A father-son duo who’ve been touring nationally since 2003, Twice As Good have seen more than their share of troubles since releasing their most recent album, That’s All I Need, seven years ago – surviving raging wildfires that charred California on an annual basis before coronavirus struck. But Rich Steward and son Paul are true blues survivors who set the nights ablaze with their own brand of tunes.
Members of the Pomo tribe who call Elem Indian Colony on the shores of Clear Lake north of San Francisco home, the Stewards – aka 2XG — are among the most decorated Native Americans performing today after learning their trade from Richard’s mother and Hank Gonzalez, an older cousin and country music star who enjoyed a large following in the region.
In addition to being semi-finalists in the 2016 International Blues Challenge, two of their previous albums took top honors in the Annual Indian Summer Music Awards, blending the blues of B.B. King, the soul of Al Green and the Indigenous rhythms of the reservation into a highly danceable style of music that’s all their own.
Recorded and mixed at Elevated Studios in Santa Rosa, Calif., and the seventh album in their career, Paul handles most of the instrumentation, switching off lead guitar, bass keys harmonica, tenor sax and drums and Richard on rhythm guitar. He shares vocals with Richard, who handles rhythm guitar. They’re augmented by one-song guest appearances from Kevin Stewart and Robert Reason on keys, Robert Watson on bass and Julius Johnson on drums.
Once the go-to set closer in Chicago, Freddie King’s familiar “Hide Away” kicks off the action, differing from the hundreds of previous covers because of the rapid-fire shuffle triplets from the bottom that drive it and clever turns during lead guitar breaks. The original, “Let’s Fall in Love,” takes the disc in another direction, opening with a brief keyboard intro that hints of a ballad before sliding quickly into a modern soul-blues that urges a lady to take a chance at romance – primarily because the couple are in the same room.
“Come and Get Your Love” — a No. 5 Billboard Hot 100 hit for the rock band Redbone, a mix of Mexican-Americans and members with Yaqui and Shoshone heritage – undergoes a pleasant, percussive update perfect for the dance floor before a sprightly, traditional take on Elmore James’ “Shake Your Moneymaker” and reimagined retelling of B.B.’s “I Like to Live the Love” in which Paul surprisingly eschews King’s familiar six-string runs to make the song far more than a simple cover – a welcome break from the norm.
The original “Walkin’” is a Steward original that’s built on the pattern of Jimmy Rogers’ Chicago blues, “Walking By Myself,” but differs enough in tempo, arrangement and lyrics to stand on its own. It gives way to a fresh, breezy rendering of Eddie Floyd’s ‘60s Memphis pleaser, “I’ve Never Found a Girl (to Love Me Like You Do),” which gets a jazzy update and a son-father call-and-response that would make the creator smile.
The original ballad, “Don’t Give Up on Love,” flows effortlessly to follow as it offers up a bit of hope for the brokenhearted as it urges a romantic partner to give the singer one more chance for redemption. A fairly faithful reading of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” offers up fresh instrumental breaks before Paul’s “I’m Placing My Bet” – a loping blues delivered by Richard – doubles down in its promise to live life to the fullest to close.
Available as a download from Spotify and other online sites or as a disc from the band’s website (address above), 2XG delivers an understated treat here for anyone with an ear for a good time. Upbeat and welcome in an era of doom and gloom.
Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.