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This GravelRoad leads to deep south

Posted Wednesday, October 29, 2008, at 1:53 PM

Had it not been for the fact that I got an "A" in my high school geography class, I'd swear that Seattle, Washington must be nestled somewhere between Memphis, Tennessee and Holly Springs, Mississippi.

And while I do know that's not true - my eyes looking at a map tell me so - somehow my ears continue to be deceived.

And for that, I can blame a lively trio of bluesmen from the Emerald City called GravelRoad.

Because with one spin of GravelRoad's second CD, Shot The Devil (Uncle Larry's Records), strong memories of a Friday night at Young Avenue Deli in Memphis, or maybe a Saturday evening at Otha Turner's place outside of Senatobia, are evoked.

What it doesn't bring to mind, however, is a rainy Sunday afternoon at a Starbucks in Seattle.

That's a testament to the greasy blast of blues from the northwest that is at the very soul of GravelRoad's new CD.

Geography aside, what GravelRoad has forged in the 11 tracks on Shot The Devil does leave one with the aftertaste of the North Mississippi Hill Country on a hot July afternoon, after chugging a healthy dose of highly-caffeinated rock n' roll on the side.

Around since 2005, it's obvious that GravelRoad (Stefan Zillioux, guitars and vocals; Jon Kirby Newman, bass and guitar; Martin Reinsel, drums and percussion) is highly influenced by the likes of Hill Country legends like R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and Fred McDowell.

Even the name of the group owes much to the dusty and often forgotten back roads of the Hill Country. I mean, c'mon, just how many gravel roads are left in the busting metropolis of Seattle, anyway?

But the Hill Country is just kind of a starting point for GravelRoad, not the end of their destination.

Shot The Devil moves and grooves under its very own mojo.

Call it nu-blues, call it punk-blues, dark-blues or even 22nd century Delta blues.

Whatever you call it, just call it a tasty offering that hits the sweet spot.

From the instrumental opener "Fred #3 (a tip of the hat to Mississippi Fred McDowell?), to the drone-heavy "Lonely Nights," through the slow-smoldering "Trainwreck," Shot The Devil is the work of a band with its feet comfy in the camps of both alternative rock and deep blues.

But if it was ever necessary for GravelRoad to earn its stripes in the eyes of hard-core blues lovers, the hard-working trio did just that this summer.

After playing at the second annual Deep Blues Festival in Minnesota, GravelRoad hit the road back to Seattle with one Mr. T-Model Ford in tow, playing a string of one-nighters opening for Ford and then backing Ford for a two- or three-hour set of gutbucket blues.

Even just a few short days on the road, much less weeks, with the legendary "Taildragger" from Greenville, Mississippi will either kill a band or make it stronger.

And judging by the way Shot The Devil jukes and jumps, I'd say GravelRoad is one strong outfit.

Kinda like cruising down a one-lane, unpaved highway in a Lamborghini.

Check 'em out at www.gravelroadblues.com.

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Terry Mullins, Sports Editor
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Since my own high school sports career fizzled out before it really reached its zenith, I have managed to live vicariously through the student/athletes of the 16 high schools I've covered for Areawide Media since 2001. I've witnessed the highest of highs in the form of state championships. I have also seen first-hand the sting of disappointment when the ultimate prize was within reach, but still eluded the grasp of its pursuer. But through all the ups and downs associated with high school sports, my respect for the young competitors that suit up each night, along with the men and women who guide them, remains unwavering. Blog mission: With my passion for music, especially live music, running second only to my passion for sports, I'll try to devote this space to both. Especially when it concerns our region and what's happening around it. Look for commentary and features on area sports figures and musicians, along with things to get out and do in the beautiful Spring River/Ozarks area. But I'll not totally ignore the outside - I'll also hit on some national happenings in the wide worlds of sports and music.
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