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Leonard Griffe, left, John Trujillo, center, and Johnny O Nelson

Some righteous blues

You got to pay your dues to sing the blues &

and these guys have paid them. Calling themselves the BluesDusters, Johnny O Nelson and Leonard Griffie have gone back to the roots of the blues tradition, minting their first CD and launching a round of live shows.

Their sound is a &

modern update of traditional blues,&

says Ashland resident Nelson, but not much. It&

s about as bluesy as they come, no fusion, no rock-blues ... just blues.


That means it&

s about true feelings, but it doesn&

t mean it&

s all about getting drunk, beating up your lady and feeling bad,&

says slide and rhythm guitarist Nelson. It&

s about real life among real people, today in 2005. One cut, called &

Behind the Wheel,&

is about the frustrations of driving and how a lot of people get crazy on the road.



s about what it is to be human,&

says lead and rhythm guitarist Griffie, a Grants Pass graphic artist. &

And when someone comes up and says, &

145;Hey man, I know what you mean, I been there,&

then you know you&

re saying it.&

Nelson completes the thought, &

Yeah, it&

s real life. If you can&

t say you&

ve been there (in the real experiences of the songs), then either you&

re not human or you&

re not old enough.&



s right,&

adds Griffie. &


s not about me standing up there releasing my angst. It&

s about sharing the human experience, what&

s real, and using music as both a therapeutic tool and to just have a good time.&

All the cuts have a deep, masculine beat &

very danceable. Vocals, by Nelson and Griffie, are rich, savvy and inviting. &

Soft Spot&

is about what a man feels for his hard-headed woman &

and what man, they say, doesn&

t know that situation? &

Tightrope Walker&

is a warning about nearing the end of patience with the lover.

— — — Johnny O Nelson plays the guitar during a performance — at Alex's on Aug. 19.


Call Somebody&

is a wail of loneliness when &

my baby&


t answer the phone.

Nelson and Griffie, who wrote all the songs and do all the vocals, started the core of the BluesDusters a few years ago, and early this summer fleshed it out with Tom Stamper on drums, Michael Vannice on keyboard and John Trujillo on bass.

Both Griffie and Nelson, longtime owner of a now-closed oriental rug shop on Main Street, have paid their dues, making a buck for many years in rock and country bands, &

playing music we didn&

t want to play&

and, in middle age, &

we refuse,&

says Griffie, &

to play anything but the blues.&

Actually, they observe, it&

s all blues. You can&

t get away from the blues. It&

s the foundation of almost all modern music &

jazz, rock, country. The early Stones and Beatles is mostly blues and those lads cut their teeth on it.


If everyone loosens up, you enjoy the blues,&

says Nelson, a native of Chicago. &


adds Griffie, &

to play the blues, you do have to let go of the pop crowd thing, the people who shout, hey, play my favorite song.&


Yeah, it&

s an art form,&

adds Nelson.



s like saying to a painter, hey, change that to pink so it matches my couch,&

says drummer Stamper. &

You reach the point where you don&

t want to do that with music.&

With Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendix and Edgar Winter as his models, Griffie worked blues-rock bands through the &

60s and &

70s in Southern California. Nelson, who broke into the music scene in his native Chicago, worked the clubs of Boulder, Colo., and Los Angeles, jamming with such greats as Elvin Bishop and Muddy Waters.


s newly added talent comes with deep backgrounds &

Vannice, the &

ultimate musician&

and a veteran of the Robert Cray Band, Stamper from Alvin Bishop, Rhythm Kings, Blues Express and Prometheus Jazz Trio.

The BluesDusters are growing hot in Europe, getting Web articles and radio play, they report, as it&

s a kind of music they consider exotic and uniquely American &

something Europeans can&

t seem to copy.

Their CD release party is Saturday evening at Standing Stone Brewing Co. on Oak Street. It&

s called &


on the Rootstone label, available at www.bluesdusters.com.