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Oakham’s Cool Hand Blues Band Delivers Formidable Live Experience

Saturday, April 27, 2013


The Cool Hand Blues Band promises an evening of great music and a great time. Photo Courtesy of Michelle Mckeen

Oakham's Cool Hand Blues Band is made up of an astounding ten members and to tell each of their stories individually would be an impossible feat in the space allotted. It would suffice to say that the band is made up of many proud veterans of the local blues circuit and come from cities and towns throughout Worcester County from Oakham, Rutland and Barre to Hardwick, Bolton and Holden.

Since coming together in its roughly current form in September of 2009, the band has quickly risen in popularity, playing music in venues throughout Central Mass rooted in traditional blues, R&B and soul. The band self-describes their rousing performances as a "three-ring circus blues extravaganza."

"We strive to make an evening with Cool Hand as entertaining as possible with great music and a great time," says Mike Mckeen, lead guitarist, lead vocalist and harmonica-player for the band.

"Our set has evolved to include some other styles or music with their roots in blues to keep things interesting for everyone. Soul, funk, old school R&B, even a little rockabilly. You won’t leave a Cool Hand show feeling blue that’s for sure."

Mike McKeen himself has been playing his beloved guitar since the age of 13. He is mostly self-taught, but is forever grateful for a number of generous older musicians who gave him pointers along the way.

"The willingness to take the time to show an aspiring guitar player a few key licks and grooves goes a long way," he remarks.

Mckeen soon began to prefer a certain style of play that he still prefers to this day.

"I took to anything with a great groove. It’s got to move me both physically and emotionally. I’m not talking about lyrics I’m talking about that groove that you can’t help but feel, that makes you want to dance or tap your foot or bob your head even when you’re not paying attention. It just gets in your soul. That’s what music is, the voice of the soul. I don’t like to have planned or written solos. I like to be able to play how I’m feeling right then, in that moment, with the band and the audience and all the energy in the air. It doesn’t get any better than that," he states, showing a genuine enthusiasm for his art.

It is safe to say every member of the band feels the same way. Mckeen goes on.

"When we or any great band or musician is on and transcending this world, reaching into they’re soul and playing from their heart. There is nothing more pure and beautiful to listen to or see."

In addition to hearing the sweet, rich and soulful guitar sound of Mckeen, listeners will be treated to the powerful vibes unleashed by the band's intimidating horn section featuring the talents of Steve Aliquo, Jim Pavao, and Mark Halloway on trumpet, trombone and saxophone respectively. Newest member Roland Ochsenbein adds in his noticeable New Orleans influence on the keyboard; Co-founder Johnny Breault (Bro) continues to contribute with his groovy bass lines and expertly keeps the beat with able drummer Jay Brown; another layer of guitar is brought in by Paul Flury; and Stephanie Smith and Julia Martiros round out the bill with additional sultry vocals.

The Cool Hand Blues Band is clearly designed  to be heard and viewed live. But they have recently recorded a demo in the hopes of getting gigs in new areas, expanding their horizons, and making new friends and connections within the Worcester music scene. They will play any venue from gazebos to bars, restaurants and night clubs.

For more information on the Cool Hand Blues Band please find them on Facebook. And make sure to check them out at their upcoming gigs at Beatniks on April 27 and Theodore's in Springfield on May 18.


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