You could say Ottawa blues guitarist-singer-songwriter Lucas Haneman was born to play. Haneman’s fascination with the guitar began as soon as he was old enough to sit on his daddy’s knee and reach the strings. At age 6, he was given a toy guitar with plastic strings, and moved up to a classical guitar a few years later. By age 10, he discovered the electric guitar and a wah pedal, and from that point there was no going back.
Haneman tells me that his real songwriting started to come together when he was around 19. Today, this homegrown blues phenom and his band, the Lucas Haneman Express, have released a debut full length album entitled Welcome Aboard. It’s a reflection of Haneman’s rapidly maturing and evolving songwriting skills that are 100% blues backbone, with heavy flavours of funk, rock, jazz, reggae, and laid on thick with a variety of solid grooves, and electrifying guitar solos that make it impossible for one to sit still.
When I discovered Haneman and his band on Bluesfest’s Black Sheep stage Friday night, they literally stopped me dead in my tracks. They were laying down a smouldering classic blues number, “That’s The Truth”, that shared some smooth and sexy vocals with female vocalist dynamo, Megan Laurence. The male/female vocal timbres blended beautifully and worked their magic through this piece, as well as in all the material. But it was when I witnessed the first of Haneman’s feverish guitar solos, it hit me like a house on fire. The passion and energy that soared out of this man took each song to a higher level all the way through and seduced the crowd into a hushed silence.
I loved the funk-laden rhythm and bold bassline held down by Jeff Asselin on drums and Dave Schroeder on bass (filling in for Martin Newman), in their original piece, “Dub Monkey”. It ebbed and flowed through volume intensities, which only made Haneman’s guitar solo pop when he launched into it. Similarly, “Bring It Back” also travelled through twists and turns of tight funky beats and melody lines, infused with Haneman’s soul-edged vocals, and another of his meltdown guitar solos.
Laurence took her place to shine during their catchy, New Orleans-styled rendition of Elle King‘s, “Exes & Ohs”, while Haneman wove in a complimentary lower vocal harmony. Another from the album, “Want You”, stepped into Hendrix/Healey overdrive with its fiery blues married with heaps of funk and jazz, and with melodies and harmonies to match. They finished off appropriately with the last track on their CD The Race, a brilliant epic jam piece that genre hops through sudden half-time switches, and interesting segments of full instrumental rhythmic unison… one of my favourites. In short, if you see Lucas Haneman & The Lucas Haneman Express on any marquis in your near future, you owe it to yourself to check them out.