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Albums Of The Week: The Nick Moss Band ft. Dennis Gruenling | Get Your Back Into It!

The Chicago guitar slinger & the New Jersey harmonica devil tear through eveything from gritty 12-bar blasts to jumpin’ jive jams on their high-octane third studio album.

ALCD 5013

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Since first forming The Nick Moss Band Featuring Dennis Gruenling in 2016, master blues guitarist Moss and world class harmonica virtuoso  Gruenling have become torchbearers for traditional electric blues. But rather than repeating what’s come before, the band’s high-energy take on old school Chicago, Texas and West Coast sounds is completely their own. With their third Alligator Records  release Get Your Back Into It!, Chicago native Moss and New Jersey native Gruenling — together with Rodrigo Mantovani on bass, Taylor Streiff on keyboards and Pierce Downer on drums— deliver a deeply rooted, timeless blue-collar blues album.

Get Your Back Into It! was produced by Moss and Mantovani and contains 14 original songs: 12 by Moss and two by Gruenling. Guests include saxophonist “Sax” Gordon Beadle and, on Out Of The Woods, organist “Brother” John Kattke. The album is inspired by the electrifying blues sounds of 1940s through 1960s, and is performed with taste, restraint, sly humor and pure joy. The stylistically distinct songs — including three wild instrumentals that simply dare you to stay seated — are all connected by Moss’ and Gruenling’s shared musical vision. “We like to push ourselves out of our comfort zone,” Moss says of the songs and performances on the new album, “and I feel like we accomplished that.”

From the life lessons espoused in The Bait In The Snare, Losing Ground and Choose Wisely to the hard blues of Aurelie and Living In Heartache to the lighthearted ode to the band’s Brazilian bass player, It Shocks Me Out, Moss makes clear, in addition to his unparalleled guitar work and soulful singing voice, he is also an award-winning songwriter with the rare Willie Dixon-like ability to write and sing the blues’ honest truth.

Photo by Howard Greenblatt.

Authenticity has never been a problem for Moss, who first made a name for himself playing bass for bluesman Jimmy “Fast Fingers” Dawkins. Dawkins encouraged Nick to unleash his fire and passion. From there, Moss was chosen by Willie “Big Eyes” Smith to join his Legendary Blues Band, but Smith insisted Moss switch to guitar. Blues icon Jimmy Rogers (whose best known songs included Walking By Myself and Ludella) hired Moss as his touring guitarist, mentoring him on the blues lifestyle along the way. Today, Moss’ blistering fretwork, impassioned, soul-charged vocals and memorable original songs place him in a league of his own.

Growing up in Chicago and standing tall at 6’2”, the teenage Moss dreamed of playing both music and sports. His mother was a huge blues fan, even taking a young Nick to see Muddy Waters in concert. At 18, sudden emergency kidney surgery sidelined his athletic hopes and left the youngster feeling blue. To lift his spirits, Nick’s brother snuck him out of the hospital to see Little Charlie & The Nightcats perform. Nick was blown away by the show and by meeting the band, and it was then and there that he decided on a career as a bluesman. After his years working with and learning from true blues royalty, Nick formed his first band in 1997 and released his debut album a year later on his own independent Blue Bella label. Since then, he’s earned legions of fans, playing over 100 shows a year. Moss has shared stages with Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Gary Clark Jr., David Hidalgo and many others, and is an in-demand guest, always welcome to sit in with his musician friends around the world. He and the band have crisscrossed the United States and Canada multiple times, and have performed in the U.K., Norway, Belgium, France, Spain, Latvia, Poland and other European countries.

Photo by Michael Kurgansky.

Gruenling, Moss’ friend of over 20 years, is considered among today’s most innovative and creative blues harmonica players. His high-energy, full-throttle reed work has earned him comparisons to many of the greats, including the late James Cotton. As a teen, he heard the album Harp Attack! (a summit meeting of Cotton, Junior Wells, Carey Bell and Billy Branch) and decided that blues harmonica was his life’s calling. In addition to Cotton, Gruenling was inspired by blues harp masters Little Walter and George “Harmonica” Smith as well as by saxophonists, including Lester Young and Red Prysock. A self-taught player and a natural entertainer with seven solo albums and numerous guest appearances to his credit, Gruenling’s giant, fat-toned harp work, raw-boned singing and untamed energy are a perfect foil for Moss’ inspired guitar playing and straight-from-the-shoulder blues vocals.

With the release of their Alligator Records debut The High Cost Of Low Living, in 2018, the band their arrival, as fans and critics were amazed by the band’s dynamic sound. 2019’s Lucky Guy! took them even higher, as the album hit blues radio by storm, finishing Top 10 on the Living Blues Radio Chart’s Top 50 Albums of 2019. Internationally, the album peaked on blues charts at No. 1 in Australia, No. 3 in France and No. 7 in the UK.

Moss, Gruenling and the band have received a total of five Blues Music Awards, with wins in 2020 for Band Of The Year, Song Of The Year (Lucky Guy) and Traditional Blues Album Of The Year (Lucky Guy), and in 2019 for Traditional Blues Male Artist (Moss) and Instrumentalist: Harmonica (Gruenling).”


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