Wooden Eye
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Wooden Eye

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2008

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States
Established on Jan, 2008
Band Americana

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Jan
21
Wooden Eye @ Book And Bar

Portmouth, New Hampshire, United States

Portmouth, New Hampshire, United States

Dec
03
Wooden Eye @ Red & Shorty's

Dover, New Hampshire, United States

Dover, New Hampshire, United States

Jul
31
Wooden Eye @ Governor's Inn & Restaurant

Rochester, New Hampshire, United States

Rochester, New Hampshire, United States

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos

Music

Press


by Matt Kanner

The collective members of Wooden Eye have enough blues in their bones to paint the Seacoast sapphire. Guitarist and vocalist Bob Halperin has played with an almost countless number of area bands, and so has harmonica master Mike "Bullfrog" Rogers. Bullfrog's son Joe Rogers brings some younger blood to the drum set, while Dan MacLellan, a relative newcomer to the scene, rounds out the group on bass and vocals. The powerhouse quartet combines for a rootsy, Americana sound that deftly welds their amassed experience.

Wooden Eye took the spotlight at the Portsmouth VFW Post on July 12 to unveil its long-awaited debut disc, "Don't Ask." Wearing dark sunglasses under a wide rimmed hat and a belt that holstered up to nine harmonicas, Mike Rogers firmly commanded center stage. To his right stood Halperin, who harbored his own arsenal of axes just offstage, alternating between electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin and other assorted things with strings.

The veteran chemistry between Halperin and Rogers sent off magnesium sparks that lit up the VFW and eventually coaxed a roomful of fans to their feet. Rogers thumped the drums and MacLellan strummed a bright blue six-string bass while the guitarist and harpist exchanged solos with mounting intensity.

As the evening progressed, the band got looser and the music got tighter, culminating in a sound that melded old-style blues with zydeco, country and ragtime. Wooden Eye's style perhaps best captured on the new CD's first track, "I Got Wise," which closed the first set at the VFW. Written and sung by Halperin, the song echoes American roots music with an easygoing twang that reminisces of The Band.

Wooden Eye began as a recording project but unexpectedly evolved into a gigging band. Most of the CD's 12 tracks were written by either Halperin or Mike Rogers, with a few traditionals and covers thrown into the mix, and one tune written by the entire band. The album was produced, engineered, mixed and mastered by Joe Rogers, who Halperin called "the instigator of this whole thing." It was recorded at Tillie B's Studio in Berwick, Maine, and published by Dirt Road Music.

The distinct influence of Mike and Joe Rogers is easy to sequester on the CD. The father-son team also collaborates in Maine based blues band Roundhouse, and the elder harpist has been playing blues harmonica since the 1960s, also contributing to the folk group Salt River. MacLellan's steady bass work and lead and backing vocals easily complement the Rogers style, and Halperin's guitar work adds a whole new facet to the sound.

Halperin, who released a collective retrospective of his work earlier this year, has performed regularly on the Seacoast for decades, sometimes as a solo act and sometimes as a member of such bands as the Bob Halperin Trio, Homeless Bob and the Living Room Gypsies and Li'l Anne and Hot Cayenne. Known most famously for his bottleneck slide guitar style, he is capable of blistering blues and soft, finger-picking folk.

A sign of Halperin's abilities came during a cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Texas Flood," a tune that should only be attempted by true professionals, and Halperin delivered. "Flood" was one of several covers that Wooden Eye executed at the VFW. Another cover came in the form of a Rod Stewart song, written before Stewart was abducted by aliens and transformed into a much lamer incarnation of his former self, Halperin explained.

The band also played some covers that appear on the new disc, including "Bootleg Rum Dum Blues," by Arthur "Bliind Blake" Phelps. As Halperin (jokingly) explained, bootleg whiskey has a lot in common with crack cocaine. Both, he said, are highly illegal, dangerous and fun. "When I have one drink, sometimes I act like a fool. When I have two more drinks, I get up and I kick like a mule, " he sang. Halperin also composed a localized tribute to Blind Blake called "Seacoast Rag."

The mix of original and traditional tunes on "Don't Ask" is effective, transitioning smoothly from the deep and gritty "John The Revelator" to the pleasantly lazy "Green Green Rocky Road." Throughout the songs, Bullfrog's expert harmonica joyfully decorates the tunes, whether accompanying on rhythm or blowing an exuberant solo. One of the highlights of the CD release show came when Halperin picked up a harmonica of his own and sidled up to Rogers for an impromptu harp duet.

Wooden Eye has a handful of other gigs scheduled in the area. The band will be at the Governor's Inn in Rochester on Sunday July 27, and will appear at the Rochester Opera House on Saturday, Aug. 16. The group plays at Inn on the Blues in York Beach on Friday, Aug. 29, and at The Press Room in Portsmouth on Saturday, Sept. 27. Visit www.woodeneymusic.com - The Wire


Portsmouth N.H.’s Wooden Eye originally started out as a recording project but has since become a live band.

It consists of Bob Halperin on guitars, mandolin, vocals and diddley bow, joined by Dan Maclellan on bass, as well as the father-son team of

Mike “Bullfrog” Rogers on harp and vocals and Joe Rogers on drums.

Bob, who wrote many of the band’s songs, is a former student of the Reverend Gary Davis, who influenced artists such as Dave Van Ronk, Stefan Grossman and Jorma Kaukonen among others.

He’s a music veteran of more than 30 years and has played with various blues, jug as well as zydeco bands.

Bullfrog, who is heavily influenced by harmonica great Sonny Terry, has been a professional musician most of his life. He started his career at the side of Poet Laureate John Perrault in 1968.

His son Joe, who has played blues since the 80s, engineered and produced this recording in Maine.

Don’t Ask, recorded in the summer of 2008, is an impressive debut. Americana is what they describe themselves as and that is indeed what they are; a skillfully played blend of country, folk gospel, blues, jug band and other roots music. With a deep respect for American musical tradition, Wooden Eye even lists a historical consultant in the credits.

The first cut, “I Got Wise,” starts out with some slide and harmonica one hears the unmistakable influence of the Band.

Next is “Rock Island 4005.” Years before train conductors were texting their sweeties and causing mayhem, there were train accidents. “Rock Island 4005” tells a story about hoboes, trains and death accompanied by a truck-driving rhythm and bluesy harmonica.

The songs “Breakfast in Bed, “American Dream,” “Downtown Girl,” and “Bootleg Rundown Blues” all have an old-timey jug band feel to them that is somewhat reminiscent of the Loving Spoonful. Later, things get a bit more serious on the gospel spiritual “John the Revelator.” There are several versions of this song and these lyrics are the ones used by Son House. The slide and harmonica are prominent on this for a country blues sound.

The other spiritual on this recording is “Joshua” a.k.a. “Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho.”

This song had earlier been recorded by Mahalia Jackson, and I like what they have done here. They slowed down it down to a dirge and added slide and harmonica, but it still retains its gospel feel.

“Green Green Rocky Road,” the folksiest number on the recording, conjures up country hills and lemonade with its acoustic guitar and a laid back harmonica.

The most intriguing song on the recording is the instrumental “Take 73” an earthy Delta-style stomper with a locomotive beat.

It features the diddley bow, an American stringed instrument of African origin which is played like a slide guitar and noted for having been played by many early Mississippi bluesmen.

Bob related that in this case the diddley bow was a two-stringed instrument that was given to him several years ago by a friend in Cambridge who makes them.

If you are looking for more of that pure blues feel, then the thudding beat, gravelly vocals and acrobatic slide of “Down in the Alley” should hit the spot.

The recording ends with the vaudevillian “Seacoast Rag” featuring some pretty nifty harmonica tricks from Bullfrog.

These accomplished veterans have taken us to a time when “back to the future” meant living though the Great Depression.

So for these tough times, if all that new-fangled stuff on the radio is not what you’re looking for, then set your sights on Wooden Eye, relax and enjoy. - Boston Blues Society, By Rachel Lee September 2009


Discography

Don't Ask - July, 2008
Spare Parts, Cans and Bottles - June 2010

Photos

Bio

Wooden Eye has garnered praise for their seamless blend of blues, rock 'n' roll, folk and country since the release of their debut "Don't Ask" in the summer of 2008. With over 70 years of musical experience between them, guitarist Bob Halperin and harp player Mike "Bullfrog" Rogers, whose chemistry, according to Matt Kanner of The Wire, "can light up a room with magnesium sparks", draw from the best of what American roots music has to offer, intertwining country and blues to produce a sound that is as beautifully sublime as it is gritty and nasty. Filling out the bottom, the rhythm section of Dan MacLellan and Joe Rogers brings the swing of The Band and the drive and thud of the best Chess Records sides to Wooden Eyes sound. This tight quartet extracts the best of American music, "deftly welding their amassed experience" to create something special.

With the release of their CD, "Spare Parts, Cans and Bottles", the band has really stepped it up a notch and they are showing clear signs that they are here to stay. As one critic put it, "Wooden Eye has gelled into a musical force to be reckoned with and shouldn't be missed".

Bob Halperin is best known for his solo work. He has had a career that spans more than 30 years. Bob studied with the Reverend Gary Davis, and was a regular at "The Idler" in Cambridge, MA in the 1970's. When Bob picks up that Baritone Guitar, and digs out his slide, the rattlesnakes sit up and take notice.

Mike "Bullfrog" Rogers has been a professional musician most of his life. Heavily influenced by the great Sonny Terry, Bullfrog has his own blend of Country and Blues harp that translates to both electric and acoustic styles. Bullfrog started his professional career at the side of Balladeer and Poet Laureate, John Perrault, in 1968.

Dan MacLellan has been playing the Boston Metro area for the past 30 years. Playing everything from top 40 to fusion, Dan's wide experience gives him a great musical sense. This makes him the perfect bottom end to Wooden Eye.

Joe Rogers, son of Bullfrog, has been playing most of his life. He cut his teeth in the New England club scene in the 1980's. He's played everything from swing to hard core punk. Joe is also the engineer and producer of Wooden Eye's 'Don't Ask' CD, as well as engineer and co-producer along side producer Brett Hartenbach of the band's 'Spare Parts, Cans and Bottles' CD.

Wooden Eye are available for both Electric and Acoustic shows. Let us know what your needs are and we can accommodate whatever your audience and venue might be.

Band Members