Ben Rice Band
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Ben Rice Band

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Ben Rice grew up in Oregon, not exactly a blues hotbed like Chicago or Kansas City or the Mississippi Delta.

But, while his buddies were listening to Nirvana and Elliott, Rice was listening to Al Green and The Isley Brothers. Soul -- and eventually the blues -- just sounded better to him.

"I think it was the groove, the ability to take your time and express yourself," he says in a phone interview this week.

Rice, who plays a free show at Bill's Place at 8 p.m. Friday, is still young at 23. But he started playing guitar when he was 7 and was playing live for audiences with his older brothers' band by the time he was 12. That band, Minor Effects, opened for hard-rock legends Motorhead and Iron Maiden, something the young Rice didn't fully comprehend at the time and is proud of now.

But that wasn't the musical direction for him, either. He preferred to play like B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

"It slowly became this journey back in time to older blues people," he says. "People from the '60s to the '50s and then all the way back to the Delta."

His music, about half of which he's written himself, is definitely informed by that history. But it's also informed by drummer Ryan Rustrum's affection for hip-hop, and bass player (and brother) Tommy Rice's love of punk rock. That's not to say The Ben Rice Band is anything but a blues band; it's just that unlike a lot of blues bands they don't sound like they never listened to a record made after 1970. Their sound, particularly Rice's voice, is dynamic and very much alive.

"I'll present something to (the other band members), and it can be a straightforward Robert Johnson song," he says. "From there we'll take it and play it in a way that's interesting and creates a dialogue with modern audiences."

That's kind of a specialty of the band, that "creating a dialogue" thing.

"When we perform, there's the musical aspect of it; we have to perform well musically," he says. "But there's also the showmanship aspect. So we try to keep it high-energy and fun, create a spectacle." - Yakima Herald by Pat Muir


A fan of Rice’s describes him as a “black blues singer stuck inside a normal white guy.” Rice, originally from Newberg, Oregon, is the lead singer and guitarist of The Ben Rice Blues Band here in Eugene. He is a perfect example of why you should never judge based on appearance. He describes himself as a shy and awkward person, but you would never perceive that about him from his performances. Rice says that the biggest influences of his music are artists like Carlos Santana and B.B. King. However, he is inspired by music from a large range of varying genres – everything from blues to rock, soul, and even eastern African music.

In addition to having the voice of a Southern black blues singer, Rice is an amazing guitarist. He picked up his first guitar, a 1981 Washburn A10, when he was only five years old. At the age of seven, he began taking lessons, and now, at the prime age of 22, Rice says that he can “convincingly play four instruments” – the guitar, bass, trombone, and drums.

Once Rice begins performing, a complete character transformation happens before the audience’s eyes. As Rice closes his eyes and begins playing his guitar, you can see his feelings in his face as he is moved by his own music. He’s a natural onstage. Then, he opens his mouth, and this deep, soulful voice comes out and blows the audience away. It doesn’t take long for the audience to get involved with the music. One verse into the first song and people are already tapping their feet or clapping along with the beat. Rice sways back and forth, eyes still closed, and belts out his blues.

Rice wasn’t always into the blues, though. He joined his first band in 1997 as a guitarist when he was nine years old. It was his two older brothers’ metal band, Minor Effects. The same year that he joined, Minor Effects opened for both Motörhead and Iron Maiden, two very popular metal bands. Rice’s blues career began two years later when he performed his first blues gig at the Hop Madness Celebration in Oregon.

Rice and The Ben Rice Blues Band have been nominated for the Cascade Blues Association’s Muddy Awards 10 times. They have performed in multiple cities in Oregon, Washington, and California. In 2007, Rice and his band represented the Cascade Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. They placed second in the King of Beale Street competition. Aside from his music, Rice is a student majoring in music at the University of Oregon with only one term left until his graduation. - Jessica Ridgway


Wave riders, you rock blues aficionados may know The Ben Rice Band if only for their bridesmaid finishes in music competitions and blues awards. However, there is no question about the Band’s twelve track release, Pour Me Some Whiskey. It is an absolute winner.

I was introduced to Ben Rice and The Ben Rice Band by a Duck. The CD was sent to me by my daughter who attends the University of Oregon. Ben Rice hails from Newberg, Oregon and she saw the band perform in or about Eugene. She was sufficiently moved to send me the CD. Once I heard it and checked out video of the band’s performances, I understand why she was so moved to actually send the album to me.

Imagine Robert Randolph and Joe Bonamassa merged into one person playing with Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom and you get an idea of the style of The Ben Rice Band. It is hard rocking blues driven music. Some critics have called it “Rockabilly, Swamp Rock, and Soul infused Country” although the Band’s publicity says, for Ben, it “is the kitchen sink of Blues mixed with his band mate’s influences of Punk, Hip-Hop, and Classic Rock.” All of those descriptions are apt summations of what you hear on Pour Me Some Whiskey. Ben Rice sings and plays dobro, lap steel and a cigar box guitar. He also occasionally plays bass. Tommy Rice plays a stand-up bass and Ryan Rustrum plays`drums. On the CD Paul Biondi is also given credit for providing horn tracks.

Ben is the songwriter and he writes a mean song The album has everything from a self-described “Johnny Cash meets Motörhead” hard rock - Wreck On You; a Stax/Volt Memphis soul - I Know You Love Me;. a fast swing jump blues - Chop You Up; a delta bluesman-inspired Mississippi Bayou music - Don’t Worry Mama; and every a rockin’ blues sound you will likely not find anywhere else.

As much as the Band’s music stands up by itself, I am told, and their video confirms, their live shows are a blast. Ben Rice’s slide and fret work is superb. Tommy Rice is a madman on stage, twirling, spinning, standing on, and occasionally setting fire to his bass. Ryan Rustrum sometimes comes out from behind the kit and drums on the strings of the bass while Tommy frets the notes.

My daughter is right. You should take a gander at The Ben Rice Band and Pour Me Some Whiskey. - The Ripple Effect Review 3/20/12


So many kinds. Whisky, or whiskey? Bourbon? Single malt? Highland single malt? Blended? Charred barrel or not? Oh the varieties. And so it is with the Ben Rice Band’s Pour Me Some Whiskey.

This CD is like going into a bar and discovering that the shelves are all top notch whisk(e)ys. In this case, you have ample styles of blues to choose from, and what the hell, just say, “Barkeep, pour me some whisky. Surprise me….”
And he does.

The first thing you’ll notice about this young man is that he plays slide guitar incredibly well. He teaches slide guitar, in fact. Ben has great energy, writes great songs, and plays really well, whether slide or not. With lyrics like “My father was a preacher, my mother a prostitute,” you just know it’s going to be good. Joining him are Ryan Rustrum on drums, and Tom Rice on bass. Three guys? Yea, for the most part. You know it’s gonna be good, or go home.

Oh, a little Makers Mark? How about the Memphis soul sound of “I know You Love Me”, with what sounds like a pedal steel — a Hawaiian swing!? On to the swing band “Chop You Up”, and the added funk in “Cheaper By the Dozen”, all songs with the added horns. Man, that was smooth, and that fire inside is starting to build.

A little Green Spot? Oh, stepping up now. “Give Me a Call,” with its shuffle swing groove let’s you know these guys can kick it up a notch. Opening with flames on the drums, “Country Boy,” drops into a rocking Mississippi hills guitar riff and filtered mic. The title cut, “Pour Me Some Whiskey”, is a straight up quarter note back beat groove. Can you feel it!? Velvet fire gonna get those feet a movin!

Here, try this. It’s The Maccallan. At a certain point, you put the boogie out on the floor fun aside. It is time for some serious 30 year old drink. Sit back and marvel at what emerges. “Wreck On You” has a Steve Earle/John Hiatt wild boy angst all fueled with a four on the floor straight up rock beat augmented with wind in your hair slide work. This is the sippin stuff! Focus on it, hear that taste! The lap steel of “Wants Me Back Again” brings to mind that wonderful deep sound of Chris Whitley, layered with a beautiful bass line backdrop. “Bad Bad Boy” closes out the album with a slide tour de force, and this is one CD that gets you applauding from your chair! The finish lingers on the palette after the final notes have stopped….

You’ll be surprised by that bar keep all right. All the different kinds of blues they know and the other styles that have influenced these young players means you’re going to leave that ear bar a happy camper, and you will be back.

Whether his previous two CDs or this one, go ahead and ask Ben Rice Band to Pour Me Some Whiskey, and slake your blues thirst! - Rob Harrison - April 5, 2012 www.Americanbluesscene.com


Discography

ORIGINAL SONGS WRITTEN BY BEN RICE
1. Don't Worry Mama *[Semi-Finalist 2012 Int’l Songwriting Competition]; Nominated for Best Blues song by Hollywood Music in Media (July 2012)
2. I Know You Love Me ** [Semi-Finalist 2012 Int’l Songwriting Competition]
3. Wreck On You
4. Give Me A Call
5. Pour Me Some Whiskey
6. Gator Hunt
7. Chop You Up
8. Cheaper By The Dozen
9. From the Bottom
10. Wants Me Back Again
11. Bad Bad Boy
12. Big Evil Woman
13. Don't Push Me Away
14. Done Me Wrong
15. Glass Turtle
16. I Feel Loved
17. I Saw The Devil
18. Infatuation
19. Hitchiker
20. Last Year
21. Livin' the Life
22. Love Me Baby
23. Mean Lady
24. No Love
25. No More
26. Pain
27. Passion
28. Rosey
29. Screamin' Train
30. Shake It
31. Speedy Cakes
32. Train Song
33. Tell Me Baby
34. Up Your Stairs
35. You Were Wrong
36. Wake Up the Blues

Original CD's
Pour Me Some Whiskey 2011
Deep Blues 2009
Wake Up the Blues - 2006
Ben Rice with the Youth of Blues - 2005
The Next Generation of Blues - 2004

Radio Appearances
KPFT 90.1 Houston
107.7 The End - Seattle, Washington
101.9 Kink Sunday Night Blues Show with Bob Ancheta - Portland, Oregon
Live 395.com. - Internet
89.7 FM KWWF - Eastern Washington
KMHD 89.1- Gresham, Oregon
KBOO 91.1 - Portland, Oregon
KDRVS - Sacramento, California
KRVM- Eugene Oregon

Photos

Bio

The Ben Rice Band has been described as Soul infused Country, Swamp and Rockabilly. Ben Rice, the lead singer and songwriter of the group, says the band’s music is Blues mixed with influences of Classic and Country Rock. Ben plays a dobro, a lap steel, and a handmade cigar box guitar, while his brother and bassist, Tommy Rice, plays a large bodied upright bass. These throwback and vintage voiced instruments are supported by Ryan Rustrum’s big drum sound that creates a fresh yet true to its heritage sound. The Ben Rice Band’s recent CD, available for download on his website, www.BenRiveLive.com, “Pour Me Some Whiskey”, features twelve original songs, written by Ben Rice, which exemplifies various sub-genres of Blues. Songs like, “Wreck on You”, a hard rocking toe tapping song that conjures up Johnny Cash meets Motörhead, “Don’t Worry Mama”, a Semi-Finalist in the 2012 International Songwriters Competition, which pays homage to the returning US war veterans and whose sound was inspired by Reverend Gary Davis, “I Know You Love Me” also a Semi-Finalist in the 2012 Songwriters Competition, which is reminiscent of the Memphis soul tradition, and “Give Me A Call”, a Rockabilly Blues modern rendition are all unique radio ready songs that appeal to all age of music lovers. In addition to Ben’s virtuosic slide and fretwork, Tommy’s electric presence combined with Ryan Rustrum’s drum showmanship on stage performances brings audiences to their feet.

Ben Rice - Lead Singer /Songwriter
Graduated University of Oregon Music 2011; Dobro, steel lap, cigar box, vocals

Tommy Rice: Stand up bass

Ryan Rusty Rustrum – Drums
Graduated University of Oregon 2011