Blues Arsenal brings the blues to Dillon
DILLON – Ask Blues Arsenal vocalist Jeffrey Leonetti about his band, and he’ll use the phrase, “Swamp-ass dirt rock.”His voice, well, is rare enough to match the description. As singer of the Denver-based blues group, he understands the implication of being a white man singing the blues. While he isn’t afraid of playing to chrome-toothed, tattooed bikers, he also understands the significance of being appreciated in bars which normally attract bluesy, black artists.”It’s train-wreck blues,” Leonetti said. “That’s the nice thing about playing in this band. We can play anywhere. We do a lot of sessions with hip-hop bands. We do the beats.”When Blues Arsenal takes the stage at 9:30 p.m. Friday at Maxwell Street Grill in Dillon, you won’t hear hip-hop. Instead, steel guitarist Ryan Reitz, Leonetti (who also plays harmonica), bassist Bill “Sweet William” Smith and drummer Michael Fender will take southern rock and mix it with Black Sabbath. Harder than the North Mississippi Allstars, frequent visitors to the Western Slope, the band meshes influences like Leadbelly with the Headbanger’s Ball.”We can play a retirement home or a death-rock concert,” said Leonetti, whose influences range from Led Zeppelin to 2-Pac. “We’ve played both.”It’s true. With Reitz and Leonetti on acoustic, the duet played an assisted living center in Denver. They didn’t plug in, Leonetti said, “because we didn’t want to horrify them.”The crew played Dillon last year, and Leonetti’s old band, Electric Mud, took the stage three years ago in Summit. Blues Arsenal is only in its infancy, having started in 2001.The group also stays busy with side projects. Smith’s band, Sweet William and the Wet Knots, frequents Denver spots and Fender, the drummer, stays busy as well.Not that Blues Arsenal is just sitting still. After playing Dillon, Arsenal will take off for an East Coast swing through state colleges and this winter, Arsenal will end up in the Deep South, the birthplace of swamp rock.The group is also advertising for a tour manager to help line up slots in summer festivals.All in all, Leonetti explained, any gig’s a good gig and any crowd’s a great crowd.”We’ve been approached by latin hip-hop crowds and R&B crowds and that’s something I’m proud of,” Leonetti said. “It’s crazy. They don’t tend to stereotype us.”
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