Dennis Gruenling - "Ready Or Not"
Dennis Gruenling has been considered one of the best harmonica players in the business for quite some time. With his latest release, Ready Or Not, he has raised the bar one more time. Not only does he play some of the finest harmonica I have heard since the days of the old master, he has written all of the recording's 13 tunes and, he steps up to the microphone and shows himself as a top-notch vocalist. Backed by a tight band that includes Doug Deming on guitar, Andrew Gohman on bass (electric & upright), Michael Bram on drums, percussion & backing vocals, Dennis is free to cut loose and deliver the goods with an incredible level of power and passion. Add a handful of special guests including Dave Gross, Dave Keyes, Doug Sasfai, Matt Raymond and Steve Conte, adding their own little special touches, and you have a piece that not only rocks the house, it blows the roof off the sucker. I call this a win-win situation...Gruenling breaks new ground and the fans get an album that is easy on the ear, easy to dance to and will never grow old. Having seen him at our local blues festival a few years back, I knew that there was much more to Dennis Gruenling than meets the eye. The fact that he works a lot with Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones is evident. The level of comfort and familiarity with which they interact makes for a great show. All seasoned professionals and consummate performers, this is a band in the truest sense of the word. It is easy to forget what bands were, and can still be, in this age where some musicians put an album together and never sit in the same room...often not even in the same time zone. Dennis Gruenling and company are the real deal. This is a contemporary unit with their feet firmly rooted in the blues. I recommend this one highly - Bill Wilson
"Ready Or Not" / Dennis Gruenling / VizzTone Label Group
I just had the opportunity to review the newest release, Ready of Not, from Dennis Gruenling and it's a barn burner. Opening with hig energy blues rocker, Knockin' My Knees, Gruenling joins forces with Doug Demingon guitar, Andrew Gohman on bass and Michael Bran on drums for a blend of blues, rock n' roll and New Orleans jazz for a great opener. Bram's strait snare work along with Dave Keyes on liano really stand out on this track. On Missing Person, Slim Harpo's influence is strong with a super boogie reinforced by rim shots and Gruenling's harp work is hot. Another track with a New Orleans feel, Ready Or Not to me gets that classic R&B sound and Deming steps out with a real nice guitar solo. Simmer Down has a classic rock tom tom riff that sets the pace and Gruenling's harp work has a great vocal like quality. Very nice! Little Sugar is a pure rock n' roller with early roots. Deming takes center stage on this one with country flavored rock riffs. A solid rocker, one of the best tracks on the release. Swinging blues rocker, If You Wanna Rock, has a great groove and Gruenling delivers on vocal and his harp work really hits the target with backing vocals by Dave Gross and Michael Bram. Gruenling really lays out some great blues harp on Ready To Burn with basic blues rhythm under his vocals. Very nice! Instrumental, Rockin' With The Rev is a really hot track (can you hear me Stilladog) with Gruenling really cooking it. This is a great track and the band is hot and tight! Another rocker, Open The Door, this time with a Chuck Berry flavor, gets down and gritty with solid riffs from Deming and Keyes as well as a nice solo from Gruenling. Sizzling blues/jazz number, Think Twice, is smoking hot with Gruenling riffing out on harp followed by vocal lead. Deming plays a really nice stylized solo of his own followed by an extended solo by Gruenling. Excellent! Give Me Back My Heart has a real retro blues feel with Gruenling on lead vocal and with male backing vocals, hand clap percussion and stylized guitar soloing, topped off by Gruenling. Wrapping the release is Count Chromatic of course featuring Gruenling up front of chromatic harp but with really nice guitar riffs by Deming. This is a great track and a great closer.
Ready or Not Vizztone /Back Bender Records
The first time I ever saw Dennis Gruenling was at Mike Moss’ “Blues 2000 and Beyond” at the old Playboy Club in Vernon, N.Y. He was the harp player who sat in with “Filthy Rich and The Poor Boys”.
Gruenling also had his own band “Dennis Gruenling and Jump Time” and between 1999 and 2001 released three albums on his own Back Bender Records. Jump Time remained together for several years but did not record again. Often times Gruenling could be seen in a duo or band with guitarist Dave Gross.
Then in 2008 Gruenling released “I Just Keep Lovin Him: Tribute to Little Walter”. That album included guest vocalists and fellow harpists Kim Wilson; Rick Estrin and Steve Guyger. The album was not only a tribute but it also established Gruenling as a “world class” harp player. Whenever Mark Hummel’s Harmonica Revue came to New York City Gruenling would always be added as a special guest.
Instead of pursuing the idea of recording another album with “Jump Time” Gruenling found that he enjoyed playing with Doug Deming and The Jewel Tones. In October of 2012 The Vizztone Label Group released two albums “Dennis Gruenling Rocking All Day” featuring Doug Deming and The Jewel Tones; and “Doug Deming and The Jewel Tones What’s It Gonna Take” featuring Gruenling. Both albums received world wide recognition.
Gruenlings takes a leap of faith as for the very first time we get to hear him sing. The band consists of Gruenling, harp and vocals; Deming, guitar; Andrew Cohman, upright and electric bass; and Michael Bram, drums and percussion. Guest musicians include producer Steve Conte, acoustic guitar and back ground vocals; Dave Keyes, piano and background vocals; Doug Sasfai, Saxophone; Matt Raymond, upright bass; and Gross, background vocals. All of the songs were written by Gruenling.
This is R n B, rock n’ roll, and jump blues at its finest. On the opener “Knockin’ My Knees” Gruenling sings several verses before even pickin’ up a harp and his vocal is right on the money. Deming plays rhythm before ripping a lead guitar solo. Gruenling blows some great harp to finish out the tune. The title track “Ready or Not” is one of my favorites. Bram’s drumming kicks off both “Simmer Down” and “Little Sugar”. As expected the band is hot. “If You Want to Rock (You Gotta Have That Roll)” is a Louis Jordan styled tune with some great guitar from Deming. Gruenling’s best vocals might be “Won’t You Come Back to Me”; “Open The Door” and “Give Me Back My Heart”.
Gruenling’s harp is best on two original instrumentals “Rockin With The Rev” and the fabulous “Count Chromatic”.
We have watched the combo of Gruenling and Deming, with the Jewel Tones, grow into a powerhouse. Expect nothing less.
"Ready Or Not" / Dennis Gruenling / VizzTone Label Group
Dennis Gruenling has long been known as one of those “go to” harp players you call on for a session or to sit in for a live gig. This finds him in the bandleader role, doing the vocals for the first time in his already substantial recording career. Not only that, he wrote all of the thirteen songs in a throw-back style. Here’s Gruenling’s quick take on the album directly from his website: “this time, not only is it all originals rooted in the 1950’s Rhythm & Blues/early Rock & Roll vein, but I’m also handling all the vocals – SAY WHAT?!? That’s right, you heard me (or at least, you will now, lol!) While working on these tracks, aside from hearing from countless friends and fans that I should sing for the past couple decades, I was making the demos and working out the tunes and gave it a go… and I just stuck with it. If you dig what I’ve been doing for the past number of years with Doug Deming (who is of course on this disc) and my Jump Time records, you will likely dig this mix of 50’s styled blues & roots music… with influences ranging from 1950’s rock & roll and rhythm & blues artists such as John Lee Hooker, Fats Domino, Louis Jordan, Chuck Berry and more.”
Okay, he didn’t get completely out of his comfort zone as he is backed by the band he tours with, Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones for most of the tracks. On others, stellar keyboardist Dave Keyes and members of Gruenling’s Jump Time Band– like guitarist Dave Gross and tenor saxophonist Doug Sasfai– add their talents. The album was recorded in Brooklyn, NY during a blizzard with producer Steve Conte (New York Dolls, Willy DeVille) at the controls.
Gruenling brings a swinging style, filled with plenty of notes and chromatics, when playing his trademarked Badass Harmonica. That style is vitally present throughout the record, which relentlessly boogies, jumps and swings. Gruenling’s voice, while not especially distinctive, is witty, has flair in the right places and is well suited to the material. “If You Wanna Rock” really conjures up those early days of rock n’ roll, while “Ready to Burn” sounds menacing. Gruenling sounds like he’s playing horn charts on “Think Twice,” and “Simmer Down” perhaps encapsulates in four minutes why Gruenling is often hailed by his peers as one of the world’s best harmonica players. Now we know, he has even more skills.
Dennis Gruenling - Ready Or Not
Harmonica master Dennis Gruenling is back with a strong, brand-new collection of all-original tunes, this one entitled “Ready Or Not,” and it, indeed, marks a new direction in his illustrious career. Always known for his, well, “Badass” harmonica chops, for this set, for the very first time, he takes the vocals mic as well! For us, we wonder why he waited so long. He has the perfect voice for these Fifties-inspired, jump-blues cuts that recall the heyday of Sam Phillips at Sun, Art Rupe at Specialty, and Ernie Young and J. D. Miller down in the swamp at Excel.
Also along for this amped-up blues journey are Doug Deming And The Jewel Tones, with Doug on guitar, Andrew Gohman on bass, and Michael Bram on drums. The party starts with the furious-paced rocker, “On My Knees,” an ode to those girls that know just how to “turn a saint into a sinner,” fueled by Doug’s bristling guitar and Dennis’ big ol’ chromatic work. Echo-effect vocals over a shot of the Hook’s “endless boogie” drives “Missing Person,” while Dave Keyes’ piano is the perfect “spice” to another tune about a special girl who may be small in stature, but “stands out in a crowd,” “Little Sugar.”
“Don’t play with fire unless you’re Ready To Burn” sounds as if it were a long-lost Excello nugget, and Doug’s Berry-fied licks help Dennis persuade a lover to “open your heart up, baby, and Open The Door!” We had two favorites, too. A tom-tom percussion volley leads the way for a tune we should all perhaps sometimes heed. “Simmer Down” reminds us that, in any situation, it’s best not to be “the first to jump in and first to drown,” but to back off and assess things before losing your cool. And, in the good-time spirit of Louis Jordan, “If You Wanna Rock, You Got To Have That Roll”—“bank-roll,” that is!
Dennis Gruenling continues to up the ante on why he is one of the most dynamic harp players on today’s scene. “Ready Or Not” is just begging you to give it a listen and put on your dancin’ shoes!! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.
DENNIS GRUENLING/Ready or Not: Blues rock that's heavy on the rock, Gruenling takes his harp back to the early days of rock, blows the roof off the sucker and lets the high octane flow. A first class party band for frat boys of any age, this crew loves to kick it out and they do it without any clichés or lag phases. Hot stuff that brings the heat and keeps delivering it well after the temperature has been fully raised. Check it out!
My new all-original CD is out with the VizzTone label group (available on this site, CD Baby, Amazon and everywhere else)…and this time not only is at all originals rooted in the 1950’s Rhythm & Blues/early Rock & Roll vein, but I’m also handling all the vocals – SAY WHAT?!? That’s right, you heard me (or at least, you will now, lol!) While working on these tracks, aside from hearing from countless friends and fans tell me that I should sing for the past couple decades, I was making the demos and working out the tunes and gave it a go…and I just stuck with it. If you dig what I’ve been doing for the past number of years with Doug Deming (who is of course on this disc) and my Jump Time records, you will likely dig this mix of 50’s styled blues & roots music…with influences ranging from 1950’s rock & roll and rhythm & blues artists such as John Lee Hooker, Fats Domino, Louis Jordan, Chuck Berry and more. I’ll be updating the site with some reviews that are coming in…check’em out & grab the disc when you can!!
Congratulations to Dennis Gruenling for begin awarded "Best Harp Player" by Blues411.com…and featured cover story and interview in Blues Blast Magazine Nov 2013…!!
Dennis Gruenling's new "Rockin' All Day" CD has recently been #3 on Sirius/XM's "Bluesville" Picks To Click...this is in addition to a 4th month in a row in the Living Blues Radio Charts, and 3 in a row for Doug Deming's new CD "What's It Gonna Take"
Now for THREE months in a row, both Dennis Gruenling's "Rockin' All Day" CD and Doug Deming's "What's It Gonna Take" CD from VizzTone Records are in the TOP TEN of the Living Blues Radio Charts! http://www.livingblues.com/index.php/inside-living-blues/radio-charts.html