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  West Coast Cats Strut Their Stuff at the Alamo - By Shannon

   The Alamo Club in Springfield, Illinois is becoming famous for hosting the Blue Monday Blues Series. Each Monday evening, some of the best national and local blues musicians play this event sponsored by the Central Illinois Blues Society. Mark Hummel and his Blues Survivors blew through the Midwest on Monday September 22. The band members include bassist, Steve Wolf; drummer, Marty Dodson; and guitarist Charles Wheal. This was the last stop for the band on their way back to the West Coast from a 3-½ week tour. Fans at the Alamo knew no different. Mark and his band played with such force and enthusiasm, you could have easily been fooled into believing it was their first day back on the road. From California, this harmonica-based blues band enamored the crowd with its hand-clapping, finger snapping authentic blues sounds. Vocalist and harp player Mark Hummel performed some remarkable solos, which received numerous hollers, cheers, and ovations from the crowd. He sat down to do an interview for STLBlues.net. Here’s how it went:

STLBlues: Thanks for taking the time out of your evening to chat with us. Let’s start with where you are originally from?
Mark Hummel: No problem. I was born in Connecticut and moved to California when I was 18.

STLBlues: How did you get interested in playing music?
Mark Hummel: My parents were both musically inclined with my father eventually playing in an orchestra. I saw a lot of my friends in high school were learning to play guitar, and I felt most comfortable with the harmonica. I started playing when I was around the age of 14 and went from there. Most of my main influences include blues legends such as Jimmy Reed, James Cotton, and Little Walter. There are also current players that I enjoy including Paul Delay and various West Coast blues artists.

STLBlues: How many recordings do you have available at this time?
Mark Hummel: I have about seven recordings available, and a few that are out of print. My latest release is entitled “Golden State Blues”. I am in the process of making a live album that is tentatively slated for release in September 2004. There will also be another Blues Harp Meltdown CD available sometime next month. This album features myself along with other blues harmonica players.

STLBlues: Speaking of the Blues Harp Meltdown CD, the blues harp tour is something you put together and host annually?
Mark Hummel: It was actually started as an annual show every January that has included such harp acts as James Cotton, Rick Estrin, and James Harman. I will be hosting something similar next month out in California along with the yearly event in January 2004.

STLBlues: How many gigs do you play on average per year?
Mark Hummel: I stay very busy with playing roughly 150 shows on the road and around 100 at home on the coast.

STLBlues: Do you have a favorite club to play locally/nationally?
Mark Hummel: At home we have this great place that just recently reopened called Eli’s Mile High Club. Nationally, I have a good time playing at the Zoo Bar in Lincoln, Nebraska. I wish I could get around to play the St. Louis area more often, but there just doesn’t seem to be a solid place for us to play here where we can draw a big audience.

STLBlues: What is the best part/worst part about being on the road so much?
Mark Hummel: I enjoy playing for the people and entertaining. The fellas in the band are a nice bunch, so being on the road isn’t so bad. The worst part is being away from home for extended periods of time. I am out there trying to make a living just as any other musician.

STLBlues: Finally, do you have an opinion of the current state of the blues scene and the clubs?
Mark Hummel: I feel that for now things are in a bit of a slump. People just don’t seem to get out to see live entertainment like they have in the past. Most people opt for going to blues festivals in lieu of catching an artist in a club one or two nights of the week. Some of it has to do with the economy, but it also has to do with some blues clubs going out of business or discontinuing live music. Hopefully it will improve in the near future.

STLBlues: Thanks for the chat, Mark. Where can blues fans catch you next?
Mark Hummel: Aside from normal touring, I will be doing a few shows at the San Francisco Blues fest at home this weekend. Also, I will be a special guest for 2004’s Blues Cruise Event.

After talking with Mark, it was more evident why I dig his music and style so much. It’s simple. He really enjoys what he’s doing and he’s excellent at it. His band is a tight, well-oiled machine that holds everything together perfectly. Plus, for the dollar cover charge to get into the Alamo, seeing a band of this caliber was an absolute steal! All of us here at STLBlues.net encourage blues fans out there to get out and SUPPORT the BLUES!!! Eventually, we may even get exceptional talent like Mark Hummel and the Blues Survivors to pay us a visit more than twice a year!

*For tour dates, merchandise, including various recordings including an instructional video, along with contact information, check out www.markhummel.com

*For info on who’s playing at the Alamo, visit www.wuis.org/calendar.html

--Shannon :: STLBlues street teamer


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