When guitar player Matthew Stubbs found himself with a year off from touring, he wasn’t going to pine away the time doing nothing.
It was 2018, and Stubbs’ then full-time job was playing guitar for blues-harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite. When Musselwhite dropped a record with Ben Harper and set out on tour with Harper’s band, Stubbs found himself, for the first time in ages, with loads of free time. So he dialed up pal Pat Faherty, a guitar playing buddy who was getting into the blues, and the two formed a band to play gigs around Boston, eventually being joined by drummer Tim Carman. No longer a killing-time side project, GA-20 is now a couple of records in and currently in the midst of a 64-date tour.
One of dates finds them in Durango, performing Saturday at the Animas City Theatre.
“It was just to do something fun and play some music that I like to listen to,” Stubbs said. “So we got a gig in Boston playing every Wednesday night for a few months, and during that time we wrote some tunes and went to the studio to cut a demo. I liked the way it came out so I sent it to a couple labels. Colemine Records loved it and asked me to make a full-length. So we went back in the studio, and that was our first record ‘Lonely Soul.’ That’s how the band started.”
Spring of 2020 they were ready to drop record No. 2 when the world stopped. That record was shelved because they couldn’t tour behind it, but soon after Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records reached out to Stubbs. Iglauer formed Alligator in 1971 to release the music of Hound Dog Taylor, and he was interested in having GA-20 release a record of Taylor’s music to celebrate 50 years of Alligator Records. GA-20 dropped “Try It ... You Might Like It: GA-20 Does Hound Dog Taylor” a couple of months back.
“I’m a fan of Hound Dog, and we kind of feel close to Hound Dog’s music because we have the same instrumentation as Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers. Two guitars, vocals and drums. There are similarities and people have compared us to him through the years,” Stubbs said. “I cooked up the idea of having Bruce at Alligator and Colemine Records to co-release this, two labels working together. They loved the idea. That’s how it was born, it was just kind of a timing thing. We were at home, we weren’t touring, and it just felt like it was a cool thing to do timing wise, and it was a lot of fun.”
Someone in the 1970s referred to Hound Dog Taylor as The Ramones of the blues, and GA-20 has that same vibe. The blues they present is no frills and no studio tricks or kicks, just raw blues music with a gritty and garage rock vibe.
“I was trying to capture the spirit of his first two records on Alligator. It feels like you are in a nightclub. It’s raw,” Stubbs said. “We did the record in a day and a half, just live all in a room in a couple of takes. When I would talk to Bruce (Iglauer) I had emails going back and forth asking about the vibe in the studio, what instruments they were using, and the other guitars Hound Dog used.”
With the purchase of similar instruments and amps, they nailed the grit Hound Dog captured 50 years ago. That’s exactly how blues music should be presented.
“We tried to capture the spirit and still be us,” Stubbs said. “And not be a total copy cat.”
Also on the bill at the Animas City Theatre is blues guitar player J.D. Simo.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.