Less than a week after finally going home from the rehabilitation facility where he had been recuperating from a pair of surgeries to clear an obstructed bowel, beloved Houston bluesman Little Joe Washington put on a spellbinding - if brief - performance at the Continental Club's tenth anniversary party Saturday night.
Shortly before Washington went onstage around 8:40 p.m., Down In Houston and House of Hits author Dr. Roger Wood told Rocks Off Little Joe was in good health and good spirits, and enjoying saying hello to his many friends back in the greenroom. When he came out to a rousing round of applause from the already-packed room, the seated Washington was joined by guitarist Allen Hill, David Beebe on harmonica and his regular rhythm section of Chris Heinrich (bass) and Kevin Blessington (drums).
Washington and his band played three songs for about 20 minutes total stage time: A midtempo warm-up; up-tempo "Bright Lights, Big City" with Beebe trading Little Walter-like harp licks with Washington; and a slow, drawn-out finale along the lines of "Stormy Monday" or "Texas Flood." Although it was a little hard to make out Washington's vocals from where Rocks Off was standing about 20 feet away, there were no such problem with his guitar.
Animated and smiling, Washington fired off one round of ragged machine gun-like notes after another, a fraction behind the beat and each one more scintillating than the last. At times his right hand, arrayed like a spider web or chicken foot over the strings, barely seemed to move at all, further evidence that there was some serious voodoo going on Saturday.
No word yet on when - or if - Washington will resume his Tuesday-night residency at Boondocks, or of any benefits in the works to help the bluesman recoup some of his medical expenses. But if you haven't guessed by now, Rocks Off is a big Little Joe fan - and damn happy he's still among the living - so we'll let you know as soon as we hear anything.
Washington's set was hardly all the fun to be had. As they had for Nick Gaitan & the Umbrella Man and Chango Man before Washington, the packed club partied long into Sunday morning with the Suspects, Allen Oldies Band, New Duncan Imperials and Honky, and out on the patio with DJ Psychedelic Sex Panther.
Stay tuned for a slideshow real soon.
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