Brandon Santini and Delta Highway cut a new live CD by Robert "Nighthawk " Tooms

Posted on 7/03/2010 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

(Memphis, Tennessee) This week we travel downtown to old Beale Street where my freinds, Brandon Santini, Elliot Sowell, Derek Bonn, and Tom "Slim " Lewis are cutting a new live CD during 3 days of this week. They are cutting down at Mr. Handy's Blues Hall which is the site of the first performance I ever saw brother Santini give in Memphis years ago. Now at the age of 28, he has honed his skills and his delivery and is putting out some fine dynamic shows, passing by many of his competitors who have even more experience than he.

After 7 years, his partner decided he no longer wanted to play and Brandon took the bull by the horns and reorganized his group from the ground up. It was a great marriage of new musicians that would bear fruit quickly.

Drummer Derek Bonn lays it down

Derek Bonn, a new addition to the group is a solid blues drummer who knows the job and delivers the goods. He is not a flash in the pan but instead a musician who has obviously listened and paid attention to the great blues drummers and embraced their strengths, encompassing their skills to craft his own style. He is not distracting but is tasteful and in the pocket. In combination with slim Lewis the rhythm section is the best this band has ever brought to bear and this author has heard them play countless nights on Beale Street and elsewhere as I was often playing next door or on the same street.

my old friend, Tom "Slim" Lewis...I have been friends with Slim and his wife for many years

the new, hard driving version of Delta Highway

Brandon a native of North Carolina, moved to Memphis to play the blues and he has done so. With the new band he can stretch out and expand the possibilities of dynamics and improvisation far beyond the original band's capabilities. Brandon has paid attention and learned how to do more than play hard and loud. He has gained finesse, steadily improving as a musician and vocalist, now more capable than ever and accompanied by a professional band.

Elliot Sowell truly shines on guitar, he is a talent not to be missed

Elliot, Derek and Slim
Elliot and Derek both are veterans of the St. Louis music scene.

Elliot Sowell

Elliot Sowell is the perfect, tasteful foil for Santini's harp and vocals. His delivery is traditional blues with an emphasis on accompaniment, like the other band members using his instrumental virtuosity with aplomb to make the overall sound authentic and listenable rather than just another platform for guitar wanking. Tasteful solos riddled with classic blues technique are his stock in trade. He can deliver the perfect drone tone background riffs to build a base for a tune and switch instantly to provide fills and alternate with Santini's lead parts.

These guys play like much older, more experienced musicians and they have obviously spent many days listening to the good stuff and also meshing their various talents into a cogent mix while toiling away in these little blues bars, earning thier chops legitimately. They are flat out impressive to listen to and enjoyable for the crowds that they draw. I don't think they ever lose a listener.

Delta Highway

Brandon leads the band through a soulful blues number

Elliot Sowell

Brandon Santini blows a smoking solo

Santini's implements

Derek Bonn, one of the finest blues drummers in the city

Derek Bonn and Slim Lewis

I have had the distinct pleasure of sitting in with the band and it was as good a show as most any of the bonafide blues bands I have worked with in the past 30 years. No doubt, if you have an opportunity to hear these guys, do so. They are a real slice of the Beale street pie that is becoming more rare of a commodity each year.

Brandon Santini

Derek and Slim

Brandon Santini

Bike night on Beale Street is sort of controlled bedlam

the scene outside Handy Hall where Delta Highway is recording

On June 5th, the Rumboogie Cafe will celebrate its 25th Anniversary and the author will play twice during the big celebration along with some notable Memphis musicians who have played at this location down through the years, including James Govan, Don McMinn, John Lee Hooker, Jr., Eric Hughes, Guy Venable and some special guests. Tickets are still available. The Rumboogie Cafe is located next door to Handy Hall. In fact the two businesses share a bathroom. The Handy Hall is the last of the hardwood floored, old juke joints on the street. It is a tiny, yet soulful little room that has seen a lot of music. with my band the Wampus Cats, I used to back up Muddy Water's harp player, Mojo Buford in this room. I will be backing him up in Helena, Arkansas this year at the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival.

The author is playing Alfred's with the Eric Hughes Band while Santini and company labors down the street

Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms at Alfred's(photo by John Gemmill)

Some upcoming dates:

Sat Jul 03 9:30 pm Fiery Ron's Hometeam BBQ
Sullivan's Island, SC
Sun Jul 04 9:30 pm Fiery Ron's Hometeam BBQ
Sullivan's Island, SC
Fri Jul 09 7:00 pm Carolina Mountain Ribfest
Fletcher, NC
Sat Jul 10 9:00 pm Uptown Sushi Bar & Cafe
Greenwood, SC

Here's a list of more dates from their website:



© Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms, 2010

American Blues News Staff

What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

Mon: Memphis Correspondent - Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms
Nighthawk is our resident globetrotter and man behind the scenes, as he tours with the Reba Russell Band.

Tues: New York Correspondent - J. Blake
Blake is the American Blues News review and interview guru. You may catch him out and about in NY playing the blues.

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Fri: Northeast Photographer - Nelson Onofre
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Jim Stick in Colorado
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