Live Review: Mr. Nick & the Dirty Tricks at Smoken’ Joe’s

An important measure of a band’s dedication to their craft – and especially their fans – is the show they put on in an empty venue. This past Saturday (August 4th), I had a chance to catch local blues act Mr. Nick & the Dirty Tricks at Smoken’ Joe’s BBQ in Brighton. It was a slow night at Joe’s, probably owing to a weekend of sweltering heat in the northeast. Despite the small crowd, the band delivered a great show, playing a mix of blues standards and tunes from their latest album, Oh Wow.

Smoken’ Joe’s offers a winning combination of great food (I recommend the burnt tips platter) and live music seven nights a week (the latter being an increasing rarity these days). Mr. Nick & the Dirty Tricks consists of bandleader Nick David on vocals and harmonica, Gus Carlson on guitar, Ted Bukowski on bass, and Rick Rousseau on drums and occasional vocals. Carlson was out of commission last Saturday; the equally adept Nick Adams – who regularly pulls guitar duty in the Racky Thomas Band  – filled in, delivering tasty leads on a cherry red Gibson ES-355.

Mr. Nick & the DirtyTricks get lumped in the broad basket of “West Coast” style jump blues, but the band is more versatile than the categorization suggests. The group’s repertoire includes a healthy infusion of southern soul, funky Chicago blues, and classic rock & roll (Oh Wow includes a great cover of the Womack-penned Stones hit “It’s All Over Now”). The quartet is solid all around, with the rhythm section providing a solid, swinging foundation for Nick David’s healthy blues howl and old school harp fills. You wouldn’t know that Nick Adams isn’t a regular fixture with the band; his horn section style chord stabs and T-Bone Walker-inspired leads locked right in with the groove.

Definitely check out Mr. Nick & the Dirty Tricks if you get a chance, and while you’re at it grab a copy of Oh Wow, which manages to capture the group’s live mojo remarkably well. Rest assured that even if you’re the only soul sitting at the bar, this band will make sure you go home satisfied.

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