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Verse Chorus Verse: Nick Moss & The Flip Tops – “Too Many Miles”

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"Interplay" is a word you often hear used in the context of jazz musicians and the way they weave their instrumental lines and textures around each other and bounce them off each other and the way they interact with the rhythmic structure of a song.  Interplay isn't exclusive to jazz music, but it seems to be valued more in that idiom than it is in others.

If you want to hear interplay in a non-jazz setting, you find a lot of great examples in some of the post-World War II Chicago blues.  Muddy Waters' classic lineup — featuring the great one himself on guitar and vocals, Jimmy Rogers on second guitar, Little Walter on harp, and Otis Spann on piano — was a living, breathing clinic on the power of interplay between musicians sharing the spotlight and competing for it at the same time.  Rogers was an accomplished bluesman on his own and no doubt learned things from Waters. 

Nick Moss & The Flip Tops are a band born of that same great Chicago tradition.  Moss even spent time touring with the late legend Rogers, playing and learning from one of the great fountains of blues spirit and knowledge. 

"Too Many Miles" is like an aural family tree.  You can hear the tradition being passed down through generations of bluesmen to one of today's finest and yes, you guessed it, the evidence is in the interplay between Moss and his bandmates.  Perhaps my favorite part of this song is Gerry Hundt's harp work.  He produces a sound reminiscent of '70s era Stevie Wonder and merges that with a traditional blues approach.  Hundt's harp stands out and so does Moss' guitar, but it doesn't feel like either is actually taking a "lead."  Both players drive the song without dominating or yielding.  It's a friendly competition, held together by the rhythm section of Bob Carter's drumming and a rare guitar contribution from Willie Oshawny, the band's pianist. 

Moss is a brilliant blues guitarist who can and often does take center stage with his spirited leads, but he's more than that.  He's also a band leader who has learned and understands the value of interplay and has thus surrounded himself with a band capable of enthusiastically complementing that sound.  "Too Many Miles" is just one of many great examples of a song that truly belongs to Nick Moss and The Flip Tops.

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About Josh Hathaway