BILL SIMS JR. – 2002
LATVIAN BLUES BAND LIVE AT THE DREAM FACTORY I have met so many great Blues artists from so many countries at the International Blues Showcase at the New Daisy Theater on Beale St. in Memphis. This showcase is on Tuesday evening, prior to the start of the International Blues Challenge which begins on Wednesday and continues through the Finals on Saturday. This year, as I entered the main lobby of the New Daisy it was standing room only. Such great International artists were on stage, having fun and giving us a peek at their talent. I was fortunate enough to catch the Latvian Blues Band performing. Thank you Baltic Blues for having sent this wonderful group. I never took my eyes or ears away from that stage. Their performance and talent was incredible to say the least. After the show I spoke to them in the lobby. We spoke about life, music, and passion for the Blues. Blues is a passion of its own, always reaching out to catch music lovers. →
→ Janis Bukovskis on lead guitar with rich vocals was just the beginning. Bring on Rolands Saulietis with rip tearing drums and great back-up vocals. Then add the horns, sax, trombone, bass, and another guitar – I knew I was in for a treat. They put the whole “Big Blues Band” package together. Janis gave me several copies of this CD and there was no doubt in my mind it was going to be well worth listening to. That thought proved to be correct. I sent them to several radio stations, and they are being played across the country. What is immediately apparent in these originals is how accurately these Latvians capture the character and color of the blues. Because the band consists of guitar, bass, drums, keys, and a horn section of sax, trombone and trumpet, its music weaves intricate layers of crisp arrangements. The opening cut, 'Never Meant To Hurt Ya' features Bukovskis seasoned Albert King bends answered by the band’s sturdy horns. Vocally, singer Bukovskis took his Robillard lessons to heart. There is no distracting foreign accent nor simplistic read of just words; instead he sings with the conviction he learned backing 10 years of blues legends. →
→ The eight-minute standout, 'There Are Days', wrings its slow blues emotion from the rhythmic interplay of guitas and horns. At the same time, Bukovskis delivers his message with powerful restraint. Everything else on the record tightly captures the vast landscape of the blues styles these Latvians embrace. The CD ends with Bukovskis’s instrumental, 'For You', a meditative showcase a good-time record to play over and over and surprise your music friends.
These guys are great. They play with a lot of heart and soul. Very groovy and a lot of blues feeling. Had a great time working with you guys. You are very professinal and kind, thanks a lot for 2 great blues evenings. -Big Daddy Wilson P.S. Lets do it again !
I am so proud of the Latvian Blues Band. 15 years ago, they recorded with my band, Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues. Since then they've backed many of Chicago's finest Blues musicians. These cats can on-the-spot play Chicago lump-de-lumps or make ice cream changes like old Chicago pros! I thoroughly enjoy having them play behind me because they learn my arrangements perfectly. They are true professionals!
Latvian Blues Band was a real pleasure to play with. Very sensitive to my every need. And a solid knowledge of the blues. I was pleasantly surprised. They got better and better with every set.
The Latvian Blues Band that I discovered in Riga that s hidden away from public and international scenes that should be recorded and become international songwriters and band. I had a pleasure to be assist as a legendary musician myself — I just couldn’t believe that they had a knowledge of this music that I was playing, which dates back five decades. They are young band that has been listening apparently this music which they have no idea what it’s all about… I was surprised to play with these young musicians… They must have been listening to decade music… and I would like to pay them the greatest compliment of being so focused on this music called U.S. blues. It would be a privilege for me and my partner to produce this band on Gilkey Records. I had a hell of a time!!!
My compliments go out to one of the hottest bands in Europe!!!!! From feel to style. The Latvian Blues Band has all the styles under their belt. We didn't´t just play the blues, we did funk, soul, rock and it was amazing. Usually, you get a band is best at just one style, this band can play it all! I can´t wait for my next tour, I would love to have them performing with me again. I have been performing with a lot of bands but never with a unit. The difference in a band and a unit is the feel. The entire group listens to what´s going on in the music. They don´t just play the music, they breath it! That´s important for a solo artist performing with a group for the first time. The group is very professional and very talented.
Never having been to Latvia, I arrived in Riga, the largest city, wide-eyed and curious as to what the Latvian Blues Band could handle; this young band was scheduled to back me for two shows at the Bites Blues Club. But it quickly became clear that American Blues music has become an international language; a language that these guys could really speak. The Latvian Blues Band is a quintet, with two fine guitarists, a keyboard man, bassist, and drummer. And they are rock solid. They play with passion and with a great feel. →
→ These young musicians have really done their homework; it is obvious that they have taken the time to listen to the great blues artists and they have become accomplished at playing the various styles that make up an interesting set of blues. Whether shuffling, swinging, or getting into lowdown, down-home blues, these guys sound authentic and honest. Most of all, their great respect for the tradition of blues music shines through in their performances which exhibit an understanding of dynamics and form that would make older blues veterans proud, The Latvian Blues Band can provide great backing for established visiting blues artists, and they have their own show, featuring top notch original songs with punchy, infectious grooves, and relaxed and soulful singing.
Traveling to Latvia for the first time I had some misgivings about who would back me up, I had no idea how well they were versed in Blues, I travel a lot and use local bands to back me up more often than not the bands do not measure up to American bands that I play with, but I was pleasantly surprised that not only was the Latvian Blues Band knowledgeable of the Blues, but they had a feel for playing it that you usually only find in American musicians and Much better than most. Kalvis and the guys made me feel I could call any tune and not worry about it. The Blues shuffle, which seems to be one of the most difficult for non Americans to master was not a problem thanks to one of the best shuffle drummers I ever played with, I don’t know where they learned their Blues, but they were obviously paying attention. They can play with me anytime.
The Latvian Blues Band is one of the most accomplished blues groups in Europe. In addition to serving as house band to a host of visiting artists — including Bob Margolin, Phil Guy, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, and Duke Robillard — they have performed under their own name at music festivals accross the continent. In June of 2005, they became one of the very few European groups to play at the world famous Chicago Blues Festival.
They are undoubtedly one of the best bands that I have played with. I have played with backing bands in many countries and all over the United States and they are quick under fire. I can throw anything at them and am confident that they can follow.
CD "Unreal" sleeve notes The Latvian Blues Band are an amazing group of young musicians that, although they are from Latvia, have absorbed the essence of American Blues, soul and R&B and are so masterful at playing those styles that they can even write, not only convincingly, but incredible blues and R&B tunes worthy of the best American artists. I know, because I produced this CD and witnessed it first hand! This is truly a great band.
Being a traveling, full-time musician, I come across players of all kinds in this world. I am one of the blessed people who have had the privilege to share the stage with the Latvian Blues Band. This band consists of young musicians who have great respect and admiration for the blues. I first met this group of musicians in 2001 when I was asked along with my friend, Giles Corey to play at the Bites Blues Club in Riga. At that time, the band that was to back us up was very young but very well versed in many styles of blues and other types of music. These days, they are still very young (some look younger now than then) and even more experienced. Their resumes far exceed anything I could imagine. They play behind musicians that most sidemen and band leaders can only dream of and they do it extremely well. It’s a trip to travel to Eastern Europe and hear Muddy Waters the way it was supposed to sound. It’s even more of a trip to hear them play some Professor Longhair or Dr. John, or James Booker with me and make me feel like I need to go home and practice my chops. →
→ There have been very few membership changes in this band and I think that that is due to the fact that these guys are not only fellow musicians but also very good friends. And their friendship carries over to the players they share the stage with. I’m talking about good vibes and good moments on stage as well as off the stage. The only negative connotation I know about this band is that they are known for backing up other artists and not so much for their own material. I say this because I know that they have a lot of their own stuff to offer that stems from that blues tradition that I and they admire. I hope that the blues world will take note of their own show because it is a world-class blues show like nothing else. Great vocals and instrumentation! Every artist deserves their own recognition and I hope that this band get it. Being from Chicago I believe that I know good players when I see them. I strongly endorse the Latvian Blues Band and hope to continue my relationship with them for many years to come.
J. C. SMITH – 2003
I had the most wonderful time playing with the Latvian Blues Band on the weekend of May 27 and 28. They are the Greatest, I would love to bring them to Chicago,. (USA) so that another side of the world can hear them. I love you guys, Thanks so much. I look forward to playing with you again in the future.
The Latvian Blues Band is as accomplished a blues band as you’ll find. The band (originally formed in 1997) recently celebrated its tenth anniversary as the house band for Latvia’s Bites Club in Riga. As such, they’ve backed hundreds of blues men and women who come there to play. Check out the pictures on the walls of this Latvian blues saloon and you’ll see the living proof. Basically, since 2000, the club files in the headliner and this young band backs them for a Friday and Saturday show. Thus, they have assimilated every blues approach from South and West side Chicago to early Texas shuffles to Mississippi soul blues to horn filled arrangements. Most recently, in 2010, this band won the Baltic Blues Challenge and represented Baltic Blues in Memphis at the International Blues Challenge. The last CD, 'Unreal,' was produced by Duke Robillard. The band learned its lessons from that session and here guitarist Janis Bukovskis and drummer Rolands Saulietis handled the production duties. What seperates this band from so many other international bands is that all 14 cuts are originals written either solo (three) by Bukovskis or co-written (11) with Saulietis. →
→ What is immediately apparent in these originals is how accurately these Latvians capture the character and color of the blues. Because the band consists of guitar, bass, drums, keys, and a horn section of sax, trombone and trumpet, its music weaves intricate layers of crisp arrangements. The opening cut, 'Never Meant To Hurt Ya' features Bukovskis seasoned Albert King bends answered by the band’s sturdy horns. Vocally, singer Bukovskis took his Robillard lessons to heart. There is no distracting foreign accent nor simplistic read of just words; instead he sings with the conviction he learned backing 10 years of blues legends. The eight-minute standout, 'There Are Days', wrings its slow blues emotion from the rhythmic interplay of guitas and horns. At the same time, Bukovskis delivers his message with powerful restraint. Everything else on the record tightly captures the vast landscape of the blues styles these Latvians embrace. The CD ends with Bukovskis’s instrumental, 'For You', a meditative showcase a good-time record to play over and over and surprise your music friends.
The Latvian Blues Band are a very exciting and versitle group that can play anything from lowdown blues to R and B and rock with conviction and fire. They are all acomplished musicians and play great as a unit which is what is most impressive about them. They can back up an artist with minimal rehersal and play strong yet very appropiate backgrounds, giving just the right amout of muscle while still being considerate of the artists leadership.They also have good vocalists within the group and solid songwriting skills which makes for a winning combination.
It was such a pleasure working with the Latvian Blues Band. I was so happy to note that all you guys are all under 30, and still real blues men, I was so proud to see you kids playing the original blues, with your young flavor. You all are the future if the blues! I am happy to say, our future is safe in that you guys will keep our traditional music alive. Thanks for allowing me to contribute further to your blues education, and believe me, you are on your way! Bless you all, and don’t stop playin’ the truth!
After performing with the Latvian Blues Band at Bites Blues in Riga, I now label them as one of the tightest Blues Bands that I have ever performed with. They are versatile and have a natural feeling for authentic Blues Music. The Blues is about feeling, and the Latvian Blues Band plays with real emotion. Their ability to master new material is awesome, producing a clear smooth groove on every song… After learning my material so quickly, I only wish that I could keep them as my regular band!
You are a great band and I enjoy playing with you guys and I am looking forward to playing with you guys again. You sure do know how to play the blues. You have a huge reputation in the Chicago area for being a great blues band that knows how to play the real blues. Keep the good work up and keep the blues alive in LATVIA!
I have to say that I was skeptical about working with a group of young guys from Latvia. I have been spoiled living in Chicago for 20 years. I have played with the best. I was totally shocked at the level of musicianship these guys had!! They are some of the funkiest, most soulful players I have ever worked with. I plan on recording with them in the near future.
The Latvian Blues Band is tight band, well coordinated and spontaneous and more important they are students of the BLUES respecting the masters of the BLUES… Muddy Waters, Elmore James, BB King, Robert Johnson, T-Bone, Buddy Guy, Albert King, Freddie King, etc. We’re all students of the BLUES and they have found that sound keeping the BLUES alive and spreading in other parts of the world that we can’t get to… Right on Keep on and Play on… KEEPING THE BLUES ALIVE.
The Latvian Blues Band is destined to be one of the blues powerhouses of this decade. With the heart of a Lion, The soul of Chicago, and the craft of master bluesmen. This band is comprised of the newest rising stars of the 21st century. These cats are the real deal and it’s an honor to have worked with them.
Listen up Folks! I’m here at the Bites Blues Club in Riga, Latvia and having a ball! I love the people here and the Latvian Blues Band is great! After a short rehearsal we did a gig last nite and the band was able to play everything I threw at them. We played my tunes, old blues, new blues and everything in between and they were in the pocket all the way! I could only wish the so-called blues musicians now-a-days in the U.S. were as good…
My experience with the Latvian Blues Band has been a great experience. They are far beyond their years in playing, and they are nice guys too. I think the future is very bright for these guys. In fact I would not hesitate to play with them again. They are my younger brothers, and I wish them the best. The LBB forever.
These guys are GREAT! We have played with musicians all over the world and nobody backs us up like the Latvian Blues Band. Not only are they a pleasure to play with but when they play their own music they are GREAT too. But as a guitar player myself I have to say that playing with Kalvis Zemzaris (guitarist for the Latvian Blues Band) is nothing more than a pleasure! Not only is he a good player but he knows how to play the music right!!! And to me that says it all…
For the second time in two years I had the opportunity to perform with one of the foremost bands in the world! I do not say this lightly because I am hard to please when it comes to a back up band. This is the most versatile band I have ever performed with. Not only do they perform the music well (not in a cook cutter fashion, note for note), but they have a real deal passion for music. They absolutely love it! If I had to pick a band to back me up — THIS WOULD BE MY CHOICE!
Long John Hunter played at The Bites Blues Club on November 19th and 20th with Latvian Blues Band (Roland — Drums) (Janis — Bass) (Oskars — Harp) (Richards — Keys) (Kalvis — Guitar). Mr. Hunter said that he was very impressed with this band, and this band bears watching very closely because they are very talented. Mr. Hunter enjoyed playing with these guys and hopes to play with them again in the future.
The Latvian Blues Band is one of the finest bands in Europe. Whether putting their own spin on traditional material or playing their original songs, they've got a great feel for the music and have a sound all their own while remaining true to the spirit of the blues. I very much enjoyed working with them.
TOM HYSLOP ‘Blues Revue’ Magazine – 2010
BOB MARGOLIN ‘Blues Revue’ Magazine – 2004
In late January 2005 I had opportunity to play in Latvia at the Bites Blues Club with Latvian Blues Band. These guys, all young, were great players and very professional with their approach to music. I do a wide variety of styles and with only one short rehearsal they all came with it! We had a ball and we also kicked ass!!!
I have been to Riga in Latvia twice and had the great pleasure of meeting and working with the Latvian Blues Band. I found them to be very professional and well schooled about the music we call the Blues; each musician is very skilled in there ability to perform the music with feeling which is the thing that is lacking in most young players. They are well beloved in Riga and wish them all the best with the new CD release and look forward to working with them again. Every band needs someone who believes in them and there cause there Manager Ziggy. Hey fellas, teach him how to play the harp! All the Best… Sam Cockrell the star from Chicago t.s.f.c.
I have played with the LBB twice in the last 5 years & both experiences were superb! The band are young, good looking & full of passion. They grab the blues with both hands & produce spirited, danceable music. The LBB has a deep respect for the tradition of Chcago blues, yet they bring to it a playful freshness without sacrificing technique or musicianship. Bon Chance, All the best, Bisous...... Liz Mandeville
CD "Unreal" review Talk about culture shock: When UNREAL starts to spin, the first thing out of the speakers is an uptown soul arrangement that sounds like Gene Barge's work on Little Milton's mid-Sixties Chicago sides. The song resolves into Willie Dixon's "Evil", of all things, with the smoky vocal. It's Janis Bukovskis who proceeds to really testify as the song shifts into gospel raveup mode before ending. The skittering guitar solo comes from producer Duke Robillard, who recognizes that the Latvian Blues Band has got it goin' on. The band's selfreleased album demonstrates a feeling for electric and acoustic blues in a range of styles as well as funk and even reggae rhythms.
…Beyond their experience and youthful enthusiasm, this is a talented band, individually but especially together. Sometimes non-American blues singers' accents can clash with their music. This is NOT true for the Latvian Blues Band. They have strong and bluesy voices that sound unaffected to me. The Latvian Blues Band is a band where you see the Latvians but hear the blues. They're not your mama's blues band, but they might be your daughters…
As a traveling musician, I have been blessed with some great experiences of meeting unforgettable people, playing some inspired music and sharing cultural depth and warmth. Out of all of my experiences, my trips to Latvia to play with the Latvian Blues Band are my fondest. Musically, they can really play!!! They are not just another European Amerilife Blues band appearing the style. They get it! And they really feel it deep down. I was at first surprised at the cool dedication to being great musicians all five members live by. They have studied their stuff and maintain a regular hunger for new knowledge. I think the experience pf playing behind a different American Blues act every weekend for four years is about the best music school anyone could attend. →
→ Like the masters of old, these guys have learned their craft in the club amongst the smoke, drinks and the crowd who lets you know immediately if something is working or not. There is no better way to develop really sharp musical instincts. Rhythmically, the whole band can groove in many styles and add a refreshing spark of their own. Each player is a true individual and is a pleasure to listen to individually. As a band they have a chemistry that translates into their music. You can feel that each of these crazy Latvian mofos loves the other like a brother. So much fun on stage and off stage, I can’t wait to get back to Riga to play with these guys and if I could, I’d show up just to hang out with such warm, friendly honest, funny, cool, and ridiculous people. I Love the Latvian Blues Band!!! And thanks to them I love Latvia and the Latvian people.
CD "Unreal" review I thought it was a real good blues CD after I played it. When I replayed it to refresh my ears, I was still very impressed... having Duke Robillard produced it lifts the quality of the music to a very professional level. Personally I love the many styles the band can play from deep blues on "Evil" to finger snappin' shuffles. The vocals are very strong as is the guitar work especially on "Let The Door Hit You" and "No More Doggin'", which sound very much like an early John Mooney. Also great, competent songwriting which reflects the various blues styles that the band plays well... again, Duke's production highlights the bands strengths.
Art Tipaldi — Contributing Editor / Senior Writer of “Blues Revue” Magazine; "Keeping the Blues Alive" Chairman
Blues has spread all over the world and many bands have sprung up and taken the reins. In a small country call Latvia there is one band that stands out a lot above the others. They are called the Latvian Blues Band. Most are in their mid to late twenties and play like guys in their late thirties or early fourties. They play with great maturity and depth that is not always seen in bands this young. They have back up more blues musican then you can write in a book. But they also have their own music they play and a great CD out produced by Duke Robillard. And if Duke has given them their blessing then that's enough for me.