James Solberg’s Blues at Skinner’s

Jesse Christen

Jesse Christen

Get ready music fans. Brookings is about to get something it doesn’t deserve: the James Solberg Band.

Anyone who’s followed blues music already knows who James Solberg is. He’s won two W.C. Handy blues band of the year awards (the blues music equivalent of a Grammy), backed the late blues legend Luther Allison and has jammed with everyone from BB King to John Entwistle (late Who bassist).

“James is the real thing, you just know it instinctively when you hear his music. His raw, gutsy voice bleeds over the razor sharp guitar licks and pinpoint tight rhythms. True blue all the ways,” says Songwriter’s Monthly magazine.

Solberg quit school at the age of 15 and headed to Chicago to be close to music he loves the most, the blues. During this time he played with such well known figures as Jimmy Reed, Johnny young and Big Walter Horton. He them moved to Milwaukee, where he first met Luther Allison. He also played with late Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s bassist, Howie Epstein. He’s toured with John Lee Hooker and The Legendary Blues Band (Muddy Water’s band).

Besides being a dedicated blues musician, Solberg is a machinist with a love for vintage motorcycle; he and his son run a chopper shop in Eau Claire, Wis. and have done work for stars such as Peter Fonda.

In a recent phone interview, Solberg says he wouldn’t play music if it weren’t for the blues. He developed a love for the music of artists such as Muddy Waters early in life.

“I liked the music before I even knew who the artists were,” he says. “When I got a little bit older I figured out that it was Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed who were playing it.”

When asked what the highlight of his career has been, Solberg doesn’t have a definite answer. He says he’s played with a who’s who of famous musicians and has played large prestigious gigs like the Chicago Blues Festival and the Montreux Jazz Festival in France. Although the Montreux show was a thrill (it was his first show in front of a large European audience), he says he just enjoys playing live.

“Whether it’s Paris or Hodunk, Wyo., big gig or little gig, it’s nice; I just get a kick out of playing,” he says.

Solberg says if his band is playing good, any where is a great time.

He’s proud of his band’s current line-up, describing it as the best one yet. His group features Dan O’Connor on bass, Allen Kirk on drums and Larry Byrne on keyboards.

“The band has really been kicking ass,” says Solberg.

The group has a new album on the way. Titled Wheel Time, it gives the group a chance to show those who can’t make it to their gigs what they can do. Solberg has four previous solo albums and has played on five different Luther Allison recordings.

Usually taking a backseat to pop music, the blues continues on. When asked why just a few blues artists make it to the top Solberg says, “you can put these youngsters, Johnny Lang, on the cover of 17Magazine, not the older guys”

The James Solberg band plays at Skinner’s Pub on Sat., Oct. 11. Tickets are $5 and available at the door. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. For more information on James Solberg go to www.jamessolberg.com.