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MUSIC | ROCKTALK

2 Clubs Import the Blues for Weekend Shows

January 22, 1998|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two local clubs are bringing in some out-of-town musical muscle this weekend to compete in the Valley blues club wars.

Cozy's will offer sax man-singer Terry Hanck from up north in Santa Cruz, and Smokin' Johnnie's will counter with San Diego's Mississippi Mudsharks.

Hanck, a Chicago native, first came to California in the mid-1960s. While he has worked at one time or another with many big names in the music biz including Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, Albert Collins and Robert Cray to name a few, Hanck was Elvin Bishop's steady sideman for 10 years starting in 1977.

Since 1987, Hanck has been performing at center stage, singing and blowing his sax from his base of operations in the Santa Cruz area. What label does he like better: singer or sax player?

"I was just a sax player, but now my singing is real strong, so I'll take both," Hanck said.

Hanck used to call his music "soul rock," but he doesn't like that label anymore.

"My music is hard to categorize cause I don't do just one style," Hanck said. "I like to do a wide variety of R&B and blues and everything in between."

Everything in between for Hanck includes musical flavorings of East Bay funk, Kansas City jump and what he terms New Orleans "gumbo."

Last year he released his first solo album, "Live and Raw." To illustrate his point, Hanck's album cover features some freshly shucked oysters on the half shell alongside a bottle of Louisiana-style hot sauce.

"I've always wanted to do an album cover with the oysters--live and raw," he said.

True to that title, all seven tracks on the album were recorded live, including two from Hanck's performance at the 1996 Monterey Bay Blues Festival. But, these "raw" recordings show off Hanck's talent to its best advantage.

"I'm getting some good reviews," Hanck said. "We've sold the first batch."

Still, Hanck has no illusions about getting signed to a major recording contract.

"All the labels want is the latest 16-year-old blues guitar player or the next Stevie Ray Vaughn," he said.

* Terry Hanck performs Friday at Cozy's Bar & Grill, 14058 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 986-6000.

*

Southern Boys: The Mississippi Mudsharks hail from San Diego, but have any of them even seen the Delta?

"We once had a drummer who was from Mississippi," said lead singer Scott Blinn. "We had to kick him out, but we kept the name."

Blinn said the name instantly tells people what the band is all about.

"We wanted people to know it was going to be a roots-rock, blues band, original type of thing," Blinn said.

The band has been together five years, and its fifth anniversary party down south is planned for next month. Besides Blinn, the band includes drummer Tom Essa and bassist Mike Jones.

The band had been together about six months when they realized they had something special. That's when they decided to really get serious--they quit their day jobs. And they haven't regretted it.

They play about 300 dates per year, and were named best blues band in 1995, 1996 and 1997 at the San Diego Music Awards.

The band released two CDs, "Workin' for Nickels and Dimes" in 1996 and "Traditional Heavy" last year, and got distribution deals in the states and in Germany, where the band toured in 1996. They have their own Web site and a 24-hour hotline. And now, they're trying to expand to Los Angeles.

It's only January, but they seem to have a major portion of this year planned out: They're recording a new CD in May and next fall they're going to tour Germany again.

* Mississippi Mudsharks perform Friday at Smokin' Johnnie's, 11720 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 760-6631. They may also be reached at www.mississippimudsharks.com

Short Takes

* Blues man Smokey Wilson, who performs Friday night at B.B. King's at University CityWalk, has just been nominated for three W.C. Handy Awards by the Blues Foundation in Memphis, Tenn. Wilson is nominated in the best male artist, album of the year and song of the year categories. Winners are announced April 30 in Memphis.

* Also at Smokin' Johnnie's this weekend will be Taryn Donath, the 16-year-old blues piano phenom. This young lady can really pound it out. She plays Saturday night.

* Christian pop vocalist and Valley resident Mandie Pinto's career has taken a detour. The teenager is featured on two tracks of a new CD by the J.L. Randle Trio performing classic pop tunes "You Made Me Love You" and "Someone to Watch Over Me."

This Saturday night, Country Star restaurant at CityWalk is hosting a CD release party for the album.

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