Putting their backs into it

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Nick Moss, left, and Dennis Gruenling (Photo by Howard Greenblatt)

Bluesman Nick Moss grew up as a huge music fan, quite literally.

As a 6-foot-2 teenager, his dream of combining a career of music and sports was cut short when he needed sudden emergency kidney surgery.

In an effort to console him, Moss’ brother snuck him out of the hospital to see a performance by Little Charlie & the Nightcats. That ended up being the final say in the matter; Moss was immediately hooked on music and went on to play with blues legends such as Jimmy “Fast Fingers” Dawkins, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, and Jimmy Rogers

Early next month, his group, the Nick Moss Band, is set to perform at the Fanatics Pub in Lima. The show is part of a larger tour following the release of the group’s third album, “Get Your Back Into It!” While they have performed in plenty of shows post-COVID, something is special about having new music to show off, Moss notes.

“When we get together, the music takes over,” he says. “We like to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and I feel like we accomplished that (with the new album).”

The record itself is a combination of blues and rock ’n’ roll, harkening back to a 1940s through  1960s sound filled with electrifying and danceable tunes.

“Man on the Move,” for example, begins with a steady drumline from drummer Pierce Downer, which is accentuated by a driving bassline from upright bass player Rodrigo Mantovani. The lyrics emphasize that high pace, which sits around 180 beats per minute, by describing life as a musician on a tour.

“Another day, another show/Another bed waiting all alone/Cheer my name, pat my back/Hurry up, it’s time to pack,” go the song’s lyrics.

Ultimately though, the song’s title character loves the frantic experience and finds joy and stability in the music itself: “Nothing steady but that groove/Can’t stop the man on the move.”

A large part of that high energy pace comes from harmonica player and vocalist Dennis Gruenling, who is a featured artist on the album.

The song, “Bait in the Snare,” for example, keeps that high pace, and contrasts Gruenling’s harmonica solo with a tinkling piano line from Taylor Streiff and blasting saxophone from “Sax” Gordon Beadle.

The lyrics are more cautionary than celebratory, giving a warning based on a lifetime of experience: “The way you’re acting, man I swear/Some of you people just need a prayer/Don’t fall for the bait/You won’t struggle in the snare.”

Not only is Gruenling a longtime musician who worked with blues legends such as Little Walter and George “Harmonica” Smith, he has been Moss’ friend for two decades.

“We are a rare breed as far as how authentic we like to keep the music,” Moss says, reflecting on what keeps the two musicians so close. “We can’t hold back, and the energy just comes pouring out. We get carried away and the audience gets carried away with us.

Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and data journalist. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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