It’s time to board the Train to Key Biscayne with Peter Ward! Maybe you are wearin’ a fedora, perhaps a fine Stetson, and you have brought along your best cigars, a stash of your favorite liquor, and your lovely lady dressed in her best finery. Some folks have brought their kids and others have grandchildren in tow. All are excited to hear Peter’s new album and there is a cheerful camaraderie as the journey begins.
On the train to help entertain you are some of Peter’s friends. Luther Johnson, longtime sideman for Muddy Waters, is there. A host of New England’s blues luminaries are there too: Ronnie Earl, Sugar Ray Norcia, Mudcat Ward (Peter’s brother), Anthony Geraci, Neil Gouvin, and Michelle Willson. Some fellow musicians catch a ride also; Jiri Nedoma, Bob Berry, George Dellomo, Hank Walther, Aaron Gratzmiller, and Keith Asack. Even a friend, Johnny Nicholas, who relocated to Texas, has come back to town to catch the train rollin’ out of Boston. And there is the original art work that Peter did for the album cover hanging in a place of honor in the dining car.
As the train makes its leisurely way south, Peter and his friends entertain you with a wonderful mix of New England based blues, western swing, and an enticing slice of R&B. Leading off is Luther Johnson singing The Luther Johnson Thing; a song Peter wrote to commemorate Luther’s life and contribution to the electric blues and who better to sing it than the man himself.
Next up is Sugar Ray Norcia to sing and swing the blues with A Westerly Sunday night. He follows it up with a fantastic R&B tune that harkens back to golden Saturday nights in the fifties and sixites….When You Are Mine. (All the songs on the album were written by Peter and the mental images he creates with the lyrics and music are magical.) Sugar Ray finishes up with a nostalgic swing tune, As Long As I Have a Chance.
Michelle “Evil Mama” Willson then takes the stage as the train rocks to and fro headed ever south. It’s gettin’ warmer…folks are sheddin those New England weather clothes and breakin out the jeans, t-shirts, and tank tops…baseball caps and sunglasses proliferate among the guests. Michelle rocks the blues with the Coffee Song and then sings an inspiring rock ballad, I Saw Your House, that has a great Bruce Springsteen feel to it.
Everyone is excited to see one of the all time great blues guitarist, Ronnie Earl, take to the stage to play with Peter and they launch into a rousing Chicago blues tune, Blues Elixir (Ronnie’s Here). Peter follows up with a beautiful instrumental entitled Supposedly that features some awesome harmonica and piano playing by Hank Walther.
Then Peter and the core band of Mudcat Ward (bass), Neil Gouvin (drums), and the great keyboard player Anthony Geraci lay down some upbeat blues with Something Always Slows Me Down.
Finally as the heat rises and the palmettos come into view through the windows, Johnny Nicholas goes front and center with more rocking blues as he belts out Change (Ain’t Never For the Good). Johnny started out in Rhode Island, played in California, then Chicago, and did a stint with Asleep at the Wheel before settling in Texas. But he has always maintained his ties to his musician friends in New England. To close out the journey he also sings the title cut, an incredible fusion of the blues and western swing.
Photo by Tim Hazeltine
On his second solo musical foray, Peter Ward has simply outdone himself! The album is well produced and performed; it is entertainment at its finest. They say you can tell a person by the company they keep. And I would be thrilled to be part of this company of musicians and friends on a Train Ride to Key Biscayne anytime!
Peter Ward – Train Ride to Key Biscayne (Gandy Dancer Records 2019)