to say thanks to the Arts Council and to tell everyone thanks for letting us play you a night of great blues music.