Todd Eberwine Band
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Todd Eberwine Band

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If you're a fan of blues, you know that there are many who can play but few who can really add to the genre. Todd Eberwine and his band qualify for membership in that small group of players who are helping to evolve the blues. Last Friday they put on one of the best contemporary blues performances I've seen. It was a blend of classic tunes with improvisational styling that drew such a huge crowd that the owners of Goodbar had to ask them to wrap the first set early to give the first crowd time to thin out and make room for the next.
Their next show should definitely be on your calendar.
- Buffalo Rising Magazine


Keeping the blues alive. That's the objective of the Western New York Blues Society, 887 members strong since 1992, and growing. In addition to promoting the blues genre and blues bands in and around Buffalo, the society holds an annual competition and sends the winner to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN, coming up this February.


The Todd Eberwine Band won this year's "Memphis Bound" competition, held at the Lafayette Tap Room this past September. A young, dynamic band, Eberwine and crew were up against some stiff competition for the win, but they excited the crowd and the judges with their blues with a twist. Out of nearly 20 regional bands The Todd Eberwine Band emerged victorious, and people who were there know why.


This is the first competition the band has ever entered, and Eberwine suggests that even though he has every faith in the band's abilities, he was pleasantly surprised by the win.


"Oh we're the blues--but more like the blues on a lot of drugs," Eberwine joked. We're talking steroids and muscle here. "We're very high energy--bordering on rock--and because of that, the win was a huge surprise. Generally, in a blues competition, they're very strict about guidelines for the genre."


Even though he received varied opinions on the band's fit into a typical style of blues, Eberwine says he has no intention of altering what his band does best--not for Buffalo, and not for Memphis. "There were mixed reviews; some people said the blues are starving for something different, while purists said, 'They're going to eat you alive.' We'll just see what happens. We're an original band, and we do what we do."


Eberwine says the competition calls for at least 2 original tunes and 2 cover tunes, but he's planning on going further. "We're going to play all original songs to show versatility. It may be brave, but our focus in Memphis is more on being spotted rather than winning. We want to get in front of the right people, and showcase our original songs."


Not just original, but gutsy. "The way it works down there, before your first song they read the band's bio, and then introduce you. We wrote a song just for that--went for the loudest, biggest, in-your-face, 10 seconds to captivate them."


Starting in 2000, Eberwine spent time in Texas, playing in a band that he toured with out of Houston, but he moved back to Buffalo to be near family. The Todd Eberwine Band has been together for just 2 years, and Eberwine says it took a while to get the right mix of people together. With him are Dave Herr, bass; Shannon Street, drums; Tom Scime, keyboards; and Quinn Murphy, lead vocalist.


Dave Walker, president of the Blues Society of WNY is pinning high hopes on the band. "They're going to be going up against bands from all over world--16 countries!" Walker says. "The competition takes place in 12 to 15 venues all up and down Beale Street. Each band competes for two nights, and the judges rotate in and out. It's one big party!"


Walker explained that the winners from each Friday venue will meet for the finals the next day at a theater very much like our Shea's. "They get a 20-minute set, and at the end of the competition, the band that is chosen gets to cut a CD in a national recording studio. We definitely have a shot at getting into the finals with Todd. This is a guitar-driven competition, and Todd is great, and he has the good sense to have a fantastic singer."


Though Walker says his main task is keeping the blues alive, he also recognizes that music evolves. "And it should," he asserts. "The BPO might play a classical piece with a slight twist, and it's the same with blues--there's a constant evolution. It's the younger musicians that will put their own little nuance on it. We want people to remember that blues came from plantations, went to Chicago and lived through hard times, while traditional blues continued on and had an offspring in rock. We want to appreciate and respect changes, while keeping tradition alive."

- Buffalo Rising Magazine


Ever since the TODD EBERWINE BAND won the local Memphis Bound competition in September, it has had a bit of a Catch-22 on its hands. By winning the competition, which is sponsored by the Western New York Blues Society, the progressive blues ensemble gets to compete in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn. When the band members hit a prominent Beale Street stage in February, they’re sure to be elated and full of hope — two emotions that their genre doesn’t really allow for.

If the band awes the judges and goes far in the challenge, it could make their career. So the Memphis Bound fundraiser could be your last chance to rub shoulders with the Todd Eberwine Band and their fans (let’s go ahead and christen them “Winos”). The shindig starts at 6 p. m. Saturday in the Lafayette Tap Room (391 Washington St.). The blues will be playing, but nobody’s going to have ’em. We talked with Eberwine about what to expect.

How big is the International Blues Challenge?

There will be bands from 16 different countries. It’ll take place over three days, in pretty much every venue on Beale Street. You definitely play for two days, and then they narrow the field down to about 10, where you play in the finals. Previous winners have gone on to do pretty cool things. A lot of them get to tour Europe and then come back and do the States. The big name that’s won it is Susan Tedeschi.

Your approach to the blues isn’t exactly traditional. Have you experienced any backlash?

I’m afraid we have. When we started out doing the originals for our upcoming record, we were really focused on doing what we knew and not worrying about what the guidelines for the genre are. Because you do have a split crowd. There are a lot of people out there that are like, ‘This is what denotes what the blues is, you can’t stray out of this box.’ There’s another group of people that are itching for someone to do just that.

Were you surprised when you won Memphis Bound?

Doing what we do, we were surprised that we won the contest. The Western New York Blues Society is great, but they’re usually very strict on what they allow in. The fact that they felt that we were good enough to go over those boundaries and still represent them is a big honor for us.

Who’s your biggest influence beyond the usual Stevie Rays and Jimis?

Derek Trucks, because of his progressive playing.

What got you interested in blues guitar?

The first thing I ever heard was Eric Clapton’s ’70s blues stuff. It was a really dark place, but for some reason it hit home with me; I understood it. When I picked up a guitar, I had never had a lesson, and that’s where I ended up. It wasn’t a conscious effort that I was going to play blues. It was what felt right.

— Joe Sweeney, Special to The News
- The Buffalo News


Discography

Todd Eberwine Band - Self Titled EP - 2009

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Bio

Armed with the art of improv and energizing the blues with a new power, Todd Eberwine and his band continue to carve out their space in the world of blues music. Buffalo Rising Magazine writes: "Todd Eberwine and his band qualify for membership in that small group of players who are helping to evolve the blues. He sets the bar high with a style and presence that keeps audiences on their feet."