Opening up for Albert Castiglia on Saturday night at the Amelia Island Blues Fest is Detroit born David Gerald, who’s Blues roots anchor deep into the Mississippi Delta. When I first heard David Gerald back in January I was not hearing someone just doing good copies of standard blues songs like I’ll play the blues for you or the Thrill is Gone. I was hearing someone who was feeling the emotion of the songs. It was like I was hearing the songs for the first time.
For a true blooded musician there is no other option in life then to play music until you somehow develop a following that allows you to make a living doing what you love most: playing music. David Gerald, the son of Mississippi born and raised parents, grew up to the sounds of the blues and R&B music in his hometown, Detroit. As a teenager he started playing guitar, at first influenced by rock guitarists of the ’80s, but eventually he returned to the blues of Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King and B. B. King.
True Blues Roots
As the youngest of eleven children (refugees from Southern Segregation) the Gerald family had happy music ties, but financially times could be rough. “I was lucky enough to have a neighbor who was a guitarist and gave me scrap guitars. I would piece them together and build ‘Frankenstein’ guitars,” says Gerald. “They were horrible to play and sounded bad, but I had to play music. It was and is my destiny. I finally scraped up enough money to buy an old amp and I was happy and on my way.”
Gerald performed in many local blues, R&B, and rock bands cutting his guitar and vocal chops live and in person. And that created the next problem; finding reliable band members with the same gusto and drive to get through the hard times. Due to the difficulties of keeping a band together, David decided to also learn to play bass, keyboards and drums, and in the process started writing and recording his own songs.
Last year’s debut CD ‘Hell and Back’, contains 10 tracks, 5 of which he self penned, self recorded, self produced and self released. The five covers were recorded live with his band (Mike Ruppriecht – keyboards, Bob Bennett – bass, Lou Eurns – drums) at J. Dubs in Riverview, Michigan.
“Cool” was his reaction when he got the news that the CD reached #17 on Real Blues Magazine’s Top 100 Blues Chart nestled between other Blues greats like Elvin Bishop, Elmore James and Charlie Musselwhite; an accomplishment that earned him a place on the Michigan Blues Hall of Fame!
Gerald’s original tunes are excellent and show blues and R&B influences equally. The opener, “My Guitar,” is an autobiographical track that rocks hard, while “How I Feel” sounds like a ’70s R&B tune done to a Texas shuffle. “Postman” is a slow blues about a man who always delivers. The title cut is about a family suffering through hard times, and echoes issues many are going through presently, and “Stay” mixes funk and R&B.
The cover tunes will be familiar to most blues fans and provide a solid representation of Gerald’s live show. “I’ll Play The Blues For You” and “Thrill Is Gone” are tributes to two of Gerald’s major influences, Albert King and B. B. King. “She Caught The Katy” is the old Yank Rachell/Taj Mahal number amped up with horns, and “Cold Shot” and “Red House” are nods to two other Gerald influences, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix.
Gerald’s guitar work is absolutely top notch, showing myriad influences, most especially Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. His vocals are equally impressive and when I heard him do BB King’s “The Thrill is Gone” I closed my eyes to admit that I liked it more than the version from the King himself. He also shows himself to be a songwriter of considerable talent. All the covers on the disc are done with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and spell out a master at work but, David Gerald’s original tunes are actually more interesting. Can’t wait for him to give us a few more originals on his next release.
Hell and Back is an excellent debut release, made even more amazing by the fact that David Gerald did most of it single-handed. We’ll be hearing more from him in the future for sure. Gerald’s blues have been receiving widespread radio play, along with growing recognition in the blues community. Recently he was listed as #1 on the ReverbNation blues charts for Michigan Blues artists. His debut album “Hell and Back” reached #1 on Roots Music Report’s Blues Chart and this summer he has been performing at clubs and festivals across the United States and Europe. Some notable appearances include: Riverdays Festival (formerly known as the International Freedom Festival) in Detroit, The Summer Concert Series in Oak Grove Oregon,; Chrysler Arts, Beats and Eats in Royal Oak, MI; and Suwalki Blues Festival in Poland and the night before appearing at the Amelia Island Bluesfest on Saturday Sept 17, the band will be headlining at the Naples Bay Blues Bash in South Florida.