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This article by Richard J. Skelly was prepared for the June 26, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Blues by Bluescasters

The Bluescasters are a breath of fresh air on the

Garden

State and eastern Pennsylvania blues club scene. Their songs tackle

uncharted lyrical ground; they have a dynamic front person, great

keyboards, fiery guitar, and a crack rhythm section. The band, which

has been a working unit since 1999 [several members knew one another

for many years before that], recently released its first album,

"The

Bluescasters" on drummer and founder Steve Shive’s Big Boy

Records.

Aside from drummer Shive, the band includes Howard Resnick of Ewing

Township on keyboards, Lawrenceville vocalist Doreleena Posey, bassist

Tom McConnell of Levittown, and guitarist Randall Thompson of Yardley.

The Bluescasters album includes a politically incorrect and funny

— but necessary — song about child-rearing, "Bootcha In

The Butt;" a song about getting on in years and the desire to

get married, "The Train’s Running Late;" and a stunning cover

of Don Robey’s "I Don’t Want No Man," a song he wrote in the

1940s for his Houston-based record label.

"We basically started this label out of necessity," drummer

Shive explains. "The band came about first and we just got

together

to have fun, because all of us had gotten sick and tired of the music

business."

"We’ve gone through a couple of singers and a couple of guitar

players, but the core of the band is basically Howard and myself and

our bass player, Tom McConnell," Shive says.

"We started out just having fun, then it got more serious and

we found we had some writing talent in our band, so eventually we

decided to put it out on our own label."

The Bluescasters also interpret B.B. King’s "Ask Me No

Questions,"

but the group injects new life into the song with Posey’s verve-filled

vocal stylings, Resnick’s keyboard glissandos, and guitarist

Thompson’s

venom-tipped solos.

Since forming three years ago, the Bluescasters have been frequenting

clubs like the Old Bay in New Brunswick, A.J.’s Sports Bar in

Levittown,

Red, Hot and Blue in Cherry Hill, Triumph Brewery in Princeton, and

Lambertville Station in Lambertville. That’s where they will be

Friday,

June 28. The band also plays at the much sought-after Warmdaddys club

in Philadelphia every couple of months.

Resnick’s background includes touring the U.S. with Sonny Rhodes,

Shamong Township-based Bluesman Willie Phillips, and Tino Gonzales,

and a handful of shows with the late guitarists Johnny "Clyde"

Copeland and Albert Collins. He is one of the most talented blues

piano players on the scene in the Garden State.

"We’re staying local now," says Resnick, "we all have

families and jobs, so we’re just concentrating on the Levittown,

Trenton

to New Brunswick areas right now. I like New Jersey. I know a lot

of people who don’t and I’ve traveled all over the place with Sonny

Rhodes, but I like New Jersey."

Resnick, 49, was raised in Maplewood but based in Titusville for many

years, where his dad worked as school superintendent for the

Flemington-Raritan

school district. These days Resnick makes his living teaching piano

and playing live shows, occasionally joining Nancy Wertheim’s Supreme

Court Band in New Brunswick and other groups for select shows. He

teaches out of the Creative Music Store in Ewing and at the House

of Music on Route 31 in Pennington, and also gives private lessons

in homes. For years before, Resnick was a driver for A-1 Limousine

Service, and drove everything from stretch limos to sedans to buses.

"I used to love driving the bus to Yankee Stadium, because I love

baseball," he says. "On several occasions, I’ve written whole

songs in my head in a limo on the drive to and from Newark

Airport."

Over the years, he has played with wedding bands, show bands, disco

bands "and everything else," but his first love has always

been the blues. He also considers himself a serious Beatles fan.

Resnick cites piano playing influences that include Otis Spann, who

was a key part of Muddy Waters’ Band for many years, Ray Charles,

and Waters himself. "My favorite artist of all time has always

been Muddy Waters."

Resnick says his first influence was his grandmother, who gave him

piano lessons as a four-year-old.

"I noticed I could play by ear right from the beginning. The first

blues people I ever saw were Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee on `The

Mike Douglass Show,’ and my early influences would have to include

Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Otis Spann, but later I got into

the jazz guys, Oscar Peterson and others.

"I think a lot of my other inspiration comes from guitar

players,"

he says, "I know I learned a lot from Sonny Rhodes and I

incorporated

some of his slide work into my playing. What I enjoy hearing will

ultimately come out in my own style on the keyboard."

Resnick attended Emerson College in Boston for a time, college in

Northfield, Minnesota and finally Rider College, "but at Rider,

I spent all my time in the piano room, so I made it out of college,

I just never graduated," he laughs, "I just followed my

heart."

Asked about their approach to songwriting, Shive and

Resnick say some things get written in rehearsals.

"I’m the type of person who writes by necessity," Shive says.

"I hammer away at songs until I get what I’m looking for."

For instance, with "You’re The Best Friend I Ever Had," he

says, "Doreleena came in with a title line and we all got involved

in the song."

Resnick says "I can pretty much sit at the piano and something

will come out. Sometimes I have an inspiration in the death of a loved

one or a song about a special person, but for the most part I find

that sitting at the piano helps me get in that mode."

"As far as my songwriting inspiration, I’ve always like Muddy

Waters a lot, but I was also influenced by Bob Dylan and the

Beatles,"

he says. "And I get inspiration from life experiences, since I’ve

always liked to write poetry."

Shive is justifiably proud of the band’s first album, recorded at

Ventnor Studios in Ventnor. The tracks are well produced, there’s

plenty of rock ‘n’ roll styled atmospherics, and hints of reverb in

just the right places.

On Saturday, June 29, the band will make its debut at the Point in

Bryn Mawr. Like Warmdaddys in Philadelphia, it’s a highly sought-after

club that regularly brings in national acts and less frequently hosts

local acts.

"We were booked at the Point based on the strength of this

album,"

Shive says, adding the owner didn’t have a chance to see the band

live right away. Resnick points out that Shive, bassist McConnell

and guitarist Thompson have been playing together, off and on, in

a procession of various bands, since their respective childhoods.

Given that most of the Bluescasters are around Resnick’s age, it seems

the members of the group learned long ago how to put aside ego

problems

and instead focus on what’s best for the ensemble.

"Our front person, Doreleena, is very dynamic and an excellent

entertainer," Resnick says. "She goes into the audience, sings

from the audience, invites people from the audience on stage. At our

live shows, we play all of the songs from the album and then we do

some traditional blues and modern blues as well. It’s a strong,

powerful

blues band."

— Richard J. Skelly

The Bluescasters, Lambertville Station Pub, 11

Bridge

Street, Lambertville, 609-397-4400. Friday, June 28, 9 p.m.


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