Livin' the Latino Blues

Jr. De Ville could be the next Stevie Ray

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: June 30, 2003

Livin' the Latino Blues

I have pretty much sworn off CD release showcases after the last one I attended in LA on the Sunset Strip touting a new band who called themselves Loudermilk, a DreamWorks act with some serious industry buzz .

The secret is that you got to know somebody heavy in the business to get an invite. The soundstage was packed with industry executives, stars, attitude and industry folk. What I heard was a loud electric three-chord-thumping soulless set from four really skinny High School guys in 1950s sharkskin suits and Dave Clark Five haircuts. I did buy the CD and wish I didn?t.

The Jr. De Ville CD release party thing was much different; it was done in San Francisco?s Biscuits and Blues basement restaurant and club on a Sunday night. The audience included normal patrons, family, friends, Jr's Grandfather who taught him his chops, and De Ville?s two toddlers, his baby girl yelling ?Hi, Papi? during a small break.

Jr. De Ville is not the new downsized Cadillac, but rather a talented young bluesman, who could very well be next Stevie Ray Vaughan.

I have always had an appreciation for blues and have studied the genre from Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. I have seen everybody from Jimi Hendrix live in Berkeley to Eddie Van Halen live at the US festival back in the day.

De Ville has been schooled in the classic Blues genre. One can hear traditional delta and southern guitar phrasing when he does his original material. His licks are clear complicated yet soulful and like Carlos Santana, he sometimes slips in a Latino accent.

De Ville, with his trademark fedora hat, goatee and ponytail, is an interesting hard working twenty something cat. He's successful East Bay barber by day, a husband and father, who funded his new CD entitled, ?Just a Blues Cat? out of his pocket, and makes break-even money playing gigs all over Northern California. He'll soon be doing dates in LatinoLA.

According to De Ville, ?The first thing you need to learn about playing the blues is not to quit your day job. Play it strong from the heart and not for the money. Blues is not something to get rich off of; it is a uniquely American form of music that transcends race. Blues music is for people who know how it is to have hard times who can relate to what you are talking about it. I do this because I love it. The art form allows me to express how I feel about my life, how I see the world. And what I can?t say lyrically, I let my guitar do the talking?.

It was especially impressive for me to see Deville?s motorcycle club, The Heavy Hitters, who rode in 50-some odd miles into town on a cold San Franciscan night flying their leather vest colors, as they had their candy colored custom chrome Harley Dangerous bikes line the sidewalk in front of the club glistening hot pipes and cold ape hangers off the velvet blue and bright red, yellow neon night lights. The clubs credit card machine was whack; it was cash or check to get in that night.

The blues pack arrived during the first set break. Their ominous and boisterous presence took De Ville?s last set to the next level, and then it became an old fashioned house party, and for those who can dig it, a rent party. With the biker and the blues bantering in and about I felt right at home.

De Ville is well on his way to becoming a national act and has traded licks with the likes of legends like Joe Louis Walker. His band includes a young talented jazzy pianist Magic Mike Blankenship, while drummer Nick Woodson and bass player Chris Meeks hold down a solid groove.

What is most refreshing about the act is the lack of rock and roll pretense when De Ville rips off staggering blues licks, then singing a chorus about being done wrong, no more crying, I got to find my way?

He conveys a sense of honesty in that it is obvious that he has felt those blue mood emotions, but expresses it in such a way, assuring you that he has gotten over them, selling the blues as an art form rather than a psycho-babble frame of mind.

He looks like a very happy and well rounded guy, who is endearing to the audience. I got the CD and am wearing it out.

Check him out at http://www.jrdevilleblues.com

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a national columnist and a screenwriter.

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