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Monday, July 30, 2007

Hash Brown's Blues Jam at the Mardi Gras - Dallas TX

Hash Brown is one of the busiest blues players in Dallas. He slings a mean guitar; he is also an outstanding harmonica player and a convincing vocalist. He served as best friend/driver/helpmate for Sam Myers, the legendary Texas bluesman, during his final years with us (Sam passed a year ago). Hash Brown is a big-hearted man who loves the blues, and whenever I am in Dallas, I try to find one of Hash Brown's jams. He runs at least two jams each week. The jam that he used to run at The Bone on Tuesday nights was unbelievable - full of great players, serious dancers and hard drinkers. The picture of Hash at the top of this entry was taken at The Bone at a jam back in 1998. The Bone was a great club - in the heart of the Deep Elum district of Dallas; a funky honky-tonk full of music-loving Texans.

Well, the Bone decided to kill its jam last year, and the other venue that hosted Hash Brown's Wednesday night jam (The Hole in the Wall) also decided that they couldn't afford to pay the band anymore. But Hash Brown never gives up - he found new venues. I attended the new Wednesday night jam venue during my last trip to Dallas in mid - July. The joint is called the "Mardi Gras," obviously a New Orleans - themed place. I have to say that this was one of the weirdest locations for a music venue I have ever seen - it is on the ground floor of a high-rise office tower located next to the I35E highway. The good news - there is lots of free parking. The bad news - it is in a nightlife desert; nothing else is open in the area because it is all office towers.

Hash kicked off the jam with a set of instrumentals, including a rousing version of "Honky Tonk" and a passable version of "Blue Bossa." Hash also threw in a number of Dick Dale-style tunes, with lots of glissandi from his guitar and jungle beats from the drummer. The drummer in Hash's band was just right - a Texas blues beat guy, well-versed in West Texas and East Texas shuffles, swing, blues rock, latin and jump blues beats. I sat in with the group and blew out a reed on my "A" harp on the first tune. I had hit the road with just two harmonicas in my bag, (A and A flat), so my ability make music was pretty limited.

The jam was sparsely attended. The bartender sat in the back at a table with some regulars since business was slow behind the bar. Two heavyset women got up and danced together, shaking their ample asses a little too hard. A couple sitting at the bar were alternating between drinking martinis and necking. They were really going at it, lots of spit-swapping and groping. They would break for a little air and more alcohol, then go right back into their clinch. I wanted to yell, "Get a room!"

I guess the lunch trade sustains the Mardi Gras; the evening business seems pretty pathetic.

I stayed to listen to one of the jammers, a young guy (teenager?) with a guitar. He was an intermediate player, not quite there yet, but his instincts were good. He sang, too. His singing was a little less successful than his guitar work. He could turn into an excellent player if he keeps working.

I rolled out and headed back to the hotel. It was great to see Hash Brown and I enjoyed sitting in with the band, but the Mardi Gras jam couldn't hold a candle to the Hash's old sessions at the Bone.

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