News From Native California Volume 31, Issue 3 - Page 31

BLUES LOVING MAN Tracy Lee Nelson Self-release, 2017, 52 minutes, $20 ($10 digital download) some people consider blues-rock a guy thing. But there’s nothing like an electric guitar wailing at full volume to motivate banal housekeeping. Tracy Lee Nelson’s new album of original music, Blues Loving Man, got my dirty dishes sparkling like nobody’s business. Each song was a new story. The opening track, “Married to the Blues,” was like driving a Shelby Cobra eighty miles an hour, eyes peeled for cops. Shift down into a slow roll through a stop sign…and speed up again into Track 2, “Cold As Ice,” which is a cup of joe with a shot of adrenalin. I loved “My Baby Joanna,” its upbeat swing-dance tempo and solid vocals channeling the too-soon-departed guitar shaman Stevie Ray Vaughan. After wrangling dust bunnies the size of tumbleweeds, I had to sit down to absorb the intro on “Lost in Love” several times. It rivaled “Bridge of Sighs” by the overlooked Robin Trower. Nelson's velvet gravel voice is reminiscent of Stevie Ray. Asked how he keeps his pipes from drying out, Nelson answered, “Herbal tea and honey! It’s amazing how well honey works.” A self-taught student of blue notes, Nelson learned by listening to favorites like Delta bluesman Robert Johnson and Buddy Guy. Counting his blessings as honors, in 2003 he met his musical hero, B.B. King. Nelson strives to embody the parting words King bestowed upon him: “Keep playing the blues, man. They will listen.” Nelson captured King's auto- graph on his Martin acoustic for good luck. Nelson (Luiseño/Diegueño, Guassac/Mataweer/Duro) spent a rebellious youth skateboarding in the empty swim- ming pools of North Hollywood. Eventually, it paid off with sponsorships. He traveled like a pro, competing in tournaments. Skater boy tuneage? Head-knocking punk rock. Nelson hung out with alternative bands like the Dead Kennedys (D.H. Peligro was his roommate) and Social Distortion. “My friend Ray had the idea we could be like our favor- ite band, the Beatles,” Nelson said. “He owned a gold and brown replica Memphis Les Paul and, having more money, bought me one too. My friend Robert Simmons owned drums and lived down the street.” The die was cast. Johnny and the Ding Bats did a kickflip straight into L.A.’s underground music scene. Nelson has replaced Gen X sports with walking. Recently, he designed a skateboard, Full Blood, which is included in | Reviewed by Jeanne Ferris the National Museum of the American Indian’s traveling exhibition featuring American Indian skateboarders. The San Diego Museum of Man also hosted the display. Coming full circle, Nelson served as tribal chairman of the Payómkawichum (La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indi- ans) from 2002 to 2006. Nelson found his muse embracing rich familial traditions. After that, simple lyrics about com- plicated issues such as Standing Rock with drumming and Native chanting found its way on to “Protectors” (my favor- ite track). It's Nelson’s one concession, a departure from the hard-driving blues-rock that dominates this album: “Leave Our People Alone