Taos loves the blues for some reason. Maybe it's the hard-driving rhythms or the beat that gets you up and dancing, but locals just eat it up. Better bring a big old spoon because …
Taos loves the blues for some reason. Maybe it's the hard-driving rhythms or the beat that gets you up and dancing, but locals just eat it up. Better bring a big old spoon because Taos Plaza Live is back and serving it up big time.
The weekly free concert hosted by the Taos County Chamber of Commerce and supported by local organizations and businesses will feature The Blue Reys and the Cullen Winter Blues Band today (July 11), 6-8 p.m. on Taos Plaza. Admission is free and everybody is invited.
We cornered Winter and asked him about what's happening with his band. Even though the announcement says he playing with Chicken Sedan, one of his varied iterations, Winter said, "Chicken Sedan is not performing."
Instead, he said it's the Cullen Winter Blues band. "No interesting stories around that name," he joked, especially after this reporter's inquiry about how Chicken Sedan may have come about. "Thomas 'Papa Smurf' Zicarello, our Chicken Sedan drummer, is leaving for Barcelona this week, so it was an easy switch to do the blues band," he added.
Off-the-wall question of the week: Contrast what it's like working in the band and working on Subarus?
"I am very grateful to have the opportunity to do both," the musician who doubles as an in-demand mechanic said. "Playing music was the direction I was on very early on as a kid. I am aware that there aren't many people that are lucky enough to get paid for doing something that they have a passion for and as a musician I consider myself very fortunate to be among them. Even more, I can do it in a very special small town. It doesn't get any better than that.
"My passion for cars is more about the enjoyment of driving and sometimes racing them. The building and modifying process that leads to that is very satisfying and I enjoy doing that kind of work for others that enjoy their cars. It must be said that for many, a car is merely an appliance, but somebody has to maintain and fix the appliances, too. We are very honored that so many choose to bring their Subarus to us at Taos Suby Garage and we take pride in what we do."
He's played in a variety of bands that chip away at a different segment of blues, surf, rockabilly and plain old rock 'n' roll: What sets this one apart?
"I am super happy to get back to playing rhythm and blues again - we didn't have a home after the Sagebrush stopped paying professional band wages two and a half years ago - and have a fantastic new group to perform with. Dan Lizdas is with us again on keys. We started working together more than 20 years ago. Matt Billingsley (drums) and Rick Haltermann (bass) are a true pleasure to work with. I am amazed at how hard those two worked to learn the gobs of material that Dan and I have amassed going back to the Alley Cantina days. The chemistry is great and we are all having a blast playing together."
Winter left town for a while, went off and did stuff with cars - what drew him back?
"I didn't so much leave music as I left Taos and didn't find any traction playing with folks in New England during the few years that I was living there. The car thing was really just a lucky break in that it provided work and opportunity for me while my daughter was attending prep school. While she got ready for college, I learned more about Subarus."
Ok, so what's the biggest charge you get out of playing live music?
"It is the intangible buzz or high or whatever that you want to call it when the exchange of energy occurs between us and our audience. As they give energy to us, we feed off it amplify it and give it back. This magic cycle starts happening and it is indescribable."
Finally, Winter said he wants to bring "shameless attention" to his gig at KTAOS, "which we are skipping this week to play at TPL," but will return to the Solar Center bar on Thursday (July 18) from 7-9 p.m. "I also want to thank the wonderful and loyal audience here in Taos that supports local live music."
Opening for Winter's band at 6 p.m. will be The Blue Reys.
Blue Reys formed in 2010 as Rock Bottom Blues and continued as Little LeRoy and Le Blue Reys before settling on the present name. The Blue Reys plays its own original up-tempo blues songs alongside covers of traditional jumpin' blues, soul blues-tinged ballads, jazz-blues and bluesy versions of rock numbers. The band members are all seasoned musicians in their 60s and 70s.
Taos Plaza Live will take another break next week for the Taos Fiestas. Watch for its return July 25 when the Southwest Musicians and the Dwayne Ortega Band take the stage. For more, call (575) 751-8800.
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