“When this man gets into his rock and roll shamanic incantation mode, he spits out fire.” …Colie Brice talking about John Hylas Smith
I sat down with the Sea Street Blues Band in Eastport to talk about their CD, Downeast Blues. The musical scene in Washington County has always been almost mythical; you have to know someone. Not much advertisement going on, but if you ask the right people, you find that there rarely is a night where nothing is happening. Plenty of improvisational music, backyard barbecue style, where musicians start showing up, and you end up hearing music that sticks with you. In Downeast Maine, musicians move between gigs and bands constantly; at the same time, everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Like a family, the support and respect the guys have for one another are intertwined with inside jokes and ribbing. Sitting with them in a room is like sitting down midway through a conversation and being the only one in the room who didn’t get the joke.
For members John Hylas Smith, Colie Brice, Detroit Dave Hanby, and Cliff Moser, each brings a powerful story of their own to create music that reflects the unique stories of those who live in this Downeast place.
“I get worried when I think somebody thinks we’re like a band because we’re not really a band. We’re just a bunch of like-minded people. And I feel the spirit with these guys, and I can’t explain it.”
John Hylas Smith
When asked how they arrived here, in Eastport, each member had a rambling tale of this person who suggested them to that person, all culminating in making music together that feels effortless although as John says:
“We don’t practice. I sat down with my guitar and some 9 or 10 songs I wanted to put on a blues album, and I gave it to these guys and said, you familiarize yourselves with these songs. (Then) I call them and say we are going to the studio.”
The result is, as John explains, “The songs were cut pretty much in one take, preserving all the energy of a live gig jam..”
That Blues album, Downeast Blues, will let you in on a bit of the essence of life in Downeast Maine. Songs like Dragger Blues, about the hardships of a fisherman’s life, Blues for the Blues, about the opioid crisis ravaging our small communities, and Hold On To My Keys; about a bartender watching out for you when you may not be safe on the road, feel authentic because it’s real-life shit. It’s the stuff that follows locals every day; the lyrics hit hard because these guys get it.
Sea Street Blues Band may not consider themselves a band in the traditional sense, but their music grabs your attention and leaves you looking for the next time they “happen to get together.” Buy the CD: bit.ly/DowneastBlues