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Wednesday, May 9, 2001

Story last updated at 8:21 p.m. on Tuesday, May 8, 2001

photo: neshorelines

  The Terraplane Blues Band Trio, Ron Anton (from left), Ivan Fowler and Johnny Binello, was formed to bring jump blues to smaller venues.
-- Special

Band puts its own twist on blues

By Mark Faulkner
Shorelines correspondent

Take heart, you Eminems and Marilyn Mansons of the world. If you're feeling down just because your music is described as something so volatile it's going to destroy civilization, it's nothing new.

All throughout history, any major departure from the musical mainstream has met with a certain amount of bombastic comments from certain segments of society. Bluesman Ivan Fowler understands that. He and his Terraplane Blues Band play music that was once deemed evil.

"Blues came out of gospel," Fowler said. "When the old black guys in church were supposedly singing 'the devil's music,' they were singing the blues. They were taking the gospel feeling and putting it into everyday-life music. The blues is basically a reflection of life, whether it be good or bad. The nice thing about jump blues is that it's real catchy. It swings."

Fowler has performed jump blues -- a dancing blues style that was the precursor to rock 'n' roll -- with Terraplane since 1992. The band's name came from Roy Rogers' version of blues godfather Robert Johnson's Terraplane Blues. Each of the band members brings a little different take on the music, be it a New Orleans flair, rockin' Texas sound or Chicago beat. Fowler said they take all those styles and mix a little bit of the Florida flavor in.

"We just seem to click together on this kind of music and enjoy it," Fowler said. "We toured for many years, opened for some big acts and played Springing the Blues in Jax Beach several times, plus a lot of other concerts primarily around the Southeast."

Sunday show

The Terraplane Blues Band Trio performs Sunday at the Ragtime Tavern, Seafood & Grill, 207 Atlantic Blvd., at 7 p.m. For more information, call 241-7877.

Springing the Blues organizer and producer Sam Veal said Terraplane has never failed to put on a good show in its numerous festival appearances. He called them a terrific regional band that finds creative ways to reinvent the blues.

"What distinguishes them from other blues bands is their particular style, their knack of being able to not only put their own twist on blues standards, but some of their original works as well," Veal said. "Their songs have a unique style to them; that sets them apart."

As far as the audiences Terraplane has found in its Beaches appearances, Fowler said he's seen a good appreciation of the music, something that spans all ages. He likened the Beaches audiences to what he's seen in New Orleans, just on a smaller level.

"I just got back from New Orleans and of course New Orleans is the Mecca for music," Fowler said. "The city, [music is] what it's all about and it's so wonderful. It was just a power boost for me, a shot in the arm musically. People are just very uninhibited in New Orleans. You start playing and they start dancing. It's great and they love it. They don't care."

Five years ago, Fowler formed a trio version of the Terraplane band, featuring himself on guitar, Ron Anton on harmonica and guitar and Johnny Binello on guitarron, a large acoustic bass guitar, best known for its use by Mexican mariachis. The Terraplane Trio performs Sunday at the Ragtime Tavern, Seafood & Grill.

"There were venues where we played or wanted to play that wanted a smaller group on less busy days and it worked out real well," Fowler said. "The trio can be any combination of the five-piece group, but this lineup is generally a pretty popular group. It's different in that it's more acoustical. It's got a very nice flavor; not having a drummer, it allows you do certain things, but also, the percussiveness of this particular kind of bass that John plays almost makes up for a drummer."

With the trio's performing on Mother's Day, Fowler said he's hard-pressed to think of any mother-flavored songs for the occasion. He said the group usually gets odd requests, be it for country or pop tunes they just don't do. When the band can't accommodate a listener, Fowler said, they'll try to convert them.

"The thing is there's so much good blues music that a lot of people haven't been exposed to," he said. "So what we try to do is we do songs that we've heard, great songs that may be obscure or haven't gotten much airplay, and try and expose people to music they haven't heard, rather than giving more of what they can hear all the time anyway. I feel if you take good music and present it well, it's going to be appreciated."