by Imogen Speith
Chicago guitarist, Ric Harris steps forth with his debut blues album Open For Business. Harris approaches his music as a collaborative leader, giving voice to each player in the group collectively for the success of the music above all else. The group is: rhythm guitarist Zack Avery, drummer Marty Binder, harmonicist Ray Cumpian, vocalist Gwen Klemenz, keyboardist Steve Kostakes, and bassist Harlan Terson, also all based in Chicago. Inspired by artists such as Gary Moore, Dickey Betts, and Duane Allman, Harris has tried to create songs that appeal to a broad base of listeners and his original tunes reflect that spirit.
The title track “Open For Business,” sets up the album with a signal the good times are about to roll. Harris has a matter of fact vocal style. His voice is unadorned, and the recording style offers no reverb, just the facts man. His guitar playing is focused and the solos smack with down right sizzle. Steve Kostakes takes the first whirl; his solo is filled with heavy chops and a solid blues rhythm. Harris opens up for business with his solo, replete with quick dexterity and an unwavering blues language. His tone is warm and round and offers a recognizable tone, especially in the call and response section with rhythm guitarist Zach Avery.
“Come What May,” features Harris on slide guitar this time out. The tune has a reminiscence of the Austin blues scene. A bit of grit and a pinch of tex-mex. Harris adds in his searing blues guitar filled with chromaticism and flair. Bassist Terson holds down a steady and solid bass line that cooks. A quirky tune “Viagra Falls,” is a fun listen with cheeky lyrics and a cooking rhythm line. “Is This Ever Hard,” is a funk-based blues tune. Harris has a measured style with his vocals, but each time he takes a solo its clear the wild man in him steps forth. His solos are edgy and filled with a lot of soul.
Overall, Open For Business is a strong debut. A lot of great songs that feature heartfelt performances, I could certainly picture this band jamming out at a local windy city club. In the future, I would love to see Harris use a bit variance in his vocal lines to add more interest, but that’s a small criticism. His guitar solos are filled with fire and the band stands up to meet the call with slam dunk performances. Long and short, a fun listen from beginning to end.