Andy T Band

Category : Calgary Bluesfest
Aug. 18, 2020 at 2:50 p.m. MDT

*featuring Anson Funderburgh and Alabama Mike

The Andy T Band featuring Alabama Mike is a potent blend of blues talent. The group pairs veteran Nashville guitarist Andy Talamantez and tenor vocalist Alabama Mike Benjamin with some of the best musical talent in Nashville.

“Alabama Mike” Benjamin made his recording debut with the Andy T Band on the group’s fourth album, Double Strike. Double Strike features Benjamin singing half of the songs and Nick Nixon singing the other half. Double Strike presents the Andy T Band at its best, before and after Nixon left the group in 2016 due to health issues.

The performers’ credit for Double Strike goes to the Andy T Band featuring Alabama Mike with special guests Nick Nixon and Anson Funderburgh. Previous Andy T Band albums produced by Funderburgh earned Blues Music Awards nominations and Blues Blast Awards nominations.

“I Want You Bad,” Double Strike’s swaggering, house-rocking opening track, stars Benjamin’s soaring tenor vocals and gospel-infused shout. Nixon takes the lead for the loose and fun “Deep Inside,” a Jimmy Reed-styled song featuring Greg Izor’s harmonica. Benjamin returns for the deceptively named swinging big band blues number, “Sad Times.” Nixon sings the sweetly authentic gospel-soul ballad, “Sweet Thing.” Shifting to a slower tempo, Benjamin nails “Doin’ Hard Time” with total conviction.

There’s much more to savor on Double Strike. “Where Did Our Love Go Wrong,” featuring Benjamin at his most passionate, echoes the classic, swaying New Orleans rhythm-and-blues of Fats Domino.

Talamantez, a Los Angeles native who moved to Nashville in 2008, has been a gigging musician since his teens. After performing part time while he worked in the aerospace industry for 23 years, Talamantez took the full-time music plunge in 1997. His first seven years of touring musician included two years with Smokey Wilson and five years with Guitar Shorty. He toured internationally with other major blues acts.

In 2011, Talamantez and Nashville blues artist Nick Nixon formed the Andy T ̶ Nick Nixon Band. The group released three acclaimed albums, all produced by Texas guitar ace Anson Funderburgh.

“Nick had good and bad days in the studio,” Talamantez explains. “It was part of the illnesses he was experiencing.”

Talamantez planned to bring Nixon to the studio again to re-record several songs. But before that could happen, the singer experienced more illness. “So, we kept the best six songs that Nick did, which are all great, and Mike sings the other six,” Talamantez says. “It works really well.”

Talamantez sees having Nixon and Benjamin share the Double Strike vocals as a way to welcome Benjamin and pay affectionate homage to Nixon. “This is Nick’s last recording, and it’s a good transition from Nick to Mike,” he says.

Anson Funderburgh produced three albums for Talamantez’s previous band, the Andy T ̶ Nick Nixon Band ̶ 2013’s Drink Drank Drunk, 2014’s Livin’ It Up and 2015’s Numbers Man. The Funderburgh and Andy T ̶ Nixon Band collaborations received Blues Music Awards nominations and Blues Blast Awards nominations.

Following Nixon’s retirement in 2016 from the Andy T ̶ Nixon Band, Funderburgh and Talamantez co-produced Double Strike, the debut from the Andy T Band featuring Alabama Mike.

“I respect Anson as much or more than any musician I’ve ever known,” Talamantez says. “He has a certain sense about what he wants to hear. When other producers ask to work with us, my answer is, ‘Thank you, but as long as Anson can do it, we’ll keep working with him.’ ”

A native of Plano, Texas, Funderburgh led his band, the Rockets, from 1978 to 2006. The group released more than a dozen albums via the Hepcat, Black Top and Bullseye Blues labels.

For 20 years, the Rockets featured blind blues singer Sam Myers. After Myers’ death in 2006, Funderburgh took a seven-year hiatus, spending the time with his family. He returned to performing in 2011, reforming the Rockets and appearing with the Eric Lindell Band.

In 2012, Funderburgh began touring with the Golden State/Lone Star Revue. His credits also include Delbert McClinton, Boz Scaggs, Snooks Eaglin, Grady Gaines, Earl King and Jimmy Buffett.