by Alex Fontana
On Friday, June 8, they came. The likes such as renowned guitarist Robbie Laws, devastating drummer Drawback Slim,
bulwark bassist Sonny Boyardee and the magnificent keyboardist King Louis Pain, along with a glamorous gaggle of dancing
dames; all of which participated and paid tribute to the notorious Big Al Carter on his birthday; however, unlike the dangerous
gangster of the ‘30s, this big-un was all heart and perpetual smile as he played his guitar in gleaming gladness brighter than
the main spotlight of the house.
The distinguished historical site of the Trails End Saloon, located in Oregon City, hosted the event. Immediately starting the
party with serving assurances, the cocktail-waitress, known only as Elizabeth, swore out a public proclamation of assurance
that the patrons would get properly polluted. Thus, the crowd responded with rebel-rousing cheers of approval and the show
Such was the scene as Big Al, the California transplant otherwise known as Allen Carter, took to the stage. Kicking it into gear
with a straight-forward Kansas City, he followed up quickly announcing a cut rate on his new CD Soul Blue, which features the
likes of late great Paul deLay.
Cascade Blues Association (CBA) member Sandy Forst reminisced about how impressed and delighted Carter was with all
the blues talent that Portland had to offer. “Big Al and Paul deLay were jamming one day before anyone knew that Paul was
sick. Paul asked Big Al what his hurry was to learn a particular song. Big Al responded by saying how the song was so hot
that he just had to get it down.”
Carter left the high-tech holocaust of Silicon Valley for the pleasant Portland, Oregon-community feel.
“Big Al also shows his support by participating on the CBA board using his business skills to help the association develop a
business plan,” says CBA president Greg Johnson.
So much mutual love and support was in the air, that CBA board member Stephanie Diaz, also known as Kiki, got up and did
a song or two for the crowd. Diaz reports to be shy and never would have sung in front of a crowd, but through Carter’s
encouragement, this was her second time sounding like a well-seasoned soul. Special treats also included the sultry Natasha,
Carter’s daughter, who performed a sizzling smoky rendition of Fever, leaving many a man with dreams of desire. Then as
the song, En-gine rolled on, the band babes performed an in-sync dance routine that sent the photographers rushing for
their cameras, while the crowd were left laughing at the photo-op scramble.
As bright as everything was, nothing could outshine the guitar works of Robbie Laws. A native Oregonian, Laws repeatedly
displayed that the main requirement of blues is the ability to incorporate emotion, emotion that he was able to convey in every
single note. Louie Pain followed suit by showing why he repeatedly plays at the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival. Then
again, while a band’s lead guitarist and keyboardist are typically most memorable alongside the singing frontman, it is in fact
the rhythm section that is required to create the sound structure for the others to build on. That’s a special task that both
Sonny Boyardee and Drawback Slim are more than capable of performing.
Yep, with all this talent, it is hard indeed to go wrong. To see how right it can go, just dial up CDbaby.com and check out
Carterl’s Soul Blue CD. Or, you can Google up each one of the individual band members for upcoming dates. Whatever you
do though, remember one thing – Happy birthday Big Al, happy birthday to you and many more. (See Bandstand for