"The Shady Bear Sessions" Studio Recordings Are Here!

Listen to and download the new EP, After the Storms, here.

"...the combination of traditional blues with a contemporary sound that makes THP unique"

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

We Had A Bull-y Day

We want to give a huge internet hug to everyone who came out to Connolly's on Saturday night.  (And there were a lot of you!)

Special thanks to Bull for sitting in on harp, and doing vocals on a few tunes.  Bull's a true bluesman.  And additional special thanks to Mikey, the drummer of the awesome jam band, BVDS, who gamely jumped in to get the set started while our beloved Paul was stuck trying to navigate midtown Christmas traffic.  Mikey plays a mean shuffle, and in the five minutes we knew him before he so magnanimously stepped onstage with us, he proved himself to be the best kind of person.  Paul only missed our opening tune, and Mikey left the kit all warmed up for him.  (And our set got pretty hot after that.)  Cheers!

Also in attendance was Marlon's three-month-old son, Cyril.  Congrats to Cy on his first blues gig--support that live music, son!--and to the city of New York's smoking ban which made it not a health hazard!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

We're Alive!

Hello, blues lovers!

It's been a while, and the band has gone through some changes but we've stayed busy and are coming out the other side soon.  The big news is that our lovely singer, Katie McCreary, scored a part in the national Phantom of the Opera tour.  This is a great career move for her, but it also means that she is now our former singer, which we are sad about.  But we'll smile through the tears; we're a blues band after all.

We have been auditioning new singers and have a pretty good idea of who we'd like fronting us, if we can make it happen.  More on that soon.

In the meantime, we've been writing music like gangbusters and have been playing instrumental sets (Ronnie Earl-style, we call it) until the singer situation is settled.  In fact, we have a gig on Saturday, the 21st, at our ol' standby, Connolly's Klub 45 in midtown.  Stop by at 9p for a killer set!

And who knows, someone awesome might show up to sit in with us!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Up With 78 Below

Huzzah!  We would like to thank 78 Below for being every bit as great a venue as we'd been told, and to thank those of you who came out for making it a killer show.  The house sound guy, Bobby, was excellent, and the equipment is top notch.  (Really, the house owns a Hammond organ.  It's like they knew we were coming.)  And the venue itself is set up perfectly to invite casual listeners to stop in and see what's happening.  The arrangement is so live music-friendly that it brings a wee tear to my eye to think on the beauty of it all.

For the blues lovers who didn't make it out, you can console yourself with some footage of the evening.  Cheers!

"Nowhere Fast" is an original instrumental by Donald and Marlon.

Can't go wrong with a classic Albert King tune--"Born Under a Bad Sign."

"Semele" is a THP original; music by Marlon, words and melody by Katie.

"No One Can Follow You Home" is an original with words and music by John.

And this is our suped up version of the long-time blues staple, "Sweet Home Chicago," by the one and only Robert Johnson.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Today's Humbling Moment

Wow, this man one-upped Pete Best by being kicked out of not one, but two of the world's biggest bands.

As a musician, I read this article with a kind of morbid curiosity.  What would it be like to crash down from such great heights not once, but twice?

As a human being, though, I think "right on, dude, find your bliss."

Still and all, that guy must have been a monster on the strings.

A Call To Arms (That End In Hands...For Clapping!)

We're excited to announce that we have a gig at a new place on the Upper West Side called 78 Below!

We're especially excited to announce that 78 Below joins that e'er too small number of venues who can be listed in the "pro-music" column of the ledger--they charge no cover at the door!  That's right, no needless scalping of live music lovers; you can waltz in, settle down, have a drink or three, and hear some solid blues, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood THP.

To see why we're giving 78 Below such a hearty round of applause, check out our previous musings on the often predatory relationship between venues and bands in NYC here.

So, we'd love to have as many blues lovers as can make it to this one come on out to show our full support for a venue that's doing things right.  The more we reward these kinds of rational business models the better the chances that other venues will come to their senses and mend their wicked ways.  (Ok, maybe not "wicked" exactly.  How 'bout "misguided"?  "Silly-pants" also works.)

The deets: we go on at 8p and play two full sets, ending at 9:45p, on Saturday, July 27th.  Also, it is free, free, free--which leaves more money for beer!  78 Below is located at 380 Columbus Ave and 78th St.  Oh, and the cherry on top is that the house drum kit Paul will be playing was owned by Chris Parker when he played for none other than Robert "Bob" Dylan.  How cool izzat?

And did I mention it's free?  FREE!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Play It Again, Connolly's!

We liked it so nice, we're playing it twice.  The last was sublime, so we're doing it one more time.  The first show put peeps on the edge of their seat, so we're gearing the band up for a repeat...um, performance.

Ahem, in other words, come see THP at Connolly's again on Saturday, August 17th, at 9pm.  $10 at the door.

We debuted two new originals at the last show, and to keep the streak alive we will be playing two new originals at this next one.  Now, doesn't that sweeten the pot?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Need This Song So Bad

One of the great joys of being in a band, of course, is getting to try your hand at music that interests you.  Did I say "interests"?  I meant "obsesses."  This early Fleetwood Mac version of Need Your Love So Bad is currently playing on a loop in my head.  Peter Green is a straight-up improvisatory explosive device.  A true I.E.D.  Otherwise known as...the bomb.

We're still dedicating the bulk our time to getting our original songs on their feet, but I can't wait to slip on this tune with the rest of THP and twirl a few times in front of the mirror to see how it fits.

Woowhee, that's pretty!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pop Up To Leftfield

There's a new venue that recently opened up on the Lower East Side called Leftfield that we've been hearing good things about, and we're happy to say we get to give the place a whirl!

Come check us out on Saturday, July 6th, at 9p.  More details to follow!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Quid Pro Quo And A Catch-22

In this age of indie-everything, band managers who are not also in the band are pretty rare.  And especially for smaller bands--like your humble THP--this means band members must multi-task.  You're not just thinking about writing the next section of that tricky riff you've had stuck in your head, or working to clean up your arpeggios (or paradiddles, or what have you), you're also concerned with logistics: Who's scheduling practice?  How's everyone getting to practice?  Who's keeping the social media stuff and web site up-to-date?  Who's bringing the beer?

Almost as important as that last one (almost), is...how are we getting gigs?  And as a "manager" newly devoted to the question, I'm discovering some very interesting things about securing shows in NYC.

Of course, every prospective gig comes with some amount of negotiation, no matter how anodyne.  The date has to be set, the start time agreed upon, as well as the number of sets the venue is expecting.  Ideally, the back and forth also includes talk of payment and/or drink and food deals for the band.  (We like "and.")  Nothing surprising there.

Now, it used to be that these negotiations were based on the venue's judgement of the quality of the band's music.  The better the band, the better the deal.  Of course, the venue didn't concern itself with this question for lofty aesthetic ends, but for the entirely utilitarian reason that a good band keeps patrons at a bar longer, and patrons parked at a bar are patrons who are buying drinks, and selling drinks is why a bar exists.  The commercial transaction here is transparent and mutually beneficial: the bar is making money and the (good) band is probably making new fans.

And the invisible hand of the market place celebrates by tearing off a killer blues riff.

What's curious to me, though, is that this dynamic seems to have been inverted at some point, here in NYC anyway.  Rather than a bar using a good band to keep their built-in regulars buying rounds, the venues now prefer to lean on the bands themselves to supply the crowd (how much crowd a band can supply being called its "draw").

This business model makes total and complete sense when applied to acts at the top of the pyramid--it's entirely reasonable to bank on B.B. King packing the house, any house, and the venue selling copious amounts of booze and food and merch to the people he brings in.

But the trend of using draw as the sole metric of the "quality" of bands at lower tiers of the pyramid (i.e., the other 99% of us) is troubling.  After all, B.B. King wouldn't be B.B. King if the bars he played back in the day didn't pull in folks who'd never heard him before...who then pulled in their friends, who pulled in their friends, and on and on to everyone's profit, fans included.  (Or worse, if they didn't let that young musician play at all because he only knew twenty people at the time who would pay to see him!)

Yet, many smaller bars in NYC eschew this model and offer the following deal instead:

--A band must bring in X number of people (say, fifty) if they are to be given a slot.
--There is no flat fee payment for the band.
--There is no drink or food deal for the band.
--The performance space is separated from the bar or storefront area, limiting or outright eliminating chance walk-ins.
--Access to the performance space is dependent on fans' paying a cover.  (Venues usually promise some percentage of the cover charge to the band after X number of people have paid, as a kind of olive branch.)
--Venues offer little to no promotional efforts for the show.  (Often, their best effort is a status update with the show details on their Facebook page.)

Essentially, this arrangement shifts the burden of, well, everything onto the band.  The band brings people who already know and like them, these people give their money to the venue while the band plays for free (or in the red, after the cost of getting musical gear to the space), and the benefit to the band is...they get to play a show outside their garage?

Setting any snark aside, the upside for the band is an open question.  They're not playing to new faces--since they're bringing their pre-established fan base--so they're not growing that base, and they're not getting paid.  They're not even getting drinks. Instead, the band's fans are giving their hard-earned cash to a third party in the form of the venue for reasons that are, even under cursory scrutiny, pretty mysterious.

Of course, finding new people and winning them over is the eternal koan of marketing professionals everywhere.  It's hard to build a consumer base, whether you're a new band...or a neighborhood bar.  So when you have a bar that seems uninterested in, or incapable of, promoting its own evening's entertainment or building its own consumer base, it seems fairly uncontroversial to call that venue lazy or incompetent or both.  When said bar instead poaches off the crowd a band brings in--in fact, brings in a band just so they can poach off that crowd--while offering nothing in return, we may posit an even more colorful adjective for their behavior, and I think the biologists in the audience would back me up on this one.  That would be: parasitic.

And the shame is that I have to think that the bands these venues manage to victimize are newer, younger, just starting to poke their heads out, i.e., the ones without enough experience to know they're being used.  These are also the bands who can be most quickly confused and then disillusioned when they (rightfully) assess how much they're investing in these shows and how little they're getting in return.  Believe me, I remember.

Not every venue suffers this kind of business model dementia, thankfully.  THP has played good shows to great crowds (for money! and beer!) at some awesome places in the city.  (Bohemian Beer Garden, Neir's Tavern, we're looking at you, kids.)  And we've played very satisfying gigs for free at places that had no cover and that allowed crossover from the bar and walk-ins from the street.  (Cheers, Freddy's Backroom.  R.I.P., Kenny's Castaways.)

And there are venues that THP is looking forward to playing, ones that charge covers but that have a built-in crowd to justify the practice.  These venues consider not just a band's draw but the quality of their music, because their reputation rests on the idea that you can go there anytime, without knowing who's playing, and hear something worth your time and money.  (The leaders here are the holdouts down on Bleecker St., like Bitter End, Terra Blues, and Red Lion.)

Anecdotally, I'm reminded of when the band that eventually spawned THP played the legendary Stanhope House in New Jersey.  I was chatting with the owner before our set on the secondary stage, and he was telling me about the time Stevie Ray Vaughan came through, in the days before he was "Stevie Ray Vaughan."  (Stevie was so poor at this point, according to the owner, that the Stanhope chef took pity on him and made him a free, home-cooked meal.  Stevie was so grateful that he rolled up his sleeves and did dishes afterward.)  The story goes that the first night SRV played, there were maybe a dozen people in the audience.  On the second night, the place was nearly full.  By the third night, there were cars lined up around the block.

Now, we didn't have quite that effect on people with our set, but I noticed as we were playing that folks who wandered by us tended to linger, and, in lingering, they ordered a drink.  By the end of our fifty minutes, where we'd once had seven or eight onlookers we now had closer to thirty...and they were all holding glasses from the bar.

That's a pretty solid business model.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Everything Old Is New Again

This is pretty cool.

It's always nice to see the old pros fraternizing with the young 'uns.  Passing of torches, and all that.  And seriously, Booker T.?  That's a pretty bright durn torch.

The song itself is pleasant.  Not great, just pleasant--a nice little ditty in E (the birth place of the blues!) that drifts between the major and minor pentatonics.  As the interviewer says, it's "warm."  To which, Booker T. responds, "it's all feel," and that seems about right.

My one quibble is with the author's characterization of Gary Clark, Jr., as a "guitar phenom."  Fairly or not, I see blues/rock guitarists as falling into one of two categories--the technically gifted leads who made their name with flashy improvisation; and the solid, in-the-pocket rhythm guys who tend to have come up through the ranks by virtue of their songwriting chops.

The ne plus ultra of this analogy, for me, has always been Eric Clapton vs. Pete Townshend.  In Clapton, you have: excellent lead; terrible songwriting.  With Townshend: excellent songwriting built on rhythm, terrible lead playing--and believe me, I saw The Who recently at the Barclays Center so I'm not just saying that to be spiteful.  (Or if this comparison is too fuddy-duddy for the whippersnappers in the audience, I would cite John Mayer as representing the Claptons vs. Jack White, who is a Townshendian through-and-through.)

Gary Clark, Jr., very clearly lives in the Townshend camp.  Now, these kinda guys still make the 100 Greatest Guitarists lists (whatever those mean) and they still front bands--often, ostensibly as "lead" players--but "phenom" is the wrong word for what they do.  Hendrix was a phenom.  Johnny Winter was a phenom.  Hell, Jonny Lang was a phenom.  The word implies a certain amount of flash that I just haven't heard from the repeating pattern-loving Mr. Jr.

But that little niggle aside, it's just cool to hear Booker T. wax wistful about younger players keeping the blues alive.  Agreed, sir.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Our Babe(s)

All your babes are belong to us.  (No, but seriously, this is a pretty great vid of "My Babe" at Connolly's from last night).

"My Babe"
Live @ Connolly's Klub 45

Smooth Sailing

Well, last night at Connolly's was a blast.  Both Fist of Kindness and the Sweet Lee Trio showed up to play in a big way, the crowd was friendly, and getting to play on a stage live with Katie and John for the first time sent THP's energy through the roof.  To prove it, here's a video of Stormy Monday.  Enjoy!

"Stormy Monday"
Live @ Connolly's Klub 45

Friday, May 24, 2013

Original Insights

As you may have noticed, there has been a renewed push here at THP central to bring our original music to fruition.  In fact, we're debuting three new tunes at the gig tomorrow!  (C'mon by!)

I don't have many concrete thoughts on it yet, but focusing on our own compositions these last few weeks has just made me mindful of how much deeper your sense of a musical genre becomes when you actively create within its borders.  ("Borders" here used quite loosely.)  Obviously, playing other people's songs never stops being enjoyable or instructional--and for blues, not playing other people's songs would be hilariously un-blues man-like.  But attempting to build something that sounds like "blues" while also clearly reflecting THP's songwriting voice sure does put a person in a different relationship to the music.

No larger conclusions drawn yet, just expressing a general feeling I've had this last month or so...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Connolly's Line-up Deepens

We've added two awesome bands to the proceedings at Connolly's this Saturday, the 25th: at 8p, Fist of Kindness will get the blood moving with some rootsy funk rock.  If they have you waving your hands in the air, FoK will care because that's cool.  Then at 9p, the Sweet Lee Trio will bring things down a bit with a little jazz.

And finally, at 10p, THP jumps up there with the kind of blues you've come to love and mostly know.  "Mostly" because we have some new stuff for you: we'll be showing off the two fresh talents of Katie McCreary and John Brian Evans for the first time, as well as debuting three THP original blues tunes, never before heard.

And as the cherry on top, we're headlining the night, so we'll be doing a full hour and fifteen minute set.  That's an extra half hour we'll get to luxuriate with you in Connolly's excellent sound system!  Come on down:

Connolly's Klub 45
121 W. 45th St., 3rd Floor
bet. 6th Ave. and Broadway in midtown

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Few Thoughts On "Alternative Blues"

While poking around the interwebs a while ago, I came across the term "alternative blues," and it got me thinking about the creative direction of blues in the modern American musical landscape.  Not that this high-mindedness was my first reaction.  My first reaction was more like "huh, that sounds like what THP has been up to lately with the originals."  But when I started to parse out why that moniker seemed right, the train of thought led me to a few other places, some of which have been on my mind for a while now in one form or another but had seemed previously unrelated.

For those, like me, who hadn't heard the term, alternative (alt) blues generally refers to an otherwise not easily described subgenre of standard, or classic, big-B Blues.  All the same elements are in play: 12-bar structure (often enough) if not a straight up 1-4-5 chord progression; typical blues instruments (guitar, vocals, bass, drums, keys, etc.); minor and major pentatonics; that kind of thing.  But the arrangement of all these known elements is often...tweaked, so that the resulting sound is stranger than what a person accustomed to classic blues (like Delta, say) might expect to hear.

If you read someone like Amiri Baraka, whose wonderful book, Blues People, gives a poignant overview of the historical arc of blues in America, you might be tempted to believe that field hollers grew into blues grew into jazz, and that anything that isn't moving further along that trajectory is somehow developmentally arrested or creatively barren.

But even as we witness the slow motion collapse of the record industry--and watch it devour the diversity and originality of mainstream American music in its death throes--new envelope pushers keep emerging, invariably rooted in blues.

Most recently, I'd point to the dependable, if not very flashy, Gary Clark, Jr., and his debut album Blak and Blu; Ben Harper's re-emergence with Charlie Musselwhite, whose latest songs have exposed even more of the blues bone that underlies the meat of his writing style; and the inventively raw chord progressions of Vintage Trouble.  There are, of course, more.

Not that this kind of thing hasn't been happening for decades.  Is there any better name than alternative blues for the ground Hendrix was exploring in songs like "Stone Free" or "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)"?  Or for that matter, what Muddy Waters was doing with the album After the Rain?

Still, inasmuch as a term like "alt blues" serves as a quick way to communicate the general contours of an otherwise hard to describe musical subgenre ("grindcore," anyone?), it can only be useful if it's viewed as just that, a shorthand to describe a rough collection of trends rather than an unbending categorical designation.

Which had me thinking further: do these artists stand out as being of-the-moment and their art as still having life not because of their unbending dedication to their roots but rather because they take an unconventional approach to the larger style?  Indeed, their kind of reinvention stands in stark contrast to many blues musicians I've come across who are so orthodox in their view of what constitutes "blues" that their playing is boring, soulless--because there's none of them in their playing, only pre-approved riffs handed down by the guitar gods of yore.  It's a cultish attitude, as if these limited number of sounds were edicts from on high meant to mark the boundary of what can be considered "blues," and it's the enemy of playing music that grows and changes with the world around it.  (And here the old adage pops to mind, about how the wind can't break a tree that bends.)

This isn't at all to pooh-pooh the contributions of said guitar gods (or bass gods, or drum gods, or whatever deity you bow to when you throw on your favorite tunes)--how could I?--but rather to point out that these players set their stars in the musical firmament by expanding the blues vocabulary, not by piously toeing the accepted lines.

Admittedly, "alternative blues" is a pretty inelegant term.  "Alternative" to what?  English blues?  Rhythm-and-blues?  I suspect it was originally meant as an alternative to classic blues, but that seems misguided--a child is not an "alternative" to its parent.  What the term does seem to get at, in its own clumsy way, is the energy and resilience that manages to keep blues alive and kicking in these strange artistic times.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What New Blood Sounds Like

For a taste of what adding Katie and John to the lineup brings to THP, just head over to our Reverb Nation page and sample a few of the latest recordings.  Yowzahs!

Sunday, April 28, 2013


The Hurt Project has been in a bit of transition these past few weeks, hence the uncustomary radio silence.

The bad news first: Holly and Bill are no longer playing with THP.  Holly has decided to pursue more soul and funk, two of her strong suits (and, as a singer, she has many).  The band only ever dabbled in soul, so her decision makes perfect sense artistically, and her talents will be missed.

Bill's story is a little sadder for us; a personal event has necessitated his moving out of the city (and the state).  We wish him and his all the best, and hope that we'll get to jam with him again some time in the near future.

The good news is that we have fresh faces, and that those faces are ridiculously talented.  We have the multi-instrumentalist and songwriter John Brian Evans joining us on keys, rhythm guitar, and trumpet (!).  And taking up the mic is the exceptionally gifted vocalist Katie McCreary.

And to kick off this new line-up, THP has a prime slot at Connolly's Klub 45 in Times Square on Saturday, May 25th.  Considering that Connolly's has one of the best sound systems for live bands on the island of Manhattan, we think it will be quite the kick off indeed.  We fire things up at 10p.  Check out our Upcoming Shows page for more info.

Come out and say hi!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Thrill Is Born Under a Bad Sign

Um, or something like that.

With Bill out of town, we decided to invite a multi-instrumentalist friend, named John Brian Evans, in to jam with us.  This time around, he was on keys.  Weirdly, the studio keyboard we'd reserved was off by something like 2 1/2 steps, so to play in D with us he instead had to play in A.  He did not just make do; we all managed some damn fine moments in spite of it!

Gig announcements are forthcoming.  In the meantime, enjoy a little peek at THP in our natural setting.

"Thrill is Gone (Jam with Keys)"

"Born Under a Bad Sign (Jam with Keys)"

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sneak Peek!

We mentioned we were working on originals, and to prove that we're not a gaggle of liars and thieves we happily present this little sneak peek at one of those very same originals!  It's a tune Marlon has had kicking around for a little while now, but it took getting it in the room with the rest of THP to really nail down where it should go.

And a hearty shout out to Bill for one of the best working titles ever!

Sneak Peek at "Heaven Bound"
a THP original song

Monday, February 25, 2013

We Hate When This Happens...

Due to an unfortunate confluence of events, we've had to cancel our appearance at Desmond's Tavern this Friday.  Our apologies to anyone who was planning to attend.  We'll be back on our feet soon though, with more shows to follow.  And of course, you, our lovely public, will be the first to know!

In the meantime, here's a recently produced music video to see you through the lull!  Enjoy!

"Take Me To The River," by The Hurt Project
from the album From The Ground Up

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ella, Ella, Ella--Eh, Eh, Eh!

Big shout out to Ella Lounge and Turnstyle Music Group for a delightful gig last night.  If you haven't been, Ella feels a bit like stepping into an underground cocktail bar in WWII Paris.  It's got a classic feel, a little frayed around the edges, but all swank.

It also hosted a great crowd.  The place was packed when we got there, and not with people who were initially there for us.  But most of them stayed...and clapped, and hooted and hollered, and generally dug what we were up to.  There was a good feeling all around, onstage and off.

Special props to our sound guy and house manager too.  The staff often has a decided impact on the vibe of a place, whether they know it or not (and too few do); these guys were in the exact right frame of mind to keep things moving and keep it fun.

Now come catch us at Desmond's Tavern, six days from now!  Two sets, 10p start!  Keep the streak alive!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Hurt Project Has Two Shows!

The Hurt Project has not one, but two gigs on the docket in the coming weeks!  See us twice or, if you're feeling cheeky, see us once, two times in a row.

The first show is this Friday, the 22nd, at a swank little joint on the LES called Ella Lounge. THP starts swinging at 9p. And the sweet thing is, if you buy the tickets in advance they're only $5, rather than $10 at the door. That's half-price blues, right there. Just go here to avail yourself.

The second show is one week later at an East Side favorite,Desmond's Tavern, on March 1st. THP plays a full two sets, starting at 10p. Come early, stay late, drink like you're Celtic, and hear some blazing tunes.

See you there!