The Hippo


Jul 16, 2019








Courtesy photo.

Joe Moss

When: Friday, Jan. 30, 8 p.m.
Where: Elks Lodge, 192 Central St., Franklin
Tickets: $22 at ($25/door)

Working man blues
No rest for Joe Moss

By Michael Witthaus

When it comes to guitar, Joe Moss is equal parts purveyor and enthusiast. Lately, he’s been studying Yngwie Malmsteen on YouTube. He’s a Chicago blues man, while Malmsteen’s a Swedish shredder, but that doesn’t matter to Moss. On stage, he toggles between a Gibson Les Paul guitar and a custom Flying V favored by many metal stars. 

“I don’t box myself in to one style; I spend so much time trying to understand what’s going on,” Moss said by phone recently. “The Internet has changed the whole trajectory of how we learn.”
Now in his 40s, Moss still possesses the same energy that fueled him when he started playing at age 10.  
“My mom used to come in my room and tell me to wipe my mouth,” he said. “I didn’t know I was drooling.” 
When he was a youngster, the black radio stations his mother listened to hipped Moss to the “3 Kings” of guitar — B.B., Albert and Freddie — and soulful guys like Al Green and Tyrone Davis; his dad’s younger brother introduced him to rock. Living near Chicago afforded moments like the night Moss, his brother (also a guitarist) and another pal were the only people at a club where Ronnie Earl was performing. 
“He realized there was no one there, so he … played and sweated all over us,” said Moss, recalling how impressed he was with the fury of Earl’s performance to a near-empty room. “He’s exorcising demons when he’s playing … things going on inside him that he is releasing. That is one of the things great musicians do.”
Moss joined his first band at 15, gigging seven nights a week with Buddy Scott & the Rib Tips. The experience sparked a work ethic that’s still with him. He’s on stage as much as 28 days a month, and Moss considers his two-and-a-half-week East Coast tour leisurely because he has a few days off. 
“When I started out in Chicago, I would play lunchtime gigs then play out at night,” he said. 
He’s a fan of the East Coast blues scene. Roomful of Blues trumpet player Doug Woolverton guests on his upcoming album Manifesto. Moss credits the Boston band as a driving force in the genre’s revival. 
“Duke Robillard and guitar players like Ronnie Earl and Ron Levy … were all instrumental in bringing blues back,” he said. “When Stevie Ray hit in 1983, the Northeast had a big hand in making that stuff happen.”
Moss is eager to return to New Hampshire; he plays Jan. 30 at the Elks Lodge in Franklin. 
“Bob Day, who puts on the shows, is just a really cool dude, and there are a handful of die-hard fans that always come out to see us,” he said. “Plus, the whole gig is kind of a cool thing; you’re playing an Elks Lodge, which is a grass-roots production.”  
As a student of the blues, Moss isn’t afraid to look backward and forward. 
“I found Johnny Winter’s first two albums pretty late … the other one was Peter Green,” he said, a nod to the often overlooked blues rock incarnation of Fleetwood Mac that preceded the Buckingham/Nicks version by a few editions. “I’ve come to the realization that Johnny Winter was the most articulate blues guitar player ever … the most well-versed in all the different styles.”
The Franklin show will serve as a CD release party for Manifesto. An early track, a cover of Otis Rush’s “Homework,” indicates that the record will please both purists and fans of solid guitar playing. 
“I don’t usually do too many covers,” he said. “But I’m a fan of art and beauty in all forms.” 
As seen in the January 29, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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