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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
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,
Bluescasters" on drummer and founder Steve Shive’s Big Boy
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
to have fun, because all of us had gotten sick and tired of the music
"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
but the group injects new life into the song with Posey’s verve-filled
vocal stylings, Resnick’s keyboard glissandos, and guitarist
Since forming three years ago, the Bluescasters have been frequenting
clubs like the Old Bay in New Brunswick, A.J.’s Sports Bar in
Red, Hot and Blue in Cherry Hill, Triumph Brewery in Princeton, and
Lambertville Station in Lambertville. That’s where they will be
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,
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
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
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
he says, "I know I learned a lot from Sonny Rhodes and I
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
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
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
"We were booked at the Point based on the strength of this
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
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,
— Richard J. Skelly
Street, Lambertville, 609-397-4400. Friday, June 28, 9 p.m.
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