As I have repeatedly typed over these many years, I enjoy chatting with people for the first time and this week was no exception. On Monday, Aug. 13, I received a call from Nick Moss who was at his home just outside of Chicago. He and his band will be trekking up to be a part of the “Blues in the Barn” concert series held at the Mountain Village Farm B&B in Kingfield on Sunday, Aug. 26. For more information, folks can call 265-2030. Moss is currently out supporting his Alligator Records’ debut CD, “The High Cost of Low Living,” and was more than happy to talk about his band and the surprising diversity of sound they produce together. Members include Moss on guitar and vocals; Dennis Gruenling on harmonica and vocals on the two songs he wrote on the album; Taylor Streiff on piano; Nick Fane on bass and Patrick Seals on drums. Moss is a 30-year veteran of the Chicago blues scene, who formed his own band in 1997 and released the first of his 12 solo albums a year later.

Q: This is my first exposure to your music and it makes me wish I had heard about you earlier, truth be told. What I like most about “The High Cost…” is the stylistic variety present in the 13 tracks — eight of which you wrote and the three covers.

Moss: Well, I really appreciate that, man, thank you very much. We worked hard on that. The guys in the band are great guys and well-studied musicians. I think there’s a stigma to blues that blues is one type of music, has one type of sound, and is really only about being depressed or whatever. We’re trying to expose people to the wide variety that falls under the blues blanket; there’s just so many different variations and genres and feelings for blues. And the biggest thing that I’d like to clear up is the conception that the blues makes you feel sad and brings you down. It’s a music that’s supposed to be uplifting. Maybe makes you realize where pain is coming from but makes you feel better afterwards. There are so many songs that are up-tempo and about funny situations, good situations. It’s not all just about: my wife left me, my dog died, I’ve got no job and my car’s broken down — no, it’s not like that.

Q: Have you played up in Maine before?

Moss: Oh, yeah, plenty of times. I’ve done the North Atlantic Blues Festival, we used to play in Rockland quite often whenever we’d come up to the area. Last year we played at the festival up in Bangor and I’ve played in Portland quite a lot. Actually, I’ve been coming to Maine for over 20 years.

Q: Have you ever done this Blues in the Barn concert series in Kingfield before?


Moss: I have not, no, so this will be my first time doing Blues in the Barn. We’re looking forward to it, that’s for sure. Maine is a beautiful state, in fact my wife and I honeymooned in Maine for a week back in 2001.

Q: That’s neat! Oh, another thing I wanted to mention to you is about your band. To begin with your keyboardist is killer!

Moss: Oh, thank you, man. Taylor’s been with me for four years, he’s a kid that came right out of Columbia College and he had such a good skills set coming out of college that I felt that if I could guide him in the right way it wouldn’t be hard for him to pick up this style of music, and there is a specific style especially for blues piano, man, and he’s really come a long way. In fact, he’s come so far in such a small period of time that he’s considered as one of the guys on the scene playing Chicago blues piano because there’s not a whole lot of them.

Q: And another stand-out member is Dennis Gruenling, your harmonica player — he’s amazing!

Moss: Well, Dennis is already considered one of the world’s finest harmonica players, and the world’s finest harmonica players count him among their peers, he just hasn’t had the exposure like the other players have had. They all adore him and love him and respect him, and now he’s finally getting that exposure. I’m sure he appreciates it and I sure do (chuckle) that’s why he’s playing with me in the band — I love having him.

Q: Honestly, Nick, it’s a very tight group of guys and I’m glad this is the album I started with to experience your brand of the blues — it really grabbed my attention. Is there anything, seeing you’ve never played this venue before, that you would like me to pass on to the readers of this article?

Moss: Man, I always say one thing to every interviewer when you guys ask me that question. The only thing I want to pass on is to make sure that everyone knows that whoever comes to this show, my goal is to make you forget about your (crappy) week, that’s my sole purpose and that’s what we do — that’s what my band does. That’s my favorite part of doing what we do: I love playing music, man, I do it for me, it’s like therapy, and if it makes me feel good then I know I can make someone else feel good, too, and that’s really what I want to do. Everyone has problems and at the end of the week people are usually, you know, wound-up tight. My favorite part of the job is watching people just smile and sway and forget for a few minutes about the things that messed their life up that week.

Lucky Clark has spent 49 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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