BluesWax Sittin' In With
Born and raised in Galveston, Texas, thirty-one-year-old Hamilton Loomis got hooked on music via his parent's music collection of Blues, Rock, and Soul records, and a young Hamilton practiced his multi-instrumental chops and learned how to play drums, piano, guitar, bass, and harmonica prior to his twentieth birthday.
By Bob Putignano
Additionally, Loomis was fortunate to have been surrounded by Texas Blues legends such as Johnny "Clyde" Copeland, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Joe "Guitar" Hughes, and Albert Collins as they all recognized Loomis' potential. (Loomis also has a close relationship with Bo Diddley, but more about that later.) By the time he turned eighteen, Loomis was writing, arranging, and performing his own material, and his first CD, Hamilton, released in 1994, garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album. A series of self-released CDs followed, then in 2003 Hamilton's first national break arrived when Blind Pig Records released Kickin' It.
"I grew up not only listening to Blues, but Otis Redding, Booker T., Sam & Dave, and Stevie Wonder...and that funky stuff you hear probably comes from me being a Prince fan," says Loomis. On Loomis' 2007, second Blind Pig release, Ain't Just Temporary, Loomis teams up with the legendary Houston engineer Steve Ames. Loomis possesses the musical depth that allows him to handle virtually all the instruments heard on the CD, plus he also focused on his songwriting.
Touring extensively since 2001, Loomis has brought his funky Texas music to audiences all over the U.S. and the world and recently earning two Best Artist awards in England and Wales.
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Hamilton Loomis about the time that his Blind Pig CD Ain't Just Temporary was released.
Bob Putignano for BluesWax: Let's get right to it: You have a very unique mix of your Blues, Funk, and Soul.
Hamilton Loomis: I took it to heart with something that Bo Diddley told me some time ago and that was "innovate and don't imitate," so I felt musically I had to be something different, thus my music is a conglomeration of what I listened to as a kid, plus I am constantly influenced by what I hear today.
BW: You are still a kid! [laughs] But seriously it's great to see younger musicians like you creating their own variations of the Blues.
HL: It is great that there are young artists like Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Sheppard, and now even John Mayer, his trio Blues is really great, and these guys are attracting much younger audiences, which is really important, as the kids need to know where all this popular music originated: it came from Blues!
BW: That's right Hamilton, we need young musicians like you and others to be able to carry the Blues torch on to the next generation and to keep all Blues fans' ears open and more accepting to the newer variations of Blues, as all music needs to evolve, grow, and change with the times.
HL: I totally agree, and if you have been listening to my music you know that I like to push the envelope, which raises eyebrows of the Blues purists. Plus technology has made it much easier to produce recordings.
BW: Like costly studio time, production time, etc.
HL: I recorded eighty to ninety percent of Ain't Just Temporary on my laptop in my bedroom. And I played a little bit sparser than I have in the past, as I wanted to work on the songs themselves. So I went for a less is more kind of approach for this new recording. I also dug how Blind Pig described this recording as being "organic and uncluttered," which really sums it up best for me.
BW: Where did the name of your CD, Ain't Just Temporary, come from?
HL: There are several meanings. First, I wanted to say that this roots music that we love is not temporary. Plus if you look at the artwork you can see that there has been some interesting damage that has been done to my guitar, which came from hitting the road and touring of 150-175 dates a year, my hand has worn through ten coats of lacquer, so needless to say that's not temporary either!
Hamilton Loomis' Ain't Just Temporary
BW: I took Ain't Just Temporary as meaning that you are a very serious musician who is making a statement that you are not temporary and that you are in this for the long haul.
BW: How did you and Bo Diddley get hooked up?
HL: When I was about sixteen I met Bo backstage and played for him a little and lo and behold he called me back and brought me on stage! And ever since we have been in constant communication with each other and, when I step back and look at it, it really blows my mind that I have this special relationship with Bo. I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to connect with Bo.
BW: Obviously Bo saw something special about you way back then when you first met at sixteen.
HL: The first night we played on stage together he joked with me and said, "Man I'm gonna break all your fingers," and did he ever make me work!
BW: It's nice to see that Blind Pig is taking a lot of interest in your music, too.
HL: Blind Pig really has been great to work with and they are embracing a lot of the new stuff I am into and stuff that many Blues labels need to focus on, like downloads, mp3s, and the computer-related side to the business, which I believe is where the future of our business will be and already is. So it's especially good to see Blind Pig, which is a mostly traditional label, be so open to all this modern technology and my Blues.
BW: As Pete Townsend said, "The Music Must Change!"
HL: It has to!
BW: One last question before I let you go: Considering the uniqueness and listening to this latest recording, I could not help but to ask the cliché question as to who are your most significant and contemporary influences? I have my own thoughts, but I wanted to hear it in your own words.
HL: It's always the most interesting question. Bo Diddley was an influence on my style, not my guitar playing, more of a philosophy thing. One of my biggest influences is a lesser-known Bluesman, Joe "Guitar" Hughes, whose recordings never did him justice, but Joe came up with Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland, and taught Copeland how to play, and he was an unbelievable guitarist. And when I was fifteen I was going to all of these Blues jams and Joe took me under his wing and showed me the ropes, he kind of did this in a sink or swim method and often did not tell me what key he was going to start a song with. And through the Hughes relationship I got to play with both Copeland and Collins before they passed, which was unbelievable.
BW: You've had a lot to absorb there, as all of those guys were not just straight Bluesmen.
HL: Those guys could go anywhere they wanted to with their music and that alone taught me plenty. I was also influenced by all the Stax stuff as well, and Prince, too.
BW: I knew Prince had to a major influence for you and Sly Stone too, right?
HL: Absolutely, and you know I try to borrow little things from a lot of guys who turned me on, but mostly I still feel that I am Blues-based musician. I always loved Gatemouth, too, and all that funky stuff, I just try to take what I have learned and heard, apply my own style, and hope that people enjoy the groove!
BW: I suspect that people will be grooving with you for a long time to come Hamilton! By the way, what is your website?
HL: www.HamiltonLoomis.com. Come by and read about me, listen to some of my music, and please buy a CD, too!
Bob Putignano is a contributing editor at BluesWax. You can hear his radio show at www.SoundsofBlue.com. Bob may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Putignano www.SoundsofBlue.com
Radio Host WFDU's "Sounds of Blue"
President of the NY Blues and Jazz Society