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MICHAEL BARCLAY BLUES BAND

Tradewinds, Cotati

March 20, 2004
By Rolf Olmsted

"I refuse, I refuse to get the blues,
I refuse, I refuse to get the blues,
You told me goodbye, but I ain't gonna cry,
I refuse"

(Michael Barclay)

At 9:00 on a warm spring night it was a small crowd that kept growing.  The other joints in Cotati were on the empty side too.  Michael Barclay was fussing with his equipment, a pained look on his face.  Since this is normal with Michael I remained calm as did the members of his band, Roger Volz on alto sax, Banana on organ and guitar, Kent Fossgreen on bass, Rick Cutler on drums, and Joel Rudinow on piano.  Michael, satisfied, turned around and they were away into Michael?s fine instrumental tune "Dark Night."

Dedicating the song to Mo, Michael went into his song "Soul Patch."  Michael using his old dark sounding Stratocaster with the tortoise shell pickguard was ripping and sounding more emotional than usual.

I went and danced.  Hard.  I needed it.  It?s been a crummy month and a half. Laid off from by job (thanks George), and the final end of the marriage I?ve been keeping together for the sake of the kids.  Other problems.  Michael somehow was playing for me almost from the first notes.  I refuse to get the blues.

"Red Haired Woman" got others out dancing too.  Many of the regulars came in the door and were dancing or watching Michael, as he became more driving and emotional and experimental.  Armand, Mo, Jo, Donna, Terri, all watching Michael, something was up with him, he seemed wild.  We were all out on the floor.  Non-regulars were almost all out dancing too.

After a hot instrumental whose name I don?t know, it was the slow jazzy blues and he sang in a crying tenor "I can feel your body next to mine."

?I can feel your body
When I'm lying in bed
There's too much confusion
Going around through my head

And it makes me so angry
To know that the flame still burns
Why can't I get over?
When will I ever learn?

Old love, leave me alone
Old love, go on home

I can see your face
But I know that it's not real
It's just an illusion
Caused by how I used to feel

And it makes me so angry
To know that the flame will always burn
I'll never get over
I know now that I'll never learn?

(Cray/Clapton)

It was long and heartfelt, incredibly emotional.  The band members staring at him watching for even the smallest cues caught up in the song.  Fabulous guitar, singing and crying.  We cheered at the end.  Michael came out the zone and gave himself a shake.

The band broke into a hot shuffle, which became a rhumba version of "Cross-cut Saw."  The MBBB does things with classic tunes and gives them new settings.

About twenty single women who I?d never seen before began to fall in love with the music and the Tradewinds and go out and dance on the floor without partners (where were you men?).  Many women like the Tradewinds for it? comfortable feel, lack of offensive pictures, competent bartenders, and Shorty, the world? best non-threatening doorman.

A hot dance tune, followed by a danceable shuffle led up to the distinctive opening funk figure of "Gimme a Break."

"Why don?t youooo gimme a break?" (Barclay)  And it was bluesy funk time up and down the floor.

Ah, the long break on a warm night when the band is hot.  Snapshots:  Circulating and talking blues out in the parking lot.  Talking trash out front. Getting teased by Tammie.  Jiving with friends and acquaintances.  Running across the street to see Levi Lloyd and the 501 Band at Spancky?s.  Levi announcing over the mike "We don?t have any blues lovers here tonight so here?s some rock and roll."  Then he looked over in the corner where we?d just slid from the door and started to laugh.  It was the 501 Band?s night to have to play "Proud Mary" for the semi-leather Spancky?s crowd.  Back in the parking lot standing in a circle (thanks Armand).

The second set started with a soul jazzy instrumental and then became "I Refuse."

"I refuse, I refuse to get the blues,
I refuse; I refuse to get the blues,
You told me goodbye, but I ain?t gonna cry,
I refuse"

(Michael Barclay)

Then Michael stunned us by getting out his wah-wah pedal and doing Jimmy Hendrix classics like "Purple Haze" and ?Voodoo Chile.?  He did stuff like this years ago, it was some kind of return to another time. And he was real good too!

"I?m standing next to a mountain,
I chop it down with the edge of my hand.
I?m standing next to a mountain,
I chop it down with the edge of my hand.
Well, I pick up all the pieces and make an island,
Might even raise a little sand.
?Cause I?m a voodoo chile,
Lord knows I?m a voodoo chile, baby."

(Hendrix)

Then it was "Get Out My Life Woman (you don?t love me no more)" done really funky and hard. Following that was Blind Willie Johnson?s "Nobody?s Fault But Mine."

"Nobody's fault but mine
Nobody's fault but mine
If I die and my soul be lost
Nobody's fault but mine"

Michael was on fire and did a great duet part with Joel on piano.  It was fiery and understated at the same time.

At the last break it was mostly regulars who stayed for the last set.  We were all talking about Michael?s wild night playing the guitar.  We could all sense some kind of change in him.  Someone said to him "It sounds like you?ve had some kind of loss."  Michael: "I have."  I began to realize why I was so in tune with Michael?s mood.

As the third set began a lot of people were across the street at Spancky?s but came back when they heard the music start back up.  The band broke into a space lyrical instrumental and Michael shone again.  Roger went into a long sax solo floating on top of the chord changes.  Wow.  Banana?s tune "Lost in the Blues" was a swaying dance tune with more in the way of harmonics than many bands ever manage.  The band was going to stop there but we made them do one last tune.  They struck up:

"I really got to use my imagination
To keep on keepin' on
I got to make the best of a bad situation
Ever since that day I found you were gone

Darkness all around me
Blockin' out the sun
My good friends call me
But I don't want to talk to anyone
Emptiness has found me
And it just won't let me go
I go on livin'
But why I just don't know."

(Barclay)

...Rolf Olmsted

Rolf Olmsted was born on the banks of the Mississippi River and had a dog and played his father's mandolin. He was exposed to the blues at an early age which accounts for it. Among his accomplishments are reproduction, a collection of cheap guitars, and computer semi-literacy. He's guilty of attempted guitar and mandolin playing.