Live @ The Purple Fox Loft

Here is the album I have been waiting for from Ben Rice for some time. Yes, it is a live recording, but it is also a reflection on his career and the growth of a performer. Having watched Ben since he was in his early teens, this is definitely a showcase of an emerging artist who, if any destiny is at play, should be breaking out big time nationally/internationally. Two straight years as a finalist in the International Blues Challenge doesn’t hurt anything either.

Live @ The Purple Fox Loft is a demonstration of how deep Ben Rice’s talents actually reach. Not only does he give forth splendid renditions of timeless blues classics, his songwriting achieves a level all its own. His singing is also top notch with phrasing that comes across clearly and strong, no matter how loud or quiet he brings it. And don’t get me started on his guitar work. He is simply one of the best guitarists in the region, whether it’s on his electric, his steel-bodied National, or his cigar-box. He is a master of each, and they’re all displayed throughout this live performance.

The song selections are a cross collection of his career to date. Songs like “I Got Loaded” or “Can’t Be Satisfied” are covers that have long been in his repertoire. And his original numbers are emotional and personal at times and always memorable, whether it’s his well-known take of “Ida Mae” that he has recorded a few times now, talking about “Fishing” trips with his father, absolute friendship on “Turn My Back On You,” or the beauty of “You’re Gonna Go Away,” they are all over the top presented in this live setting. Plus, how can you overlook his version of “Key To The Highway,” with its introduction blended with “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”? This is the one song everybody wants to hear at his shows. It is unique and original in its approach and I was told firsthand that it brought two judges to tears at the International Blues Challenge. I take this as fact because the person telling me was one of those two judges.

The flow of the performance is spot-on as each song flows freely to the next. And Ben is backed by a dynamic rhythm section with drummer Mark Banner and bassist Calen Uhlig. Both have their own highlights in the show. Banner’s perhaps during his percussive trade-off with Ben on the washboard cigar-box on “Can’t Be Satisfied.” And Uhlig (who I have personally thought of as one of the most under-recognized musicians in Portland) bringing on the funkiness of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” in the instrumental break on “I Saw The Devil.” This is a strong outfit and that will always make for a successful performance.

Live @ The Purple Fox Loft clearly stands right out front for me when it comes to exceptional live recordings. Ben Rice is no longer the shy kid talking in front of a microphone who can lay everything out when he plays and sings. This is a maturing musician and one who is destined to make his mark in the blues world. This live recording is testimony to that!

Total Time: 1:17:02

Shake A Hand / Ida Mae / Can’t Be Satisfied / Turn My Back On You / Fishing / I Saw The Devil / Somewhere Over The Rainbow / Key To The Highway / In The Doghouse / You’re Gonna Go Away / Fallen Angel / I Got Loaded