Blues, rock, funk, jazz fusion, Eastern, punk, carnival, psychedelic, performance art and more, are all regularly attached descriptions of the band, Jason Ricci and New Blood. Defying category, without defying the techniques, authenticity and disciplines of any one of those classifications is a rare and dangerous high-wire act this band has been balancing expertly year after year, award after award, show after show, fan after fan and album after album.
Jason Ricci and New Blood have been working the blues, jam-band and rock circuits for over seven years, averaging some 300 shows a year all over the world. Ricci on his own is consistently considered and referred to in print, with awards and in harmonica circles, as one of the best and most important harmonica players to have ever picked up the instrument. Shawn Starski (guitar) is garnering similar attention alike with Guitar Player Magazine naming him within “The Top Ten Hottest New Guitar Players” in 2008.
New Blood’s rhythm section as well holds equal footing musically with Ricci and Starski on stage. Bass and drum solos abound regularly within their two-to-four hour nonstop sets. Todd “Buck Weed” Edmunds (bass, tuba, double bass, sousaphone, bass harmonica) is a jazz master and devout musicologist. In between gigs with Ricci and New Blood, Edmunds is just as likely to be found playing upright bass for an Ellington Big Band, or tuba for a New Orleans brass ensemble, as he is likely to be subbing on electric bass for a Norwegian black metal band. Ed Michaels (drums) has been with the band for over a year. His background includes trap set drums, formal East Indian Tabla study, as well as other hand drums and world percussion disciplines. Michaels has toured with Roy Rogers, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Commander Cody among others. Every member of Jason Ricci and New Blood is a soloist, contributing songwriter and vocalist.
Although the openly gay Ricci may appear and often sound as unorthodox as his punk and gothic-inspired clothing and hair, make no mistake, Ricci spent plenty of time firmly-rooted in the blues putting together a blues pedigree that would leave many “traditional blues” players looking as authentic as an American Idol contestant. By the age of 21, Ricci had won the Sonny Boy Blues Society contest, performed at the King Biscuit Blues Festival, LIVED and played with Big Bad Smitty, David Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside as a member of those bands throughout clubs and real black/African American-owned and run juke joints throughout the South, namely Mississippi. Before embarking on a journey beyond the blues inspired by ex-Johnny Winter sideman and now-deceased, Pat Ramsey, Ricci was a devout student of the traditional harmonica masters like Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and George Smith.
In 2004 for three weeks, the band’s hard work paid off when a bootlegged recording from a Jersey club (Mexacali Blues) was the most downloaded live show in the world over the Grateful Dead, Phish and other popular jam-bands, clocking over 21,000 downloads in two weeks. The same year they released a live album titled, “Live at Checkers Tavern.” In 2005, Jason Ricci won the Muddy Waters Award for most promising new talent, and later in 2006 the band released the CD, “Blood on the Road.” It was an independently produced CD that topped the XM radio charts as a top ten “Pick for Click” for a solid month and sold over 12,000 copies from the stage alone. The independent CD was listed in the Mercury News as one of the Top Ten Albums of 2007 alongside Green Day and Prince. 2007 saw the band nominated for Band of the Year by Blues Wax and had the group expanding into Canada and Europe.
In 2008 Jason Ricci and New Blood were signed by Randy Chortkoff to Eclecto Groove Records (a subsidiary of Delta Groove Music), releasing their first in stores everywhere album, “Rocket Number 9.” It was produced by multiple Grammy Award-winning producer, John Porter (The Smiths, Los Lonely Boys, Ryan Adams, etc.). The album interweaved Ricci’s autobiographical, political, drug-related and spiritual themes with traditional blues, funk, rock, and Eastern music. “Rocket Number 9” climbed the Billboard Blues Charts to arrive and stay at number four for multiple weeks. The record also again made the “Pick to Click” top ten on XM and Sirius Radio charts and was chosen for “Album of the Year” by Gibson Guitars. The press was hefty too with a feature story and interview with Jason in Blues Revue Magazine. Ricci has always been an in-demand studio musician and 2008 saw guest appearances on albums with Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm’s CD, “2 Man Wrecking Crew,” Motor City Josh’s “Tribute to Howling Wolf,” and Walter Trout’s CD, “The Outsider,” among others. Later in 2008, Ricci would join Trout in Europe on tour with his band, the Radicals, for some critically-acclaimed shows and a partnership that continues today.
In 2009, Jason Ricci and New Blood finished up work on their latest offering for the Eclecto Groove label titled, “Done with the Devil.” Produced by Grammy Award-winner, Phil Wolfe (Alabama), this is their most ambitious album yet, featuring ten original songs by the band and two covers spanning the distance between Sun Ra and the Misfits. The CD, like “Rocket Number 9,” is an even greater expansion on an eclectic mix of rock, blues, jazz, fusion, folk, funk, Eastern, carnival and punk, often within one tune or solo for that matter. 2009 had Ricci and company up for a second nomination for “Band of the Year” by Blues Wax, Ricci won the Blues Critic’s Award for “Harmonica Player of the Year,” and he even stole a literary award for ”Article of the Year” from Blues Wax Magazine. Additionally, Ricci also received his first Blues Music Award from the Blues Foundation in 2010 for Instrumentalist-Harmonica.
Whether the band is covering Lou Reed or Little Walter, or playing a rock room or a blues festival, the musicians in New Blood remain sincere and true to the music, as well as the love and respect they have for its many forms, textures and colors. This band never does anything it feels isn’t part of them deeply in some way. You can call them rockers, punkers, jazzers, bluesers, clowns, jammers or virtually anything you like and any one or all of those descriptions may be true at any one time. But as anyone who has ever seen this band live will tell you, whether they liked it or not, they were anything but insincere.