The Insomniacs at Alex's
The Insomniacs are up all night — when they're on the road anyway, says the band's bassist Dean Mueller. "Coming up with a name for a band is always difficult," Mueller says. "They're usually named after the guitar player, but Vyasa Dodson isn't really a blues-sounding name."
The Insomniacs emerged from Portland's music scene in 2006. Mueller and his bandmates self-produced a debut CD titled "Left Coast Blues" in Mueller's living room and released it regionally.
Record label Delta Groove found "Left Coast" on the Internet and signed the band.
"They repackaged the CD and released it worldwide," Mueller says. "That's how we got nominated for Best New Artist Debut by the Blues Foundation and toured Canada and the U.S. last year."
One of the highlights of that tour was a performance at Morgan Freeman's blues club, Ground Zero, in Clarksdale, Miss.
"We performed with other Delta Groove artists there to showcase the label," Mueller says. "It was recorded live, and Delta will release a compilation of those performances in May."
Another highlight for the band was performing at the 2008 Blues Music Awards in Tunica, Miss., near Memphis, Tenn.
Delta released a second album for The Insomniacs, "At Least I'm Not With You," in April.
"We're excited about the new CD, it being our first project with the full backing of a label," Mueller says. "We went to a studio in Hollywood and recorded it in a day and a half. We just pounded it out and then drove home. It was stuff that we already had honed while we were on the road with the first album, and Delta producer Jeff Fleenor took it from there."
Along with Mueller and lead guitar player Dodson, The Insomniacs features Alex Shakeri on piano and Hammond B-3 and Dave Melyan on drums. Guest appearances on "At Least" include Al Blake and Mitch Kashmar on harmonicas, Joel Paterson on pedal steel and Jeff Turmes on tenor saxophone. "At Least I'm Not With You" also has been released internationally.
Since exploding onto the blues scene as if out of nowhere, The Insomniacs have garnered praise from critics and contemporaries. The band won Muddy Awards from Oregon's Cascade Blues Association for Best New Act of 2006 and Best Contemporary Act of 2007.
Blues guitarist Marc Bristol interviewed the group for the quarterly Blue Suede News magazine and wrote that he and a friend were "knocked out by The Insomniacs' energy, facility on their instruments, dedication and enthusiasm for their deeply rooted electric blues that swings and rocks, jumps and boogies with a vintage vibe propelled by youthful prowess."
Junior Watson wrote, "Dodson is a triple threat: guitar player, singer and songwriter. No doubt he is one hell of a guitar player, but it is his singing on 'At Least I'm Not With You' that really knocks me out."
The Insomniacs will tour heavily to support the new album, playing at venues in Califor-nia and Canada, as well as the Western and Mountain states and the Midwest.
"We do very well in the Mid-west," Mueller says. "We bring a West Coast sound that is fresh and has Kansas City and New Orleans' jazz influences wrapped into a blues sound.
"We're really looking forward to getting back to Knuckleheads in Kansas City," Mueller says. "We'll be performing with Hubert Sumlin. He's a piece of history. He played with Howlin' Wolf and all the greats out of Chicago, It's also a great dance club, a classic Midwestern blues venue."
Mueller found his home in the blues while teaching at Centrum, a gathering place for artists of all kinds at Port Townsend, Wash., he says. He's a big fan of Willie Dixon and Ray Brown. Dodson, who writes all of the songs for The Insom-niacs, switched from emu-lating blues guitarists Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton to studying masters such as Watson, Charlie Christian and Little Charlie Baty. Together with Shakeri and Melyan, the band busts out a mix of blues, swing, jump and roots rock 'n' roll that will keep audiences dancing all night. Hear them at insomniacsblues.com.
"Now it's our job to hit the road and be sure that fans like what they see us do live," Mueller says. The new album will be available at the gig at Alex's. Cover for the show will be $2. Call 482-8818.