Ten years ago, Hanson caused a stir in the pop world by delivering catchy tunes that were self-performed and largely self-penned, by siblings who were still just kids. Today, the blues has its own version of Hanson, and the name of this family affair is The Homemade Jamz Blues Band. So how young are these kids? How about thirty-seven years young….collectively.
Don’t stop reading here thinking that this is just a novelty act. It’s one thing to be able to play the blues when the band members are 16, 13 and 9 years old. It’s another thing entirely when you can play it like old veterans. The Homemade Jamz Blues Band do.
It all started nine years ago when Renaud Perry returned to his family at Baumholder, Germany from a military stint in Korea and brought back a cheap, Stratocaster knock-off. Renaud couldn’t get the hang of it but his seven-year-old son Ryan was keenly interested and got the guitar. His interest led to guitar lessons and woodshedding that in turn led to a passion for the blues when the family relocated to Tupelo, Mississippi.
By the time Ryan was eleven, he was performing live with a drum machine. His younger brother Kyle, then nine, wanted in on the action, so he tried out different instruments before settling on the bass. It wasn’t long before he was playing alongside his brother and thanks to their father’s persistence, the boys landed a coveted gig at Clarksdale’s fabled Ground Zero Blues Club.
But the band hadn’t yet stop forming. When the drummer they used at the time didn’t work out, seven-year-old little sister Tara volunteered to try her hand behind the kit. Within two months, she was ready and the Homemade Jamz Blues Band was complete.
The gig in Clarksdale led to other playing opportunities, including at Memphis’ fabled Beale Street, blues cruises and various festivals, culminating with an appearance on CBS Sunday Morning and signed to a record deal at NorthernBlues Music.
The first result of this record deal came forth this past June 10 when the label issued The HJBB’s debut Pay Me No Mind. True to the name “homemade jamz,” these jams were recorded, rather, hand crafted at the Perry home in only three days in January. That’s helped to foster a down-home (literally) sound that you don’t hear from electric blues bands with record deals, save for perhaps Tab Benoit.
The brand of blues the kids present here has been called a blend of “Chicago and Mississippi juke joint blues” and clearly shows the influence of the Kings (B.B., Albert, and Freddie) as well as the Texas blues of Stevie Ray Vaughan. The stamp that the Perry children put on these styles is that they play it clean, lean and steady. Their exuberance shines through in every song they play.
That enthusiasm bubbles over from the opening moments of the record as Ryan shouts “are y’all ready for the blues?” before the band dives into “Who Your Real Friends Are.” And can the kids play? Well, perhaps they’re not at Double Trouble level yet, but I’ll bet those guys weren’t good enough to get gigs all over the world in their early teens, either.
Ryan Perry is of course the main draw. He plays a clean straightforward soulful style effectively appropriating the aforementioned heroes and is more interested in playing the blues more than cramming in too notes in each chord. As a singer, he’s well beyond his years; there’s enthusiasm and commitment that you can’t miss, but he doesn’t over emote, either.
Kyle Perry’s job of locking down the groove is doubly important since there’s no full-time second guitarist and when Big Brother goes off on a solo, he’s holding firm. And for a nine year old who’s only been drumming for only about two years, Taya Perry seems to have the hang of it pretty darned well. She keeps a good rhythm in sync with Kyle and slips in lots of mini-fills that give the tunes a little lift.
Papa Renaud, although not a member, still plays an important part in the band. He wrote all the originals, provided harmonica on some tracks, and even handcrafted Ryan and Kyle’s guitars!
Renaud’s numbers are uniformly good; maybe no new classics added to the blues canon, but varied in tempo and full of soulful hooks. Most importantly, he didn’t write children’s tunes; these are grown-up songs, performed by kids who play like grown-ups.
There are your traditional styled electric blues numbers like “Who Your Friend Are,” “Penny Waiting On Change” and “The World’s Been Good To You.” “Voodoo Woman” and “Time For Change” has those rich, Jimi Hendrix/Stevie Ray Vaughan chords that recalls the spirit of both.
“Right Thang, Wrong Woman” and “Time For Change” are more soul ballads than they are blues, but both contain some tasty blues licks by Ryan. The blues jam “Blues Concerto” and the boogie “Pay Me No Mind” both feature Renaud on harmonica.
The only cover here comes from John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” which is given reverential treatment, as Ryan seems to have gotten down Hooker’s swagger to near-perfection.
There’s an 82 year old man from down the road in Indianola, Mississippi who said this about The Homemade Jamz Blues Band: “These young kids have energy, talent, and do the blues proud with their own flavor. I believe they’ve got a great future ahead.” That was Riley “B.B.” King who said that.
More than any kind of music, the blues is a cross-generational thing…