Chicago blues. Those two words conjure up the most powerful and evocative images in the entire history of American music. Think smoke-filled taverns on the South or West Side nearly ablaze with tremendous displays of electrified Delta beats from dignitaries named Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Jimmy Rogers, Little Walter, Elmore James, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and so many more. Imagine sidewalk curbs and street corners on busy Maxwell Street where storied performers like Hound Dog Taylor and Robert Nighthawk wailed the blues for spare change.
Chicago blues is now also synonymous with guitarist Nick Moss. Though the golden era of Chicago blues is long past with many of its key players deceased or retired, this young Chicagoan stands tallest in the current generation of blues performers that honor the letter and spirit of the great urban African-American music. No less than Jimmy Rogers saw Nick as a protégé, a torchbearer, and a colleague. Leading Chicago-style guitarist Buddy Guy sanctions his talent: "Nick Moss is one of the local favorites at my club, Legends. I always enjoy the way he plays and works hard to please our audience". Noted Chicago-based music journalist Bill Dahl, never one for gratuitous praise, has raved over Nicks guitar playing, saying he possesses mastery of the classic Chicago sound, while acclaimed blues producer Dick Shurman numbers himself among Nicks ever-growing legion of admirers, calling his Windy City neighbor "an increasingly centered artist who can rightly be called a master".
A musician of consummate skill, Nick fully understands the debt he owes his predecessors and how important it is to carry on tradition in an honorable fashion. "I'm not trying to re-invent the wheel," he says with characteristic modesty, "or trying to bring things into the new millennia. I'm just playing what was handed down to me and do it justice. I have a lot of respect for the guys who taught it to me; I played with Jimmy Dawkins, I played with Willie Smith, I played with Jimmy Rogers and in my heart I love [this music] and I dont feel it has to be changed much."
Passionate blues fans around the country gravitate to Nicks playing in live performance and on recordings because of that stylistic link to the Chicago blues past. But Nick's music also holds enormous appeal for casual fans of blues and even novices. "I'm trying to find that fine line of not compromising the integrity of that classic music, he says, and yet still make it a little fresher-sounding and contemporary-sounding where I can get across to the element of the crowd that isnt hard-core."
To his credit, Nicks no imitator. He has his own distinct voice on the guitar, what all musicians in all genres strive for yet very few achieve. "Ive listened to just about every blues guitar player from the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s, especially the Chicago guys, and tried to take in all of it, he offers, but I dont consider myself a note-to-note copier. I absorbed their style and feel and timing. I try to listen and capture the essence of what they were doing."
For Nick Moss, the rise to the top tier of blues musicians out of Chicago had its beginnings right in his boyhood home. "If it wasnt for my brother Joe I wouldnt be playing. I used to watch him play guitar growing up, and still today hes one of my favorite guitarists, a musicians musician, playing blues, jazz, funk, soul, and rock. He pointed me in the right direction." Too young for legal admission into clubs, aspiring teenaged blues man Nick literally sneaked into local blues dens and soaked up the classic ensemble sound played by the venerable elders. "My first influence was Jimmy Dawkins because he gave me my first real gig playing bass for him. I just happened to be at a blues jam when I found out he needed a bass player. I really didnt know who the guy was. I found out how heavy he was after I started playing with him and doing research." How heavy? Dawkins was one of the true stars of electric blues in the 70s, an acclaimed star in Europe but always criminally undervalued in the States.
Nicks schooling began in earnest when he hooked up with the Muddy Waters-styled Legendary Blues Band that featured Muddy Waters Blues Band alumnus Willie "Big Eyes" Smith on drums. "That was one of my favorite bands," he recalls. "I still love Willie. He is like my second father. He basically taught me two things: 1) to take pride in myself right now, and 2) the timing and feel of blues, how its suppose to be." The next deep-blues learning period for Nick, who'd switched over from bass to guitar, was in the employ of Jimmy Rogers for three years in the mid-90s. From this major figure in the story of blues he learned all about the special ensemble sound of authentic Chicago blues, coming to understand the importance of listening closely to and reacting to his fellow players on the bandstand. "Listen to early Muddy Waters stuff with Jimmy and Otis Spann and Little Walter," says Nick of the original model. "It almost sounds as if they're playing on top of each other, but they're staying out of each other's way. It almost sounds like they're all soloing at the same time." When he wasn't performing as second guitarist for Rogers or listening to his mentor regale him with story after story, Nick kept busy listening hard to the recorded work of other Chicago blues players, among them Louis Myers, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Earl Hooker and Johnny Littlejohn.
With his blues graduate studies completed by the late-90s, Moss started fronting his own band, The Flip Tops. Their first album, First Offense, was followed by second effort Got a New Plan in 2001 and then two years later a third album, Count Your Blessings the latter two received W.C. Handy award (now called the Blues Music Awards) nominations, all bear the imprint of Nick and Kate Mosss Blue Bella Records label. (Not incidentally, Count Your Blessings included ace contributions by several of his famous friends, among them Sam Myers, Anson Funderburgh, Willie Smith, Bob Stroger, Curtis Salgado, Barrelhouse Chuck and Lynwood Slim.) June 2005 saw the release of the fourth album Sadie Mae, named after his beautiful baby daughter (earning Moss two more Blues Music Award nominations). Among the 16 tracks on that release are his wise and heartfelt interpretations of Jimmy Rogers' "Crazy Woman Blues", Earl Hooker's "You Got To Lose" and Lefty Dizz's "If I Could Get My Hands On You". Nick says of his growing discography, I think slowly but surely with each CD Ive grown a little bit more confident in the ability to add the contemporary element. If people go back and listen to all four of the studio CDs, theyd see a growth with each disc of more contemporary elements. My first album is straight-up 50s-style blues, and the next two are a really good mix [of classic and contemporary blues styles of the 60s and 70s]. The fourth one, Sadie Mae, is a clearer picture of what we do live.
Perhaps the clearest picture of what the band does live is illustrated on the fifth release (released July 11, 2006) Live At Chan's, recorded at Chans Eggroll & Jazz in Woonsocket, RI in July of 2005. Nick had been approached by some blues fans from the east coast earlier that year, who had wondered when he was going to release a live record. Moss replied that he had always wanted to, but there just weren't any plans to put one out just yet. The two fans convinced Nick to let them make the necessary arrangements, and, with the help of their engineer friend (who has a recording company outfitted with a mobile recording truck), Live At Chan's was conceived. The set features current Flip Tops Gerry Hundt and Piano Willie Oshawny, as well as special guest Monster Mike Welch (Moss wanted to reciprocate after east coast native Monster Mike had asked him to record on 2005s Cryin' Hey on the Dixie Frog label.) Nick commented on the set in the CDs liner notes. "I wanted to make sure that the CD reflected the spontaneity of our live performances. I've been blessed with an extremely talented band; each one of us is a multi-instrumentalist and has no problem switching it up during our shows! We have had nothing but compliments from our audiences after they see how the guys and I take turns on different instruments as we did on this particular night. I never have a set list and rarely know what song Im going to do next. Instead, I rely on my love for this music and the knowledge that my band and I have of the genre to carry us through the night!"
Live At Chan’s went on to receive two 2007 Blues Music Award nominations (“Album of the Year” and “Traditional Blues Album of the Year), in addition to the nods for “Band of the Year” and “Instrumentalist: Guitar” [Nick Moss]).
Fresh from the nominations and an electrifying live performance at the 2007 Blues Music Awards ceremony, Nick Moss & the Flip Tops are following up the Live release with an amazing two-CD set of Chicago blues showcasing not only the band’s incredible talents as performers and songwriters, but also their tremendous versatility. In addition to Nick Moss on guitar and vocals, Play It Til Tomorrow (released Oct 9 , 2007) features Willie Oshawny on keyboards (who also switches over to bass on four tracks and second guitar on another) and Gerry Hundt on harp and vocals (who also plays bass, rhythm guitar and mandolin on the album). Special guest Eddie Taylor, Jr joins the masterful lineup on several selections, as does Barrelhouse Chuck (for one track on Program Two).
The first disc of the double CD set features the band at their most rollicking Chicago blues sound, with some killer originals wrapped around three cover songs: Floyd Jones’ “Rising Wind,” Luther “Snake” Johnson’s “Woman Don’t Lie” and Lefty Dizz’s “Bad Avenue.” The revelation for many people in this package will be the second disc, which mostly unveils an “unplugged” side of the band that creates a completely different level of blues previously unheard from this band.
Nick Moss and his Flip Tops sizzle in live performance hundreds of times a year, bringing their superior blues to clubs from Cape Cod all the way west to southern California with countless stops in between. Festival appearances abound each summer and fall, and stops overseas have become more frequent with each passing year. Back home, Nick considers Buddy Guy’s Legends as his favorite haunt, due in part to the great support Guy has shown him over the years.
Nick Moss knows he has something special happening. “I feel like I’m one of the only bands from Chicago that’s actually still playing Chicago blues the way people think of Chicago blues. I’ve gotten [praise] from a lot of the old-timers that have seen us play, even guys that are not from Chicago like Kim Wilson, Rod Piazza, and Charlie Baty and Rick Estrin of Little Charlie & the Nightcats. [They say] it’s great to see there’s actually a band from Chicago that actually plays Chicago blues.” No question about it.
Nick Moss - guitar, vocals, harmonica, bass
Gerry Hundt - bass, harmonica, guitar, mandolin, vocals
Willie Oshawny - piano, organ, bass
Bob Carter - drums
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops - Live At Chan's: Combo Platter No. 2 (2009)
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops - Play It Til Tomorrow (2007)
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops - Live At Chan's (2006)
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops - Sadie Mae (2005)
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops - Count Your Blessings (2003)
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops - Got A New Plan (2001)
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops - First Offense (1998)
Gerry Hundt - Since Way Back (2007 - BB 1009) (Co-Producer, guest)
Kilborn Alley Blues Band - Tear Chicago Down (2007 - BB 1010) (Producer, guest)
Kilborn Alley Blues Band - Put It In The Alley (2006 - BB1007) (Producer, guest)
Bill Lupkin - Hard Pill To Swallow (2007 - BB 1011) (Producer, guest)
Bill Lupkin & Friends - Where I Come From (2006 - BB1006) (Producer, guest)
Monster Mike Welch - Cryin' Hey! (2005 - Dixie Frog) (guest guitarist)
Easy Bill & the Big Beat - Stay Tuned! (2005) (Producer)
Pauline York Band - Mudy Water (2004) (Guest)
Easy Bill & the Big Beat - Midnight Creep (2003) (Producer, guest)
Big Bill Morganfield - Ramblin' Mind (2001) (bass)
Spare Ribs & Chopsticks - Live At Chan's Vol. 2
Try To Treat You Right - Live At Chan's Vol. 2
Whiskey Makes Me Mean (Gerry Hundt) - Live At Chan's Vol. 2
I Got All Kinds of Love - Live At Chan's Vol. 2
Lonesome Bedroom Blues - Live At Chan's Vol. 2
Fill 'Er Up - Live At Chan's Vol. 2
Don't You Lie To Me (Lurrie Bell) - Live At Chan's Vol. 2
Five Long Years (Lurrie Bell) - Live At Chan's Vol. 2
I'm Ready (Lurrie Bell) - Live At Chan's Vol. 2
I Wanna Know - Live At Chan's Vol. 2
Live At Chan's Review - Blues Revue
[+ Show ]
"... his approach to this music makes him arguably the most exciting young blues player on the scene..."... his approach to this music makes him arguably the most exciting young blues player on the scene today ... It's a combination of talents that allows the best bands to transcend their genres, and that's they key to Nick Moss & the Flip Tops' appeal. They play with fire and fury but also with control, constructing a brilliant set that never gets boring."
Live At Chan's Review - Hittin' The Note
[+ Show ]
"They're a multi-talented quartet and they blaze through these 11 workouts with dogged intensity ......"They're a multi-talented quartet and they blaze through these 11 workouts with dogged intensity ... After four acclaimed studio albums, Live at Chan's is the triumphant clamor of the Flip Tops landing on their first pinnacle."
- Tom Clarke
Sadie Mae Review - Guitar One
[+ Show ]
"If you're uneasy about the future of the blues, you'll find hope in Nick Moss. He maintains the fin..."If you're uneasy about the future of the blues, you'll find hope in Nick Moss. He maintains the finest in Chicago's straightforward, gutbucket sound while eschewing the all-too-common use of 'special guests' and cliched covers. A contemporary, personal take on a classic sound. Hot Lick: Check out the single-note work on 'I Never Forget'."
Sadie Mae Review - Dirty Linen
[+ Show ]
"With all the pseudo rock and soul music that’s being passed off as 'real Chicago blues,' Nick Moss ..."With all the pseudo rock and soul music that’s being passed off as 'real Chicago blues,' Nick Moss and the Flip Tops’ breathtaking new album Sadie Mae is an oasis for astute fans thirsting for authentic Chicago blues from the '50s and '60s. Moss, a gifted singer-guitarist, learned firsthand how to play real Chicago blues from the likes of Jimmy Rogers and Jimmy Dawkins, and it shows. On Sadie Mae, Moss quotes a plethora of Windy City legends, including Hound Dog Taylor (title track), Muddy Waters ('One-Eyed Jack'), Magic Sam ('The Bishop'), and Earl Hooker ('You Got To Lose') with verve and affection. Added to Moss’ soulful vocals and vintage tonal guitar work is the Flip Tops’ first-rate musicianship for the makings of perhaps the yar’s best Chicago blues album—by anyone’s definition."
Sadie Mae Review - Midwest Record Recap
[+ Show ]
"Here’s a youngster that learned at the knee of Jimmy Rodgers and is set for giving you the real blu..."Here’s a youngster that learned at the knee of Jimmy Rodgers and is set for giving you the real blues experience, not some frat boy vision of it. With the kind of roar that powered Muddy Waters out of the south and into the industrial, post war revolution, Moss doesn’t play like an acolyte or a wannabe, he’s got his hand on the grail. Hard charging set that was born of roadhouse sweat and grit. Real blues fans will love this real deal."
Count Your Blessings Review - Down Beat
[+ Show ]
"On his third album, Moss erupts with glowing guitar phrases that honor his heroes Buddy Guy and Jim..."On his third album, Moss erupts with glowing guitar phrases that honor his heroes Buddy Guy and Jimmy Dawkins without being mired in the past. His singing has a certain naturalness and crispness, too. As a songriter, the young Chicagoan gives his band the Flip Tops and guests (among them, Muddy Waters' drummer Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith and Texas guitarist Anson Funderburgh) a batch of solid originals to latch on to. He also redefines the possibilities of old material from Leroy Carr's 'Barrelhouse Woman' to Floyd Jones’ 'Ain't Times Hard.' Moss is in it for the long haul. 3 1/2 STARS!"
Set list changes nightly. Number of sets and set lengths are usually specified by club.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.