Thursday, November 20, 2014

Phyllis Hopkins Electric Trio plugs into the blues
The Phyllis Hopkins Electric Trio, which just released a new CD, will appear on WBRE-TV's 'PA Live' on Monday 


Phyllis Hopkins has always loved the blues. Even when she was growing up, listening to what is now considered classic rock, it was the blues element of the music that she appreciated the most. And for a good portion of her life, she’s done much more than just listen to it. She’s played it.

Hopkins, with her band, the Phyllis Hopkins Electric Trio, recently released her third album. The self-titled, nine song CD  features first with bassist Nolan Ayers and drummer Julio Caprari and was recorded at SI Studios in Old Forge. Hopkins, who handles lead vocals and guitars, says the record is true to her influences and comes straight from the heart.

“With this one, I think I went back a little more to the roots of the blues,” says Hopkins. “Julio and Nolan are just perfect at that kind of rhythm. There’s a song called ‘Good or Bad,’ which definitely has a Magic Sam influence. That’s probably the most traditional song on the CD.”

Indeed. The track would sit comfortably on the ears of anyone enjoying a scotch and a beer at any smoky Chicago blues joint. The same goes for the instrumental “Just Chillin’.”  And for the track "Millions,"  which comes with some pointed political and social commentary, local reggae icon George Wesley offers guest vocals.

“It was a pleasure seeing him work in the studio,” says Hopkins. “I am a huge fan of his and listen to his music on a regular basis. I know when I am older and looking back, I will be glad we got to record a song together."

Hopkins says her musical influences, at least initially, came from traditional sources. Eventually, her listening scope expanded, which had a tremendous impact on her music.

 “When I was younger, you really didn't have the opportunity to hear blues on the radio,” she says. “You still don’t. But the people that I listened to, such as Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith – my favorite songs where their blue songs. Later, I discovered Stevie Ray Vaughn and I really loved it. That’s what made me decide to get serious about playing guitar – Stevie Ray Vaughn. And then he opened the door to tons of other musicians. I also love Santana. I love very soulful guitar players.”

As far as lyrics go, Hopkins says inspiration and muses come from all places. Such was the case with the song “Jump.”

“My father was a basketball coach for years, so I grew up with basketball” she says. “My niece could dribble a basketball as soon as she could walk, and she wound up with a full college scholarship, so I kind of wrote a song about her life, and how since she was a little kid she grew up on the hardwood floors.

“The song ‘The Low Down’ was about someone I knew that was dating someone that I thought was a lowlife, and I felt she could do better,” she adds with a  laugh. “I ended up writing a song about it.”

The Phyllis Hopkins Electric Trio has several upcoming appearances. On Monday, Nov. 24 the group will appear on WBRE-TV’s  “PA Live” and on  Nov. 26, Thanksgiving Eve, the band will plug in at Arturo's in Dupont. On Friday, Nov. 28, they’re at  Diane's Deli in Pittston and on Nov. 29 they’re at Tony and Deno's Sports Bar in Pittston. Hopkins says she hopes those that listen to the new album connect with the songs and the lyrics, and for younger music fans, she hopes it opens some doors to discovery.

“I hope they discover blues music,” she says.  “I give guitar lessons at Rock Street Music, and kids have no idea. They have never heard blues. When my students listen to it, they say ‘We've never heard of anything like this.’ And they like it. It’s introducing a new generation to a different kind of music than just pop on the radio. It gives them a different perspective.”

On the web: 
(Alan K. Stout has covered rock and pop music in Northeastern Pennsylvania since 1992. His weekly radio show, “Music On The Menu,” airs every Sunday from 9-10 p.m. on 105 The River.)

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