Doug Deming and Dennis Gruenling with the Jewel Tunes recently rocked the Rhythm Room with their high-powered blues and '50s rock 'n' roll. Deming plays a mean guitar, but he also knows how to entertain the crowd in a style that mixes the modern and the vintage. Gruenling gets to share top billing with Deming because he's among the best harmonica players in the country.
Kim Wilson, from the Fabulous Thunderbirds, made a point to be in the crowd since he's a friend with the band. Toward the end of the performance, Wilson and Rhythm Room owner Bob Corritore joined the band for a few songs that had the place hopping.
"It was a darned good night. The Rhythm Room crowd expects more from musicians," Deming said. "Kim Wilson playing with us is always a treat. Corritore sat in as well, and we've played on and off with them for years. It's always great."
The Jewel Tones is a Florida-based band that stopped in Phoenix as part of a west coast tour before stops in Texas, Mississippi and Georgia. Then they are planning to hop on a plane for performances in France before more performances in Mississippi.
Deming and Gruenling not only share top billing, but each has a recent CD out. Deming's CD is What's it going to take? Gruenling's CD is Rockin' All Day. Both are on VizzTone Records.
Deming started the Jewel Tones in 1991, but he's the only original member still in the band. The current members have been together for about three years. The band performs mostly original work, with Deming as the key songwriter. His guitar prowess has not gone unnoticed: Last year he won Blues Blast Magazine's Sean Costello Rising Star Award.
"The award blew me away," Deming said. "I was absolutely beside myself. I was honored just to be nominated. It was shocking to win because I'm a big fan of Costello."
Deming plays traditional Chicago blues along with West Coast Swing, but it's the '50s flair that gives the Jewel Tones a different sound.
"I just turned to blues because it appealed to me. It's the most honest and real music I've ever heard," he said. "It's genuine, but traditional."
Deming's father just strummed a little around the house and some of his high school buddies played guitar so he turned to music. His main influences were the guitar players from the 40s-60s including T-Bone Walker, Robert Lockwood Jr. and Luther Tucker. During the 1990s, Deming backed many of the top touring blues artists including Lazy Lester and Kim Wilson.
On their website, Deming said Gruenling has brought in many fans and accolades from around the world for "his swinging, highly original harmonica sound and styles, Dennis has pushed the boundaries further for the sound of the blues, while in the meantime pioneering a whole new sound and direction for the harmonica."
Gruenling points to Little Walter and George "Harmonica" Smith as his major influences. The two other musicians who make the Jewel Tones come together are Andrew Gohman on bass and Devin Neel on drums. Gohman started playing blues guitar when he was 15 and picked up the bass ten years later. He performed with the Bottom Feeders blues band in Florida until joining the Jewel Tones in 2011. Neel started on the piano when he was eight, but switched to percussion at 19. He has toured with The Damon Fowler Group.
For more information about the Jewel Tones go to dennisgruenling.com
CD Pick of the Week: Patti Parks' CD Cheatin' Man is out just in time for Mother's Day. Good thing, because the song "Mama" will touch your heart. Parks sings this song with a lot of heart about a mother who has done a lot for her child. Guy Nirelli, Parks' producer and songwriter, wrote the song 48 hours before his mother died of breast cancer.
"We could feel her presence in the room when he wrote it," Parks said.
"Back Off" is another great song on the CD, as it will get listeners singing along and probably make them get up to dance.
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