There is suspicion that Rik Raven has sold his soul to the devil. How else to explain the blazing trail he now leaves in the blues bars, taverns and gin joints he plays?
You almost expect to see charred imprints where the Reverend's white bucks have marched across the dance floor to reach the chair he mounts to finish a show, thrashing the blue Epiphone he bought in La Crosse with rent money.
So this is the Sermon on the Mount.
Sparks are flying and the dance floor crowd backs off a few feet in stunned amazement, concerned that a fire is about to break out. On another chair nearby the Reverend, the tenor sax in Big Al Groth's meaty hands has nearly reached the melting point. A fireworks show never ended with a finale like this.
What, you say it's always been this way at the Reverend's shows? Then why isn't he the most famous bluesman who ever played a lick at Kochanski's Concertina Bar in Milwaukee? Actually, he very well may be that person. And now that he's added Groth to his lineup you best go see Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys before they burn themselves to the ground.
Some of my Florida friends are in for a treat. That's right, the boys are currently touring the Sunshine State. Here's the tentative schedule (a few dates yet to be filled in). From there they'll tear a new hole in Alabama before returning to Wisconsin.
Feb. 5: The Backroom, Boca Raton
Feb. 6: Sebastian Beach Inn, Melbourne Beach
Feb. 7: Day off at the nudist colony
Feb. 8: Day off at the nudist colony
Feb. 9: Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa
Feb. 10: B.B. King’s, West Palm Beach
Feb. 11: B.B. King’s, Orlando
Feb. 12: Little Bar, Marco Island
Feb. 15: Berts Bar & Grill, Matlacha
Feb. 16: Bert’s Bar & Grill, Matlacha
Feb. 17: Ace’s Lounge, Bradenton
At Kochanski's recently we were close enough to feel the reverberations from the tiny stage beside the front door. The setup was so tight that the Reverend and Big Al spent most of their time stomping on the floor in front of the stage, where they can throw their elbows and knees into the music. The night was billed a "Dueling Stage Spectacular" with the local rockabilly Uptown Savages alternating on a second stage in the back of the hall.
But we were there for the Chain Smoking Altar Boys, and they delivered the goods. Manning the drumkit is Bobby Lee Sellers Jr., who came over with Big Al from the Rhythm Dogs and lends some sterling vocals to the cause, and thumping the bass is P.T. Pedersen, who props himself up on a stool and doesn't look like much other than the silent type. Then you start listening to his bass lines and you get it. The man has laid it down for Charlie Musslewhite, Big Walter Horton, Sunnyland Slim and Pinetree Perkins, just to namedrop.
The Reverend, infused with the blues of his southside Chicago roots, grew up grooving on Freddy King and has been on stage with some great ones himself. But the names that draw the most intrigue are Evil Evans, Barefoot Jimmy, Chico Johnson and Devil Roberts, bluesmen who have surely shaped the Reverend's music and mojo as much as Koko Taylor and Gatemouth Brown.
What you get once you add it all up is white hot blues. Get there early and keep an eye on the fire extinguisher.