Bob Petrocelli melts hearts, makes feet tap with original blues

Written by Sabrina Tinsay

Bob Petrocelli has it all. It is true that at first glance his twangy, subtle blues style makes a pair of feet tap to the beat and a heart melt with his lyrics. Bob Petrocelli has sheer honesty embedded in his songs. Shanghai Shuffle shows Petrocelli’s experience with blues music. Although “Gulf Coast Blues” may be one of his bluesy songs, Petrocelli brings you back to the roots in “Road Kill.” His musical experiences are apparent in his songs with different styles: In “Shellena’s Rose Tattoo” and “Hey Shellena,” one can differentiate his music style from roots to blues. Petrocelli’s current album takes one into a journey of past companionships,
forgotten memories, and new ways of living.

Sabrina Tinsay: You have chosen Shanghai Shuffle as your album title. How did you come up with this conclusion?

Bob Petrocelli: The title was up in the air until pretty late in the process.  Since there is so much traditional influence in this collection I ultimately decided to try to bring that out.  The title track is done in the style of a lot of blues/R&B/rock instrumental records from the late ’50s/early ’60s period.  I [was] thinking of things like Bill Doggett, Bill Black’s Combo, and a lot of others – just basic shuffle rhythms on a 12-bar progression.

Tinsay: In “Get a Grip (Part 1),” we can feel a sense of rawness to your music; what propelled you to believe you will be making a Part 2 with the same guitar riff?

Petrocelli: We recorded that as one long groove in the studio. I think it came out to about 11 minutes and the rhythm section just played the same pattern but kind of evolved it over the time it was played.  The lead lines, solos, and vocals were overdubbed later on.  Again I went back to the ’50s/’60s for inspiration.  In those days a lot of 45 RPM singles were released with a part 1 and then with part 2 on the flip side.  Also, Tower of Power did something similar on the Back to Oakland album.  They put segments of a piece called “The Oakland Stroke” as the first and last tracks on that album.  I’m glad you pointed out the rawness on the song.  I think a lot of the credit for that goes to Larry Steiner who played clavinet and Dave Clive on drums.  What they played kind of swirled around the constant riff I was playing throughout. 

Tinsay: I like that you are honest in your songs, but one stands out to me the most is “Threw My Love Away.” Who reminds you of that track?

Petrocelli: “Threw My Love Away” is probably the most personal song on the CD.  It’s written about my failed marriage of over 20 years and my feelings of anger towards my ex-wife, who has passed away since the song was written.  A lot of issues were left unresolved and this was my way of purging the anger I had been holding onto for a long time.

Tinsay: How would you define yourself as an artist?

Petrocelli: How would I define myself is a very good question which I really haven’t thought about until now.  I call myself a singer/songwriter/guitarist but I think that’s just the functional description.  I’d like to think of myself as someone who can entertain people and somehow also bring them something of value, a new insight or whatever.  At least that’s the goal.

Tinsay: When did you first start writing your own songs?

Petrocelli: I’ve been writing on and off for many years dating back to the late 60’s but really got serious about two years ago while working on the Three Leg Dogs and Old Skool Cats CD with singer Robert Charels.  I submitted a number of songs for the CD and only “Hey Shellena” made the cut.  I decided I wanted to have my music heard and developed the discipline to write on a regular basis.  That resulted in the Shanghai Shuffle project and that’s where we are today.  I’m currently working on material for the next CD while promoting this one.

Published in: on September 26, 2008 at 4:24 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Young blues group Automatic Heat finds inspiration in Johnny Winter, Son House

A New Kid In Town: Josh Lamkin & Automatic Heat

Written by Brooke Curtis

Bluesman Josh Lamkin is way beyond his years.

When the term “bluesman” is used, it’s usually describe someone older, often a well-dressed gentleman in his 40s or 50s, singing of his life’s regrets and heartaches. The Florida-based Automatic Heat, on the other hand, is fronted by handsome lad who may or may not be old enough to perform at a bar. Kids these days, right? Well, I’m impressed. I don’t usually hear blues guitarists with Lamkin’s rock & roll fire, especially at his age. What’s exciting is that this is only the beginning. Lamkin, if he plays his cards right, still has decades of musical evolution to offer us. In the meantime, Lamkin spoke to Twang Town about his youthful plunge into the blues.

Brooke Curtis: I don’t see too many bluesmen at your age. What was your attraction to that style of music and how did it come about?

Josh Lamkin: It was the slide guitar that really sparked my interest in the blues. After hearing a lot of Johnny Winter and early Delta blues songs that had a lot of bottleneck slide in them, I was addicted to the sound of it. All through school most of my friends were into punk rock, grunge, and metal. But for me, it has always been the blues. With the slide, you can’t just pick it up and play it because you know some licks. You have to feel it. It’s all in the way you touch the strings and make it talk. The licks just came easy for me.

Curtis: Is Automatic Heat really a band or are they simply your session men?

Lamkin: We really are a band. We have a three-piece arrangement with guitar, bass, and drums. I play guitar and sing while Evan Chiovitti plays bass. Evan has been with me since day one. We met in a guitar club at school.  Evan switched over to bass, and that made our jam sessions more interesting. Over the years we have learned to read each other musically. Most times, Evan knows where I’m headed even before I do. We have several different drummers we can call on to play live shows with us, depending upon their schedules. But our friend, Dave Reinhardt, does all of our studio work. When we started out, we called ourselves “The Vintage Blues Band.” We played kicked up blues songs. We played local gigs and some school functions. One of the tunes we played in our show was “No Money Down” by Chuck Berry. A friend of ours started calling us “Automatic Heat” after one of the lines in that song. After awhile, other people started calling us that, too. So we became “Automatic Heat.” The name found us.

Curtis: What goes into your songwriting, your inspirations? Do you draw from real-life experiences?

Lamkin: Songwriting, for me, starts with the music. Once you let the music unfold, the feel of the song sort of lends itself to writing the lyrics. And yeah, sometimes real-life experiences can make their way into a song. A lot of people think the blues are just hot-licks played to a 12-bar pattern. I think Son House said it best, “There ain’t but one kind of blues. And that consists of the troubles between a man and a woman who are in love, and sometimes about being broken.” So I try to focus all of my writing around that perspective. I also have and uncle who has had terrible luck with women. Observing some of his problems has given me some great material. On the other hand, I believe I’ve already met the love of my life, and that makes for some great material, too.

Curtis: How long have you been performing the blues?
Lamkin: We’ve been playing together for about six years now and we love it. It’s great to be able to make music with your friends.There’s not a feeling in the world that compares to the rush you get on stage. Playing the music that you love, and seeing the people react, especially people who are skeptical towards the blues in the first place. I love winning them over with my music.

Curtis: Have you gotten any advice from older blues musicians? If so, what did they tell you?

Lamkin: Absolutely! I get advice all the time! There’s a blues club in south Tampa that we go to pretty often that holds an open jam. You never know who is walking through the door. A lot of heavy hitters come through there from out of town, and I’ve had the privilege of talking to and playing with some of the best. I remember Dean Germain telling me that when you’re playing the blues, it’s not what you play; it’s what you don’t play. Leave your ego at home, and always be humble and respectful in regards to your music. Be yourself. That’s pretty good advice.

Curtis: Have you had a difficult time earning credibility and respect because of your age?

Lamkin: Not that I’ve noticed, everyone that has heard us play have always been very supportive. I’ve been fortunate to meet other musicians who don’t mind giving us a chance to show what we can do. We’ve always tried to carry ourselves as professionals and as adults. And when we walk on stage, we feel very fortunate to be there. And the music speaks for itself.

Published in: on April 22, 2008 at 4:22 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,