Thursday, January 10, 2013
Everyone who knows Hamilton Loomis knows he climbed the musical staircase under the guidance of Bo Diddley.
At 16, the Texas boy was taken under the wing of the legendary blues artist, writing songs, touring and playing with Diddley, who was known for his driving force and influence in the twin worlds of blues and rock music.
Loomis stayed in the Diddley nest for a decade, fine-tuning his craft and learning from the master artist, especially the primary schooling Diddley could impart.
“‘Innovate,’” Loomis said from his Southwest home last week. “That is the best nugget of advice I got from anyone.”
Walla Walla will get its chance to see how well the musician absorbed the lesson when he plays from 7-9:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sapolil Cellars, 15 E. Main St.
Loomis will celebrate last year’s release of his “Live at the Hub” concert film and debut work from the as-yet unnamed CD scheduled to be released in March. “There will be songs no one’s heard before,” he said.
At 37, the musician has yet to grow weary to playing to audiences face-to-face, even when it means touring in the dead of winter. “There is a synergy that happens at concerts or, especially, intimate venues like Sapolil. It’s perfect. People are right in your face, I can see people’s eyes. They are looking at my guitar, they are looking at my band and I can feel that vibe,” Loomis said. “There is an electricity that happens in a live show.”
That means he’s transmitted his joy in making music to his listeners, he added. “I want it to memorable. I want them to have a good time, to forget about whatever is happening in their lives for the moment.”
His gigs in northern climes occasionally get him guff from artists in warmer parts of the country, Loomis said with a laugh. “My Texas friends think I’m crazy and I ask ‘What are you doing in January? Nothing. Yeah, I’m playing my ass off in January.’ That’s why we do the Tundra Tour every year.”
And what he’s playing can be difficult to nail down to any one genre, which pleases Loomis no end, he said. “I notice people want to label you, categorize you, and I’m like ‘why?’ If you dig the music, it is what it is.”
Take his own musical heroes like Stevie Ray Vaughan — “He’s a hard-edged blues player, but you don’t find him in the blues section (of the record store). You find him in the rock section. Same with Dave Matthews Band. His stuff is acoustic, funk, pop, with a violin. It’s like ‘what?’”
On Internet services such as Pandora and Spotify, Loomis finds his music tagged under just about everything, he added. “That’s helped appeal to listeners in multiple genres.”
Loomis, however, said he steers toward no particular style of music but listens to instinct. “I gotta remain true to myself, make music to my heart.”
That’s led his work to some interesting topics, including stewardship of the planet. Not because of any political agenda, Loomis quickly pointed out — he does not believe politics and music rest well on the ears.
“But I do like to tell stories in my music.'
One of the songs on his new CD is “When She’s had Enough,” he said. “On the surface it sounds like a relationship, but ‘she’ is Mother Earth.”
Listing earthquakes, hurricanes and floods, Loomis equates the natural disasters with earth fighting back against the carelessness of the human race.
“As a storyteller, I just want to give people something to think about. Lyrics can reach people, create a connection.”
Again, that’s where live music in a congregate setting is vital, he pointed out. “I want the music to reach them and for people to have a great time, too.”
Loomis, who played here in early summer, already feels connected to Walla Walla, he said. “Y’all have a really active blues society and we love Sapolil Cellars. We can’t wait to be there.”