Blue Notes

Roundtrip Ticket To The Blues: The Mighty Orq Releases Live Album

Houston's own The Mighty Orq will celebrate the release of his new live album Solo At The Bugle Boy with performances around town.
Photo By Tony Davidson
Houston's own The Mighty Orq will celebrate the release of his new live album Solo At The Bugle Boy with performances around town.
It’s no secret that Houston has an abundance of great blues, past and present. It has been the stomping ground for many great blues men and women. The Mighty Orq is no exception, he has been a fixture in the Houston blues scene since 2002, and even got his name from Houston blues man Tony Vega. Orq will be releasing his new album, The Mighty Orq: Solo at the Bugle Boy and will celebrate with a CD release show September 28 at the Continental Club.

Orq has come to be known not only for his impressive guitar style, but also for his gravelly voice and strong stage presence. His name is fitting for his skills; they are mighty. His new album, out September 25, is an accurate representation of the rich one man show he has been developed as one of the hardest working blues artists in our city. He currently maintains a weekly Thursday residency at the historic Big Easy.

Solo at the Bugle Boy takes listeners on a journey, moving smoothly from sweet, bluesy instrumentals to faster call and response tunes. Orq selected quality tunes from his own catalog and added perfectly selected covers to this album.

The album was recorded live at the Bugle Boy in La Grange, a venue Orq had never played before this recording was done. He and his girlfriend, Jaime Wise, were brainstorming how they could make it more meaningful and really draw a crowd when she suggested chartering a bus from Houston to La Grange. The idea turned out brilliantly, they sold out the venue and had their friend,and local musician, Andrew Karnavas take the recording to the studio.

This is not Orq’s first live album and the artist has done a great job of balancing studio albums with live recordings in the past. “What was a shock to me as a young guy when I first started recording is how vastly different the sounds you get performing live are from the sounds you get from the same set up in the recording studio. What I was hearing is not necessarily what gets captured, so he was able to make it to where what you have in your mind is really there, I didn't do that much,” says Orq.

The album begins with Orq welcoming the audience and treating them to a Hop Wilson cover of “I Done Got Over” reminding them that he feels so glad to be there with them and that trouble is fleeting when you face it with a smile. He ends the album just as strongly with his chilling version of “John the Revelator.”

“That one in particular I’ve been doing for a while now so I’ve kind of developed it into a piece, something interesting and engaging,” says Orq of the traditional gospel blues song.

His original songs carry just as much weight and serve to lift the crowd. During “Possum Song” audience members can’t help but laugh as he waxes philosophical about being friends with the nocturnal marsupial in perfect time. His romantic ballad, “Love in a Hurricane” is a love story about a couple who finds a way to pass the time during one of Houston’s many hurricanes.

Listening to this album, it's easy to forget that on that stage that evening was just one mighty man making all those beautiful sounds. “Just me, picking and grinning,” says Orq. He switches out his weapon of choice throughout the album, from acoustic to slide and cigar box guitar, keeping audience members engaged in his one man show.

He enjoyed the process so much that he will once again be chartering a bus to another live show, but this time in Galveston’s famous Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe. “I played there a few times, it’s a neat spot and Galveston has such an interesting scene.” This next run will not only be used for an album but also a DVD of the evening. The show will serve not only to continue celebrating Live at the Bugle Boy but also Halloween, and Orq assures that costumes are encouraged.

The Mighty Orq will be a busy man, as usual, performing at Splice Records River Revival Festival for the first time and then rushing back to Houston for his record release show with Hunter Perrin. Fans can expect to hear him with his regular backing band of Mark Riddell on bass and Chris Ardoin on drums.

“We have similar backgrounds musically and personally and it’s a fun connection. We all sort of have the same vibe and vision for the direction we want to take, for the music and the band,” says Orq of his band mates.

Orq was raised in Houston, not far from the Big Easy, and his parents kept his mind and ears full of music, with the likes of Joe Cocker and B.B. King. He taught himself how to play guitar and honed his vocal style trying to emulate his idols, which resulted in a sound all his own. When he finished high school, he read an article about the Big Easy and ventured in.

“I started going it there to jam and just have been exposed to this amazing world that’s not trumpeted really, it’s really just a regional thing. These really neat players did a bunch of cool stuff like sixty years ago, some are still playing some aren’t around anymore.”

Orq had the privilege of playing with and learning from some of Houston’s greatest blues artists like Texas Johnny Brown and Jimmy “T99” Nelson. “I wasn’t as close to a lot of them as some of the other folks, but just to get to witness that is a really neat history first hand that is really singular to my home where I grew up and to Houston.”

The Mighty Orq will perform September 28 at Splice Records River Revival Festival in New Braunfels, 4 p.m. $119-259, and that same day at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, doors open at 8 p.m. $14-28. Also, October 26 at The Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe, 413 20th in Galveston, 8 p.m. $55-22.

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