In a nice departure for Moment of Truth, I headed down to T.J. Mulligan's in the Pinch awhile back to check out the bar-blues band Crash and the Syndicators, who were playing a set after that night's Eric Clapton concert at The Pyramid.
The band is led by guitarist/singer Crash Kolehmainen, a veteran of the Chicago blues scene who moved to Memphis in 1998, forming the Barrelhouse Kings with harmonica player Lee "Scrap Iron" Raines. Crash and Raines are also partners in the Syndicators, backed by the strong rhythm section of drummer Johnny Mac McDaniel and bassist Dave Zammit.
On this night, Crash and the Syndicators offered sturdy bar-blues with a strong bottom provided by Zammit and McDaniel. Crash and Raines took turns soloing on top, and both are strong players. Crash, who seemed younger than his bandmates, left a little to be desired vocally, and I suspect the sound had something to do with that. Crash's between-song banter was nearly unintelligible.
The band offered a nice mix of hard-driving songs and smoky slow ones. While on the uptempo numbers the drummer was sometimes a bit too active for my tastes, bassist Zammit never lost control of the groove.
Early in the set at the relatively empty club, the band's music tended to run together like one long and rather uninteresting song, but it soon became clear that the band was just warming up, waiting for the crowd to arrive.
About half-a-dozen songs in, people began to trickle in. The post-Clapton crowd the band had hoped for indeed filled the club, and the change in energy on stage was palpable -- the solos got crisper, the beat got tighter, and the mood in the room was warm and fun. During a performance of John Lee Hooker's "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer," Crash even ventured out into the street for his solo, encouraging more people to make the trek from The Pyramid to Mulligan's. For an Eric Clapton crowd looking for a post-concert nightcap, Crash and the Syndicators seemed a perfect fit.
In a blues-saturated town, these kinds of bands don't get a lot of attention, but Crash and the Syndicators are very good at what they do. -- Chris Herrington
The Memphis Flyer reviews local bands on demand. To schedule your group's Moment of Truth, call Chris Herrington at 575-9428 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.