richie plass | yl voice | march 2018
The Blues. Native Americans. There are some music aficionados who believe these two entities don't go together. There's a group of friends and musicians from Wisconsin's Oneida Nation who beg to differ. They call themselves Big N' Tasty Blues Band (BNT) and their premier recording makes their case known.
The members of BNT have been playing for many years in and around the Oneida Reservation. At different times they have played everything from rock-a-billy to country to flat-out rock 'n' roll. They all knew that they wanted to play the blues, so they started jamming, doing small gigs, had some line-up changes, and settled on the personnel they liked. Together they play pure, top-shelf Native Americans Blues.
From cut number one, “Hard Living," BNT takes the listener on a pure trip of ease, comfort, boogie, down and dirty blues and various mixes of beats and rhythms. What's more impressive, all the cuts on their initial recording are original! BTN writes and performs their own stories to bare their hearts and souls.
The song “Hard Living" begins with a smooth, somewhat quiet laid-back guitar intro and then it explodes preparing the listener for Caryn Schroeder's gritty voice that carries the song to the end. Later on, “Broken and Faded Heart" does the same thing, but in a truly different and dynamic way. Big Brad Skenandore starts the song on his harp. This might not seem impressive to some people, but to begin a song and set the pace a musician needs to have a certain “feel." His playing is not a fill in the background and that further proves that BNT's sound is what a blues band should be.
The two guitarists, Keith Cotrell and Keith Beechtree have distinct styles, licks, sounds and deliveries. You can tell they have put in many hours in practicing, jamming, performing and challenging themselves to go in new directions to get to where they are. The positive point about their particular styles shows they continue to grow. Along with their playing, their vocals add to the distinct flavor of BNT.
Even though this recording is a few years old, BNT has continued to expand their exposure. They have been the winners of various blues band competitions and even made it to the finals of the National Blues Band Battle of Bands in 2015. They were finalists in that competition and played at B.B. King's Club in Memphis, Tennessee. They may not have come in first place, but they made it to the quarterfinals. Not bad for a band from an Indian Reservation in Wisconsin to go head-to-head with the best in America.
In 2017, BNT garnered a unique prize. They were awarded the WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Industry) award for “Best Blues Band" in Wisconsin. They had been nominated in the past for this award and they accepted the much-deserved award just as they had been taught in their traditional teachings. They were surprised, humbled and honored. They then shared the award with their friends, families, supporters and various venues who welcomed them into their locations.
BNT loves playing the blues. For all you music aficionados who still think that blues and Native Americans may not really go together — think again. Big N' Tasty Blues Band proves that these entities not only belong together, they are together.
Richie Plass is a Menominee and Stockbridge-Munsee writer from Wisconsin. He has been writing and playing music since the 1960s.