Turning Greene to blues is a challenge, but there’s a guitarist who makes it happen.
Alastair Greene, who released a live album this month, is no newbie to the blues. He started his trio 20 years ago, but along the way hit a few rocks – as in rock bands, including Mickey Thomas’ Starship and, most notably, a seven-year worldwide run with the Alan Parsons Project.
“Alastair, first and foremost, is a guitar player,” blues legend Debbie Davies said. “His favorite genre is blues rock and, like me, he also was really into (Eric) Clapton and the guys I was into. As far as overall guitar player, he plays rings around me. But that’s exciting. That’s really fun.”
Now that he’s put his arena-rock life in the rear-view mirror, Greene is focused on blues, which has a fanbase that can fussy about who it accepts. Greene drives upon the scene with humility, alacrity and an irresistible amount of talent.
Three years ago, he volunteered to play with Jimmy Carpenter’s Bender Brass, the backing band for artists at-large at one of the nation’s largest blues events, the Big Blues Bender in Las Vegas.
“I showed him what I could offer,” Greene said. “You have to be versatile. Last year, he brought me back. And this year (Sept. 6-9), I’ll be there again along with my own band.”
Greene also has collaborated Debbie Davies in duo and with her band, as he did July 10 at a Bluesdays show at Squaw Valley.
Davis said Greene’s approach is the old-time way for a player to enter the blues – an apprenticeship, if you will. Nowadays, artists attempt to fast-track their way to stardom. In contrast, Davis broke in as a backing player to both Albert Collins and John Mayall.
“I like to give back, too,” Davis said. “He’s trying to get a leg up in the blues word because the Alan Parsons thing doesn’t translate – that’s not what blues fans listen to.”
Greene absorbs everything he can with Davis.
“Debbie has so much experience in the business. It’s just nice to hear her take and get her opinion on how to navigate a career,” Greene said.
“She’s got a lot of good advice and a lot of great stories. Not only that, she’s a phenomenal guitar player. She’s one of the best living blues guitar players in the world right now. To be around that, I can’t help but soak up the musicality that she has. It’s a win-win for me on a lot of levels as a friend and as a mentor.”
This month, Greene released “Live from the 805,” a two-disc, 20-song album recorded last March at the Soho Music Club in Santa Barbara. Recorded with his original bandmates, drummer Austin Beede and bassist Jim Rankin, it includes songs from his albums “Trouble at Your Door” and “Dream Train,” which have evolved since they were first recorded.
“It’s not a ton different from the studio record, but we stretch things out live,” Greene said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say we are a jam band, per se, but I would say we are in the same way that Cream was, or Jimi Hendrix or the Allman Brothers Band, where you get into some conversations musically and create a moment onstage, which is something that you don’t do in the studio. I wanted to document what I consider some very exciting musical moments and it coincided with the 20th anniversary of my band.”
Greene will make his Crystal Bay Casino debut on Thursday. He will appear as a special guest with Samantha Fish, a guitarist with outstanding vocals who also will perform at the Big Blues Bender.
“She also plays some slide guitar, which as a general rule a lot of guitar players don’t do,” Greene said. “You want to do things that separate yourself from the crowd. That separates her from a lot of not only female guitar players but guitar players in general. She plays the cigar box slide as well, and she’s got a great team that is helping her rise in the blues world and beyond.”
— Tim Parsons
- Samantha Fish and Alastair Greene
When: 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room
Tickets: $17 in advance or $20 at the door