Hamilton Loomis takes the blues outside the box | AspenTimes.com
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Hamilton Loomis takes the blues outside the box

Stewart OksenhornAspen Times Staff Writer

On his way to becoming a top-rank blues player, Hamilton Loomis got a hand from some of the masters. Loomis jammed with Albert Collins a few months before Collins death in 1993. Around the same time, Bo Diddley befriended Loomis and became something of a mentor to the young guitarist. The Texas-born-and-raised Loomis also got advice and applause from two Texas blues icons, Clarence Gatemouth Brown and Johnny Clyde Copeland.So Loomis shows the proper respect to his blues forebears. But not an overabundance of respect.One of the best pieces of advice Loomis recalls came courtesy of Bo Diddley. Diddley had distinguished himself by inventing his own beats, mixing blues with rock n roll, and messing with standard blues instrumentation by discarding the bass guitar and using maracas. Diddley advised Loomis to show similar disregard for long-held traditions.His advice was to do something different, said Loomis, who plays a New Years Eve gig at the Ute City Bar & Grill with his two-piece band of keyboard/bassist Brant Leeper and drummer Ian Bailey. He said everythings been done before, so do your own thing.Loomis took the advice to heart. On his latest CD, Kickin It, Loomis blues are far from the broke-and-damaged wail of Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker and B.B. King. The opening track, Workin Real Hard, begins with an upbeat sentiment that no old master would ever confess to or even recognize: I got brand new strings on my guitar/ … A big screen remote control and a six-pack staying nice and cold. Elsewhere on the album are drum samples, dance rhythms, good-time horn parts and a general sense that the blues is a decent way to make a living and have some fun.Loomis says it all sums up his approach to the music. Everybody can play traditional blues, said the 28-year-old. As a reverence thing, lets leave that alone. Thats what they were going through. I want to sing about stuff I immediately relate to. Im not down-and-out. My woman didnt leave me. Im an upbeat person. Im not going to pretend to be something Im not.Loomis, who has been profiled in Guitar Player and Living Blues magazines, was born into music. He began playing drums and piano at 5, moved onto guitar and bass two years later, and tacked on harmonica at 16. As a child, he and his parents father Mike, a bassist and what Loomis calls a lifelong weekend warrior musician, and mother Jane, a singer performed around their hometown of Galveston as a doo-wop group. In his early teens, Loomis parents would take him to Houstons Fifth Ward, to a blues jam at The Club Matinee, where the Loomises would be the only white faces. Thats where I learned the power of the blues, how it brought people together, said Loomis. It was also there that word began to spread about the young blues kid.At 18, Loomis released his first CD, Hamilton, on which he played all the instruments. There were raves about his talent; Texas Blues magazine said, As a lead guitarist, Hamilton ranks second to none. Three more CDs followed, and Loomis added accents of funk, rock, Motown and more to his stew.But while Loomis has taken pains to make his own sound, he is a bluesman at heart. His musical vocabulary is unmistakably rooted in blues, even if his voice is smoother than the standard blues singer. When he talks about fellow young, white blues players like Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepard, Loomis praises them not only for their unique approaches, but also for the fact that theyre spreading the blues.The cool thing theyre doing is they have the young people coming to the show, he said. And thats interesting because I dont think the young people mostly know that this is where all the other music comes from. Thats where all our popular music comes from. All of it. Its up on a pedestal where it should be.Just because the blues is on a pedestal, though, doesnt mean it cant be disturbed. Loomis plans on putting the blues through the wringer if thats what it takes to follow Bo Diddleys advice to do something different. And Loomis doesnt mind if some feathers are ruffled in the process. He looks forward to it.I aim to piss off the peers. I expect to do that, he said. Youre going to to stay in that little box? Youre going to stay in the past? Dare to do something cool.Stewart Oksenhorns e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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