The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 19, 2013

The blues get colorful with Black n Blues

By Jeffrey Allen Federowicz
For The Daily Item

SHAMOKIN DAM — Getting Black n Blues never felt or sounded so good as it will this Sunday night when the area’s premier blues band Black n Blues gets things heated up at Skeeter’s BBQ in Shamokin Dam.

When it comes to a true blues band that kicks the music into high gear and adds a jolt of old school style rock and roll to the mix, Black n Blues is the go-to band for a classic sound that resonates with both soul and smooth style.

“Black n Blues is a solid blues act in the region. The unique thing about this band is that each individual member can solo during a gig and we like to include that in each set we play,” said Sean Farley, guitarist and vocalist for the four-piece band. “We love to give our bassist and drummer their own solos where they can showcase their advanced skills and techniques with the rest of us backing the other up.”

Those impressive skills have made Black n Blues one of the most popular bands in the Susquehanna Valley and also one of the most celebrated.

Over the years the band has worked with some of the best local bands as well as nationally-known acts such as Blue Oyster Cult. In addition, each band member either performs in different bands or as a solo act.

In 2007 Black n Blues won the Billtown Blues Challenge and represented the area at the International Blues Challenge (IBC), an event held in Memphis, Tenn., each year that attracts the best and most soulful bands and solo acts from around the world.

Farley and fellow band member and area musical mainstay Doug McMinn have each won in the Billtown Blues Challenge’s solo division which also earned them a spot at the IBC.

Founded 14 years, for the past eight years the band featured the same core members — Farley, the multi-talented Rich Cumming on drums, Matt Stopper on bass and Doug McMinn, whom Farley describes as “the strongest addition in ways because of his experience and versatility of instruments. He can sing, play saxophone, finger and slide guitar and he does it all exceedingly well.”

“Playing the Billtown Blues Festival is always a kick, along with the trip to Memphis for the International Blues Challenge,” said McMinn as he recalled some of the band’s most memorable gigs. “Opening for Blue Oyster Cult at the Community Arts Center in Williamsport was a lot of fun. Those Blue Oyster guys are short!”

Another key component to the Black n Blues is that Stopper and Cummings are cousins and have spent their lives around each other and their music, making them a very tight and strong rhythm section.

McMinn likes to add that the each member of the band has managed to find and keep a good woman, which certainly surprised some of their parents and keeps them in line.

Performing an eclectic mix of soulful covers and rocking originals, what also sets the band apart from other bands throughout the Valley is their strong musical connection to one another and the amount of energy they pour into each and every gig.

Their style can range from a rocking old school band that gets the crowd moving to one of pure blueness and soul that’s like discover a well-worn vinyl recording of a classic blues performer for the very first time.

“Music is my life, core passion and favorite things to do. Now with being a luthier at my shop Guitarley’s (www.guitarleys.com), and a professional musician, my business and lifestyle is music. It’s my biggest passion and I plan to maintain that for the rest of my life.”

That passion was almost cut short, both literally and physically, only a few weeks before the band was slated to perform at the IBC in Memphis when Farley nearly sliced off his fingers while examining a sword his brother had just given him for Christmas.

Fortunately, the damage was not permanent (ditto for the brother’s relationship) and the band performed amazingly well at the IBC.

Sunday’s gig at Skeeter’s marks somewhat of a return to the stage for the band, which has taken some time off  since Stopper and his wife Lori recently had twins. The break, however, allowed fellow band members to expand their solo gigs even further.

Now back in their blues groove, Black n Blues will be hitting the local music circuit stronger and louder.

“Were a rocking blues band with some funk overtones that love to perform,” said McMinn. “Skeeter’s is a wonderful place to enjoy music, especially on the patio. The views are great and the folks who run it are really nice.”

Best of all, by catching the band’s gig this weekend, not only will one experience a blues-infused time, but also the chance to support the talented musicians who call this part of the state home.

“Support live music in our region as much as you can. Don’t take for granted the quality musicians who have settled in this region and play often, at the many venues that support and host us,” Farley said. “You could pay bigger ticket prices, in bigger cities or get a comparably enjoyable show by seeing many acts right in your own town!”