By Diana Shonk (first appeared in #182 The Blues Audience newsletter, August/September 2010
I am never surprised, but always amazed by the amount of talent there is in our New England area. When I go to the North Atlantic Blues Festival, I love to see the acts that they bring to the stage that are new (to me). Each year they have a club crawl on Saturday night and this year, and I saw a number of young musicians on the street that made me happy that some youngsters are taking up the gauntlet. But I was blown away by the force of the Eric Green Party at Myrtle Street Tavern.
Eric Green says that he loves playing at Myrtle Street. “Myrtle Street’s got serious mojo, especially when the EG Party rocks the joint. Maybe it’s ‘cause it was supposedly a whorehouse back in the day. There’s a lot of love in that room.” But whatever it is, it was really packed and the music was gritty, sweaty and I got a good look at a powerful Blues talent.
“People have always called me a Blues act, no matter what style I play, and for some reason they usually attach “swamp” to it. I’m actually more of a songwriter than anything. Everything always seems to go back to the Blues. The Blues claimed me when no one else would, and the Blues always takes me back when I stray.” he explained “I’ve been kickin’ the Blues since the early 80’s. My first year playin’ out I opened for John Hammond Jr. at the old Raoul’s Roadside Attraction in Portland, Maine and I haven’t been able to stop since.”
Eric’s mother was Penobscot/ Maliseet Indian and his biological father was French-Acadian, who happened to be a drummer. “I’ve never met him but I sometimes I feel like maybe I inherited some of his rhythm. My great grandfather was Chief of the Penobscots (Indian Tribe) for seven terms.”
Years ago, when the British took over the eastern seaboard, they rounded up all the French Acadians and shipped ‘em on down South to Louisiana. The Acadians became “Cajuns.” “I feel like I have some of these Acadian influences in my blood. The influence is in my music but I don’t play Cajun music specifically. I think my slide and voice just come instinctively from my Penobscot and Acadian roots. It’s primal, straight up, and that’s just what comes out.”
Eric lives in Bangor, Maine. “Our tribe has been here for 15,000 years. I want to keep it real and be in my tribal lands. Try to be true to my culture.” he told me. He is one of only 2,100 Penobscot Indians.
Eric has lived Texas, New Mexico, Panama and few other places but his stay in New Orleans for nearly 6 years seems to have clearly made a mark on his repertoire. “You can’t live down there and not soak up some of that rich ‘Crescent City’ vibe. I’ll be in New Orleans in October visiting and recording with a friend, but being the Mainer that I am, I’ll be psyched to get back to my cool coastal breeze after a few weeks in the Big Easy.”
Eric discovered Muddy Waters at 13 when most of the kids were listening to hair bands. “I couldn’t take pop music seriously. Muddy kind of reminded me of an Indian Chief. It could be possible, there are a lot of Africans and Indian’s that got together back then. The Indian’s often would take in runaway slaves and treat them with respect. That monotonic beat in a lot of Blues sounds like a war drum.
“I have been playing Blues for 20 plus years now. I have been with my current rhythm section for roughly 10 years. Right now we are cutting a new album, and we’re waaaay busy.” We turned down a lot of gigs this summer because we’re totally booked. Nick Cody is on bass and guitar, Paul Bosse on drums and percussion and I switch off on slide guitar, regular guitar and keyboard. These guys flat out rock, period. They could be playing with anyone anywhere, but luckily they hang with me. We’ve made our own circuit up here we call the ‘Brandy Belt,’ due to the copious amounts of coffee brandy that gets consumed at our shows. It’s the Eric Green ‘Party,’ so we make sure to have lots of fun. We go into a club and just try to kick major ass. We thump ‘em pretty hard. We try to mix it up a lot, we do not do the same old standards some bar bands do.” Eric explained.
“With the state of affairs these days It seems to me to be kind of self indulgent to write songs about my love or my life or how hard I have it. I’m writing songs about historical stuff and environmental concerns. We (humans) are the stewards of the earth and it’s so easy to get caught up in the self absorbed ‘me me me’ culture these days. My new songs are a reminder about some important stuff, delivered with a raw Blues backbone. One of the new songs, ‘Buried in the Mud’ is eerily similar to the crisis in the Gulf. I’m trying to do something constructive with my music.” he explained excitedly “The biggest, coolest thing ever is to use your music for good. It’s not preachy, but it’s partying to something positive and maybe passin’ on a little education with the low down funky beat.”
“Being a musician? I always call it a curse, ‘cause it’s long hard hours and it get’s dangerous out on the road late at night, but we don’t care… ‘cause we’re animals”
Eric has a number of small run, live CDs and 2 major recordings. One in 1999 made in New Orleans at Noiselab called LAST THING and one in 2005 called HOT ALL DAY, produced in Bangor Maine at Nightcrawler Studio, the later of which featured a yet undiscovered Nigel Hall on several cuts. The Hot All Day album earned Eric a nomination for “Song of the Year,” “Male Vocalist of the Year,” and “R&B/Blues act of the year” in the Portland Phoenix, 2005. Currently the band is putting together a follow up CD entitled RIVER TIGER that will be available by Christmas 2010.
Eric Green Party is a staple of the Maine Blues scene, and the Maine Blues Festival has featured him a many times. “The Maine Blues Festival is a local Blues band showcase and the acts that perform are outstanding,” Eric told me.
It was my pleasure to make his acquaintance on a hot summer night in Maine. I really like that tough, guttural, earthy sound they produce. I certainly hope to see him on stage again. Check out some of his tunes at www.myspace.com/ericgreenband