El Dorado Brown vibes Trolley Stop

By Joey Ferber

Photo: (l-r) Byron Crews, Jeff Friend, and John Hughes bring the blues to Trolley Stop Sept. 10

The blood runs deep through Dayton’s musical veins. For generations, Dayton has welcomed musicians unafraid to express the entire emotional spectrum, unhindered by light-heartedness or the Midwest veil of nicety that often glazes daily conversation. When it comes to emotional honesty in music, the blues epitomize the struggle and strife of daily life. While Dayton-based El Dorado Brown is relatively new to the city’s blues scene, the instrumentalists are individually seasoned in many genres. Together, they navigate the joy and pain through singing the blues in three-part harmony. El Dorado Brown is John Hughes on bass, Jeff Friend on drums, and Byron Crews on guitar.

The trio plays many styles of the blues, from urban Chicago to gut-bucket straight out of the Mississippi Delta. While traversing different forms – and with them, different histories – El Dorado Brown adds its own flavor to an already rich stew of musical expression. As a trio, the group has a distinct, stripped-down sound – an approach the three musicians haven’t always practiced. Crews and Hughes played together for years in a power trio that cranked heavy rock with a fully electrified sound, and Friend is an experienced studio drummer in the Dayton area with one solo record out and another on the way.

“I took a hiatus from music in 2004, after 20-plus years as a writer, producer, [and] engineer in several ad agencies and my own studio,” Friend says. “In 2010, I decided to get back into music, and that I’d really like to play drums in a 3-piece blues band… I’ve realized that dream with Eldorado Brown, and I feel right at home.”

“Byron and John are amazing musicians,” he adds, “and they keep me on my toes!”

Although interviewed separately, the other band members answered in sync, describing John’s playing as “really unique, and, I’m just gonna say it…inspiring. It makes my big toe shoot up in my boot.”

El Dorado Brown began to focus on the essentials of its sound, adapting to smaller rooms by relying less on electrics. Jeff often uses brushes on the drums for a softer sound that promotes listening while John plays a fretless bass – a relatively uncommon approach for the genre, which allows basslines to slip between rock and swing without losing the groove.

“You know, one of my philosophies is to play as quietly and intensely as possible,” Crews says. “When we’re playing, for me, it’s to play like I mean it…like my life depends on every note. A lot of times, blues gets pretty predictable, and I think that’s something were really sensitive to. So while working within a form, what you’re gonna hear is something that’s spontaneous, inspiring, funky, and unpredictable. That’s what I’m trying to bring, energy-wise. It’s a kind of passion to the marrow.”

As a group aware of the risk of sounding trite in a genre consistently butchered by crowd-pleasing musicians, El Dorado Brown follows the feeling of the music as inspiration rather than the paycheck. “Respect” is a key word to describe them, whether it be for the instrumentalists or the music they tribute. Both Hughes and Crews are minded in reciprocity, expressing support from and of the Dayton blues scene.

When asked about personal inspiration, Hughes is quick to make it communal: “It’s the common experiences that we all have – playing music live and reacting to a given audience. You’re in a moment, the hardships, the good things, the bad things, they all come out through the pores. Some are undetectable.” Hughes and Crews say while the group intends to record a fully original project, they find purpose in every moment an audience member responds and is inspired by their sound.

And, the final question, of course, had to be about the band’s name.

“The band is based on a mythical character I imagined living somewhere deep in the Okefenokee Swamp in the South Florida,” Crews responds. “His name is actually Theodocious Eldorado Brown the Third, an alligator-wrestling, frog-eatin’ whomper-stompin’ blues master whose swamp shack was inevitably paved over by an interstate. His invincible spirit and legend live on in our band. We carry his blues torchlight forward in the venerable tradition of honoring smokin’ blues on the soul side.”

 

El Dorado Brown performs Saturday, Sept. 10, at Trolley Stop, 530 E. Fifth St. in Dayton. Show starts at 9:30 p.m. For more information, please visit eldoradobrown.com.

 

Joey Ferber works out of St. Louis and Dayton as a musician and writer. You can hear him on electric guitar with St. Louis jazz-rap collective LOOPRAT at Looprat.Bandcamp.com and on his original theme song for the Dayton-based podcast series Unwritten at UnwrittenPodcast.com, for which he also contributed to as a scriptwriter. Reach him at
JoeyFerber@DaytonCityPaper.com. 

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Joey Ferber works out of St. Louis and Dayton as a musician and writer. You can hear him on electric guitar with St. Louis jazz-rap collective LOOPRAT at Looprat.Bandcamp.com and on his original theme song for the Dayton-based podcast series Unwritten at UnwrittenPodcast.com, for which he also contributed to as a scriptwriter. Reach him at JoeyFerber@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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