THE VIEW FROM FARAWAY FARM
By Arlo Mudgett
I was listening to a national Blues Program the other day, and they played a couple of my favorites, W.C. Handy Blues Award winning artists Annie Raines and Paul Rishell. It made me remember the Rynborn, that great blues club and restaurant once located in Antrim, NH. The Rynborn attracted a lot of excellent blues musicians over the years, top notch practitioners of the genre. I recall my daughter meeting a well known Blues artists on the South Side of Chicago, waking me up at 1 AM to hold her cell phone up so I could catch some riffs. The fellow told her he had played the Rynborn a couple of times. When the Rynborn moved to Keene. I caught Annie Raines and the Hurricanes there one balmy summer night. It was great having the Rynborn so close, but before long it suddenly closed. I think it was the location because no restaurant ever made it for very long in that spot. It was a crying shame to put it mildly.
Listening to Blues radio I learned about an artist from Northern Vermont who was playing the Rynborn many years ago. The fellows name is Nobby Reed. The station played some of his stuff and I was hooked. Although I was never fortunate enough to catch his act there, I found a couple of his CD’s at “Turn It UP” in Brattleboro. I still play those CD’s as a matter of course. They are among my favorite selections. When I got an I-Pod® I went on to I-Tunes® and found the complete Nobby Reed discography for sale. I’ve been adding it an album at a time, and I have to say, the man is a huge talent.
A couple of years back I was talking with my biological father about music, and told him that I really liked an artist that probably lived near his Fairfax, Vermont home. When I mentioned Swanton, Vermont native Nobby Reed, he said “Norbert was one of my art students at BFA in St. Albans.” I went on to tell my father what an extremely talented man Nobby was, and he just nodded his head in agreement saying “He’s amazing. I remember that he was quiet, and he had a really subtle sense of humor. He was the kind of guy who observed and analyzed for himself, meaning that he wasn't a follower. He was more mature and many steps ahead of his peers, He did his own thing, but not in a contrary way. He simply moved at his own speed, which was the speed of lightning. You just had to like him. I called him “Norby” but I guess others evolved that into Nobby. I remember that he did a lot of really innovative and individually creative work in my class.”
I know from my own experience that growing up working class in Vermont can be a real tough road, and you hear it in Nobby Reed’s lyrics. You also hear a good dose of self reflection, and a pragmatic type of spiritualism that resonates with a wide cross section of people. Reed could have spent his considerable talent in rock bands and the like, but he chose the blues. The influences in Blues are many, but the fact remains that some of the worlds finest guitarists were knee deep in the blues. Two that come to mind are Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.
Reeds guitar abilities are amazingly varied. He can play a kind of funk that draws you in, making you believe he grew up in an inner city. You can also hear a jazz influence when he artfully scats along with his guiitar, which takes a very high level of mastery. Nobby’s bottle neck technique, displayed in the song “Sliding” is some kind of seriously incredible. I’ve seen and heard a lot of top rate players like Bonnie Raitt, and Nobby Reed is on that level, making him one of the finest bottleneck players alive today.
The Blues are not about “woe is me,” they are uplifting. When you hear them done well it drags you out of the deepest funk. What I have gleaned from the small Nobby Reed Project collection that I possess, he is committed to spreading the gospel of the Blues. It is obvious from his lyrics that sharing the Blues with audiences all over is a big factor in the “job satisfaction” that he receives. This genuine love of the blues can’t be hidden, and is a part of what makes Reed so all fired excellent.
If you want to “discover” one of the most accomplished and adaptable blues men of a generation, jump on his well conceived web site at nobbyreed.com. Whether you catch him live or collect his CD’s, there’s only one Nobby Reed, and we are lucky he is here in Vermont.