Tim Parsons, tparsons@tahoedailytribune.com

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August 16, 2012
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Ralph Woodson plays like Jimi, still refraining, still dreaming

CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. — Ralph Woodson will bring his Jimi Hendrix tribute trio, Purple Haze, to the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room for the fifth time Saturday, Aug. 18, along with a new CD of original music and a different drummer.The trio's longtime drummer, Dan Cueva, has moved to another band. Leo Vigil plays his first show with the Hendrix tribute in Tahoe, but he played in previous Randamp;B and rock groups with Woodson.“He's really a versatile player,” Woodson said about the veteran drummer. “He plays in a jazz trio and he can break out the rock stuff like you wouldn't believe, and then when we play Latin stuff he can totally switch gears and play the hell out of a somba.”Woodson's versatility is demonstrated the new record, “Incredible Dreamer,” which has a Hendrix flavor on rock, blues, Latin and jazz licks. He also plays most of the instruments, recorded at his home studio in the East Bay city Richmond. Hendrix's voice was deep and low and Woodson's is an octave lower.The subject matter of his songs are similar to Hendrix's tunes, too: good and evil, peace and love and girls.“Peace and love, that's really important to me,” Woodson said. “It sounds clich to people when they hear that stuff but those words are really hard to achieve. It's easy to write a song about peace, love and happiness but to achieve one of those words is really a big achievement.”As Purple Haze, the band only plays a couple of Woodson originals. While Woodson has played in every kind of band, the tribute to Hendrix, which started in 2001, has been the most successful.“I might pull out an original project pretty soon,” Woodson said. “But it's not like the Jimi Hendrix is lackluster for me. In a way, that's kind of like my dream, too. Because that was my first dream.”Woodson is able to play the style of who many consider guitar's greatest player without showing off. “I try to play melodic rather than just fast,” Woodson said. “Tell a story with the melody. It will suck you in, invite you into the composition.”He was inspired to play guitar after he heard his brother playing “Band of Gypsies,” a post-Jimi Hendrix Experience band and album which featured the Vietnam War-United States urban violence lament, “Machine Gun.”Woodson's mother listened to gospel and his father blues and jazz. When their ninth and youngest son displayed diligence practicing his instrument, they gave encouragement.“Blues is what inspired me to play,” Woodson said. “To me all music including classical, whatever it is, blues is what makes that music good to me.“It's that tension. That point in the song. Blues to me is the fundamental. The basics. Everything I do is from there or it's going to go there. At some point in the song you are going to hear something that's gonna move you. That's the blues. I think any music that's lacking blues totally is not really good music.”

Listen to Ralph Woodson's new CD, “Incredible Dreamer,” and hear the influences of Carlos Santana, Albert King and, of course, Jimi Hendrix.“It's not like I have a record company was telling me I have to have all the songs in a certain style,” said Woodson, who wrote, produced and played all of the instruments with the exception of the opening track. “It's a little bit of all of me.”There is one straight-ahead blues jam: “Hard Road to Travel.”“Those are Albert King licks,” Woodson said. “The bends that don't end.”King was the player who most inspired the guitarist who gained the most attention after Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan.“Stevie Ray Vaughan is the better version of Albert King,” Woodson said. “He's new, improved. Tone is good every time. “Albert King would show up and play through whatever amp was there. So sometimes the tone is great, sometimes not so much. But with Stevie Ray Vaughan the tone is right every single time.”

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Aug 16, 2012 03:51PM Published Aug 16, 2012 03:47PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.