Saturday, January 15, 2011
Delaware in the House! Bassist Jimmy Pritchard travels down Highway 9
When I lived in Pennsylvania, I used to see bassist Jimmy Pritchard playing with various bands that performed at Warmdaddys in Philadelphia.
So naturally my ears perked up when a song I was nodding my head to one Saturday morning at my present home in Washington, D.C. turned out to be his.
The New Castle, Delaware-based bassist is getting an audience outside of his Philadelphia area stomping grounds with “Goin Down 9,” his sophomore CD outing.
A collection of ten songs—seven written by Pritchard—the CD connects the bassist with 18 friends he has played with over the years. Among them are Randy Lippincott, a bassist/guitarist who once backed Johnny Copeland (he’s also a good bass teacher, I took lessons from him once); Bob Holden, a drummer who frequently plays with Lippincott; Andrew (Mikey Jr.) Michael Hudak, a harmonica player who leads Pritchard’s current band, the Stone Cold Blues; and Matt Daniels, Mikey Jr.’s guitar player. There are also two colleagues of Pritchard’s from Arkansas-born singer/guitarist Lonnie Shields’ band: guitarist Billy Baltera and drummer Chris Sherlock.
Pritchard’s album is not only getting airplay in Washington (specifically on WPFW-FM, a listener-sponsored station that primarily offers blues and jazz). It was heard at this year’s International Blues Challenge in Memphis, where it was one of 22 CD’s to survive an initial heat among 55 competitors. The album did not make it to the final five, Pritchard said.
Pritchard himself will be in Memphis as the Stone Cold Blues represents Delaware’s Diamond State Blues Society in the band competition. The Blues will compete with over 100 bands from around the world for prizes that include cash and guaranteed gigs.
Goin Down 9 includes a box shuffle (You Don’t Know), a medium shuffle ballad (All Broke Up About Love), a guitar instrumental (Cheeze Wit), and a funky version of a Willie Dixon song (Go No Further).
Pritchard, 49, does most of the singing, actually putting his bass away to handle vocals for the acoustic back-porch ballad “Go and Get My Beer.”
For two songs Pritchard turns the mike over to Philadelphia guitarist/singer Georgie Bonds, whose band, The Blueskeepers, he played bass for from 1995-2000.
Bonds sings two tracks penned by Pritchard: “All Broke Up About Love” and “By Myside.”
“It was a woman on there first, one of Jimmy’s friends” recalled Bonds of ”By Myside.” They decided later that “they’d rather I sing it, so I sang it,” he said.
The title song is a boogie Pritchard wrote in reference to Highway 9, an approximately 60-mile road which extends from Route 95 in Wilmington to Dover Air Force base. “It was like a back road to the beach when I was a kid,” Pritchard said. “It was kind of an escape. We always went down there to get a few beers.”
Pritchard said he paired specific musicians with specific songs.
“Each song’s personality kind of fit different people,” he said. “Certain guys sort of have a strong point. If your song kind of matches up with what their strong points are, then you’ve kind of hit a home run.”
Pritchard started playing bass professionally in 1980. He moved to Florida in 1986, where he played in a few rock bands. He turned to the blues in the late 80’ after coming back to the Delaware area.
“I always wanted to play the blues, but I think in the early 80’s it was just really tough to get a gig,” he said. “I grew up with rock music and it was just one of those things where it was just easier to play rock music. But it was sort of like the blues was hibernating inside of me and I sort of wanted to pursue that.”
In 1996 he connected with bluesman Sonny Rhodes for a tour that included Europe, Canada and the United States. He then became a familiar sight on the Philadelphia area blues scene, recording, playing and touring with bands led by Lippincott, Bonds, Shields and others.
“He’s one of the best, man,” said Bonds. “He gets in there and holds it down, he doesn’t try to get out there and be fancy or anything. He just does what he’s supposed to do.”
In 2003, Pritchard toured with Big Jack Johnson, a Delta bluesman once known for his work in the Jelly Roll Kings.
Over the years, Pritchard has written songs for other artists, including the Stone Cold Blues. “Basically my motivation is I want people to hear them,” he said.
Released in 2005, his first album, “Shoppin’ For the Blues,” is made up of original works written by him.
Unlike “Shoppin,” which was produced by guitarist Kenny Jones, Pritchard helmed Goin Down 9 himself.
“I think the difference between the two is that mine is more sparse,” Pritchard said. “I think that Kenny did everything he could possibly do with every song, where with mine, I left it a little less produced. I think that my second record doesn’t have as much. But it’s just as good and it’s just not so produced.”