The center of the Columbus blues universe was without a doubt, Woodlands Tavern in Grandview last Sunday night. The bill consisted of a local blues band, Brothers by Law, and an up-and-coming guitar genius from Austin, Texas, Gary Clark, Jr.
Brothers by Law opened the show with an hour set that consisted of swampy blues-rock thick with slide guitar. The dynamic between front man, Alex Gregory, and slide guitar player Robert Fulton is very much like that of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts or Derek Trucks and Warren Hanes, depending on what version of the Allman Brothers you like best. The two sparred back and forth all night, trading licks and runs like two boxers in a title fight.
The Allman Brothers comparison doesn’t stop there. Watching Fulton play you can guess who his biggest influence might be. He doesn’t use a pick; instead, he plucks out the notes with his fingers and uses his thumb to pick and dampen the strings. It’s very similar to Derek Trucks. Hedge even plays a 1961 Gibson SG.
They opened the show with a straightforward blues called “I’m a Working Man,” which got the crowd into it early. Next they covered the Steven Stills tune “Treetop Flyer,” which the band completely made their own by upping the tempo and unleashing their dual guitar assault. “Evil Love” followed, which sounds like it could have been pulled from Cream’s Fresh Cream.
Brothers by Law did cover the Elmore James and Sonny Boy Williamson classic, “One Way Out,” which the Allman Brothers made famous by adding a live version of the song on their Eat A Peach album. It was definitely one of the highlights of the evening. Bass player Kevin Donahoe and drummer Kent Mortimer really stood out here, laying down a heavy groove. The song had punch and a presence that resonated throughout the room.
For the finale the Brothers announced it was sing-along time and they didn’t disappoint as they launched into a raucous version of the classic Band song “The Weight.” It was a fitting end to the set; the group injected a heavy dose of blues into the song.
What really put the icing on the cake was the fact that Eric Clapton stopped by to check out Gary Clark Jr., who played at Clapton’s Crossroads Festival. Anyone who knows anything about Clapton knows he loved The Band. I can only hope that Slowhand witnessed and appreciated that version of “The Weight.”
So Columbus, if you are a fan of the blues and love the wail of the slide guitar, you need to check out Brothers by Law. Their next show is September 17th during the Independents’ Day celebration at Gay Street and Pearl Alley. They play on the Athens Business Remixed Stage at 12:45pm.