In 1951, this current incarnation of Joe Price arrived in Waterloo, Iowa. Unlike most kids of his generation, Price was never seduced by pop or rock ‘n’ roll music. Although his love for music was virtually immediate, it was country blues that grabbed him early; a bond that has never been broken.
It was a chance encounter with the late, great Chicago bluesman Earl Hooker, who the young Price caught in performance at a home town record store, that really sealed the deal. “He was unbelievable, that guy—he really flipped me out,” Price remembers. “He told me to cut the end of a bicycle handlebar off to make a good slide.”
Joe’s music became a crazy elastic form of old-school guitar blues that sounds like nothing else. The rhythms bounce and hop like a super-ball on caffeine, and at times, it sounds like two or three guitars at once, but it’s all just Joe slapping and hammering those strings and layering vibrations and tones over each other into this heady cocktail of joyous musical energy. The crazy tunings, the breakneck rhythms and the growling, dancing bass notes work together to weave a unique and utterly un-copyable sound and tone.
In 1971 Joe had made the move to Iowa City. It was a fertile time and place for the blues. Located on I-80, Iowa City was a natural stop for national touring artists connecting Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City. Beginning with the Rocket 88’s (through 1974) and continuing with the legendary Mother Blues (an edgy, three-headed beast featuring Patrick Hazell, Bo Ramsey and Price) from ‘75 till ’81, Joe played virtually non-stop. Crisscrossing Midwestern bars and serving as the openers of choice at high-profile shows by Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor, Clifton Chenier, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, James Cotton and more.
In 1982 Joe escaped to Lansing in northeast Iowa. The picturesque burg happens to be near Waukon, the hometown of a pretty young blues belter, Vicki Ewing, who had captured his attention during a 1981 solo gig. Vicki was working as the bartender and got up during the break to perform some of her own tunes, the beginning of a new musical adventure for both of them.
Vicki might be Iowa's answer to early Maria Muldaur (when she was Maria d'Amato) with strong currents of the likes of Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette with the Mississippi River vocal twang, but rooted more solidly in the blues than they. With a more disciplined and structural guitar style providing a comping background spine to Joe's slide and lead work, the two styles dovetailed into a coherent convincing whole.
Joe and Vicki married in 1987, after having toured together for five years. Over their 27 years together they have opened for such notables as John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, Pine Top Perkins, Homesick James, Honeyboy Edwards, Louisiana Red, Al Green, Greg Brown and Iris DeMent. The creative, musical impact of this pairing was and remains a bustling two-way street in nearly every way imaginable, and the artistic achievements of both partners are irrevocably intertwined. The on-stage interplay between Joe and Vicki makes that connection clear.
The couple released five CD’s on Iowa’s Trailer Records. Joe’s 25 Below in 1996, Request in 1999 and Designated Drive in 2000; Vicki’s Mississippi Summer in 1998 and Looking for Love in 2005. Sadly, in 2007 Trailer Records shut its’ doors. Taking the initiative the couple released two CD’s on their label Blues Acres Productions; in October of 2008 A Brand New Place which features 10 new tunes penned by Vicki and in March of 2009 Joe’s collection of original songs Rain or Shine. Both releases made the top 100 CD’s of 2009 in Real Blues Magazine. A Brand New Place was nominated for Best independent release at the International Blues Challenge in 2008, Rain or Shine was nominated for 2009. Rain or Shine won anIndependent Music Award for best Blues CD 2010 and the IMA Vox Pop People’s Choice Award for blues CD 2010. The cd has received rave reviews in major publications including Vintage Guitar Magazine, DownBeat Magazine, The American Music Guide, Blues Revue and the Chicago Sun Times.
From coast to coast, and from concerts, to clubs, to outdoor festivals, the Price's singular vision and dazzling, irresistible live performances continue to etch a steady, upward arc....Jim Musser
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