Sunday, April 6, 2008

Ronnie Shellist and the Shuffletones

I caught Ronnie Shellist’s act at the Dazzle nightclub in downtown Denver on Saturday night. Ronnie was a blues harp sensation on YouTube a couple years ago and he has since put together a very talented working band. He was part of Jason Ricci’s Rockers in the Rockies last fall. He is an exceptionally good blues harp player.

First, his gear: Ronnie’s amp is a Weber Tweed Bassman kit. The amp has four identical Weber 10A125-O speakers. Ronnie plays mostly through an old beat-up Shure 520 mic, and his tone is outstanding. But get this… He uses no reverb and no delay; he plays 100 percent dry. The mic plugs directly into the amp, and that’s it. I was amazed at his tone; I could have sworn he had some delay in there somewhere, but it was all in his amazing technique.

Guitar player Jeremy Vasquez deserves special mention here. I am not exaggerating even a little when I say he strongly reminded me of a young Carlos Santana. I was stunned at his slashing riffs that suddenly modulated down to you-could-hear-a-pin-drop melodies. This guy has got the blues thing goin’ on in a big way.

They called me up to play some harp in the first set, which was a lot of fun. It’s great to play with pros, and the Shuffletones are first rate players. Catch their act if you can. You will be very impressed.

UPDATE: One thing that especially impressed me about Ronnie's band was the level of enthusiasm shown by the audience for the blues. The Suffletones had 'em hooting and frothy, and it warms the heart of this old blues guy to see that in Denver, Colorado.


Anonymous said...

For live gigs, I too am a proponent of playing "dry." Most rooms have enough natural reverb, and while delay sounds cool, it can mask some of the subtle aspects of your playing (and delay can easily sound overprocessed to my ears). Lots of pro players (I would speculate the majority of pro blues har players) play completely "dry."

In the studio, however, a touch of reverb and delay can give a recording a much more "live" sound.

Rick Davis said...

Hi Dave-

You are correct. I noticed that at Mark Hummel's Blues Harp Blowout last year at the Palms in Winters, CA. About half of the guys played dry, others used reverb or delay. Gary Smilth uses an old Fender tube reverb unit, for example.

With delay or reverb, less is usually more. I like just a touch of slap-back.