" Delbert McClinton's Sandy Beach Cruise "
January 2012

A four night in a row consecutive treat on this year's edition of Delbert McClinton's Sandy Beach Cruise was watching and listening to Anson Funderburgh, Big Joe Maher, Kevin McKendree, and Steve Mackey smartly jam and perform. After recovering from his cancer treatment (he's now five years cancer free), Funderburgh has never sounded better. The supporting cast of McKendree (keys), Mackey (bass), part of Delbert's tour de force band, plus Maher who drummed and sang regally dazzled everyone in the room night after night. For me this was a nightly ritual that I eagerly looked forward to that followed some of other strong performances by great artists who appeared on the cruise. Marcia Ball, Jimmy Hall, Lee Roy Parnell, Joe Ely, the McCrary Sisters, Teresa James, Seth Walker, Gary Nicholson, Nick Connolly, Eric Lindell, Wayne Toups & Zydecajun, as well as Delbert and others were part of the seven days of hardy partying. McKendree said, "It's always my favorite gig on Delbert's cruise, playing with Big Joe. I don't get to play with him nearly as often as I would like, so I'm grateful Delbert has been booking him every year. Big Joe and The Dynaflows was the first professional band I was ever in, back before it was legal for me to work in clubs. I consider him to be my musical father." McKendree also told me that this band had so much fun on the cruise this year, so much so that there are plans to go into studio to record.

Maher's set list included some of his favorite songs including chestnuts like "Confessin' The Blues," "Evangeline," "What The Hell Were You Thinking," "Nothing But Trouble," "Lets Get High," Big Long Buick," "Someday," "Who Will The Next Fool Be," and "Let's Go Jumpin'." Most of these tunes were like a fresh walk down memory lane, but were executed in such a way that allowed each and every musician to imprint their own signature sounds on each instrument. These gentlemen not only had strong chops, they also knew how to listen to each other, allowing them to intuitively play off riffs, which not only raised the bar to near perfection, it also made for top-shelf jamming.

Bassist Steve Mackey told me, "This band is without a doubt the most swinging group of musicians I have ever played with. I have not learned about nuance and depth of groove like that since I was first learning my instrument. Joe Maher is a master; and his gigs during SBC cruise week are the highlight for me."

Finally Funderburgh summarized the four piece band performances by opining, "I think the world of Big Joe. He is a great drummer and a wonderful singer. I've known Joe for years, from back in the '80s, where I also used Kevin in a project I did with Sam Myers back in the '90s." Funderburgh went on to say, "I also loved the way Maher sang "I Hear You Knocking," that old New Orleans song by Lazy Lester. It's a shuffle with a low down sound that I'd never heard Big Joe sing like before."

Funderburgh is also getting busy again, as he is going on the road with Kim Wilson in Europe, not as a member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, but as Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets featuring Kim Wilson. Maher is also on the comeback trail, as he recently recorded 2011 You Can't Keep a Big Man Down for Severn Records.

With Funderburgh and Maher back on the mend, plus their being coupled with the superlative backing of McKendree and Mackey, we should be looking forward to the tunes they'll be putting down at McKendree's recording studio in Tennessee. Last but not least, rumor has it that next year's Delbert McClinton Sandy Beach Cruise might be the final edition. If you have never attended this cruise, you should join the festivities, as you will not be disappointed.

Bob Putignano a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at Bob maybe contacted at:

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