The Steamboat-via-Denver duo American Relay plays at 10 p.m. Saturday at The Tap House in one of two homestays that break up shows across Colorado and the Midwest.

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The Steamboat-via-Denver duo American Relay plays at 10 p.m. Saturday at The Tap House in one of two homestays that break up shows across Colorado and the Midwest.

Source list: American Relay

What makes them sound like they do and why

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Past Event

American Relay, Delta blues-rock

  • Saturday, May 31, 2008, 10 p.m.
  • Tap House Sports Grill, 729 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs
  • Not available / $3

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American Relay's influences

Compiled by Nick Sullivan (guitar, vocals) and Alex Hebert (drums, washboard):

1. R.L. Burnside - The music of this North Mississippi blues legend is the force that inspired the beginnings of American Relay, probably our most important musical influence.

2. Deep Blues Festival - North America's only "punk-blues festival," put together by the fearless Chris Johnston, looks to unite some of the best national and international blues and roots acts that refuse to play by the rules and unleash them on beautiful Lake Elmo, Minn. (Check the lineup, which includes American Relay, at www.myspace.com/d...

3. Gravel Road - A great band from Seattle (real nice kats, too) that we have been fortunate enough to play with in Washington and Oregon. These guys delve deep into some heavy, heavy, heavy blues. (www.myspace.com/g...

4. Subaru - Our faithful Subi Outback did two West Coast tours in full at decent gas mileages but just blew her head gasket yesterday. She giveth and taketh away.

5. Charles Bukowski - "There's a bluebird in my heart that / wants to get out / but I'm too tough for him, / I say, / stay down, / do you want to mess / me up? / you want to screw up the / works? / you want to blow my book sales in / Europe?"

6. NPR - The truth hurts to stay tuned into, but Ira Glass, Terry Gross, Michele Norris and the rest of 'em at NPR smooth some of the edges off.

7. John Lee Hooker - His tracks on the "Original American Folk Blues Festival" are some of the best in his history.

8. Five Points neighborhood, Denver - The historic district north of downtown that we have called home for the past few years has inspired some interesting observations on the dichotomies of life in America, as well as cerebral songs like "Is That Crack?"

9. Reno, Nev. - The anomalous vortex in the desert where it seems no one has anything to lose. Whole lotta shaking going on in Reno.

10. Exxon and the Oiltacracy - Making us brothers have to suffer to be in this business of the music! How about "Barrel Baron Blues?"

— These days, blues musicians have plenty of material.

There's crippling gas prices that make touring next to impossible, declining CD sales that make a profit less than likely, and 800 million bands on MySpace to draw attention away from what you're doing.

Certainly, these are not the same struggles that drove R.L. Burnside and John Lee Hooker to pour their souls and vicious guitar playing into their music. But the blues have to evolve to stay alive, and American Relay is working to feed that evolution by updating the present-day despair of the classics with furious melodies and battering ram drums.

On Saturday, the Steamboat-via-Denver duo plays at The Tap House in one of two homestays that break up shows across Colorado and the Midwest.

In July, the band will share the Deep Blues Festival bill with Elmo Williams, T-Model Ford and Dexter Romweber, among others. Taking their cues from Deep South juke joint blues, early punk rock and everything that stings, American Relay's Nick Sullivan and Alex Hebert are standing firm in the sound they've created.

They shared the musicians, poets, cities and economic policies that give American Relay songs their own brand of the blues.

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