Reviews - Page 1

Arkansas Press 

Steppin’ Out with the Bluesy Sound of 2 Blue Shoes

Smokey & John

by Lori Abbotts

Those who love the sultry sound of the blues know it’s like your favorite pair of old sandals: comfortable, broken-in, with maybe a hole or two in the "soul". If you’re ready to enjoy some of those moody blues, St. Thomas’ favorite local band, 2 Blue Shoes, will knock your socks off! With searing vocals by Smokey Pratt and rippin’ guitar riffs by John Brittain, this dynamic duo is sure to keep your foot tapping with their hot blues rock sound.

2 Blue Shoes’ diverse sound is an eclectic mix of blues and rock with a little reggae and country thrown in for good measure. From covers to original tunes, 2 Blue Shoes makes each song their own. You’ll hear anything from Randy Newman’s Guilty to Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. "We like to switch styles abruptly during a set. We go from country to reggae to blues. We like to do the unexpected, not what people expect from an island band, like Buffet standards. That’s not who we are."

Their signature tunes like Jockey Full of Bourbon, Temptation (both of which are included on their upcoming new CD) and Cajun Moon are bold interpretations of timeless tunes with a heavy blues undertone. "We play a few easily recognizable tunes arranged for 2 Blue Shoes, but mostly what I enjoy is performing great songs that don’t get much air play," says Smokey. "I prefer American songwriters like Randy Newman, Tom Waits and Bob Dylan, with huge catalogues of songs you don’t hear every day."

Besides covers, 2 Blue Shoes introduces their own fun and funky songs such as Blue Shoes Falling from the Sky, Careless Love, Women Who Made Gunpowder When They Were Girls, Alien Bar and Redemption Bong.

2 Blue Shoes

2 Blue Shoes experiments with creating multiple media arrangements of songs using a computer. A virtual band is not a new concept, but it’s a difficult one to pull off successfully. Many hours of preparation go into creating the unique sound of 2 Blue Shoes’ virtual band, or the Footnotes, as they jokingly call it, before it hits the stage. "A lot of musicians abuse what we use," explains Smokey. "They buy their tunes and sound like a radio. We do all of our own arrangements. We look for a simple sound that doesn’t focus on electronic parts of the band. It’s a fairly complicated process, but my expected result is a natural sounding rhythm section, not an electronic sound."

John agrees. "I had reservations at first about playing with a virtual band because I really like jamming with other live musicians. But it can be a lot of fun playing with The Footnotes, too. We use the background, but we’ve got this big live musical thing going on as well. We play a lot of live music. We stand out as musicians in our own rights."

What you get is a big blues sound from two incredible musicians. Smokey’s distinct vocal style would be right at home sitting on a dock with a bottle of whiskey and a harmonica. And talk about wailin’! John fires up the electric guitar with bluesy, rockin’, baby squealin’ riffs, switching from lead and rhythm to slide guitar styles in one smooth, fluid motion. His influences of British blues guitar greats like the Yardbirds (Clapton, Page, and Beck) and his favorite band, Little Feet, place him firmly into the blues category.

Neither of these fine musicians is new to the business. They have both been making music for as long as they can remember. Smokey concentrated on woodwinds, playing flute, clarinet and harmonica. While in the Air Force he played with half a dozen different groups formed with other servicemen. When he got his Honorable Discharge he hitch-hiked 20 miles up the road and joined a band called Mulefoot in New Mexico. John has "always played guitar in a band", including time touring with the 70’s band, Rodeo, based out of Arkansas. Smokey and John have been working together since 1991, starting with the local St. Thomas band Max Attack. When lead vocalist Marilyn Madison left, they decided to keep the band together as the Blue Shoes Band, with bass, drums, and keyboard, a group that lasted 4 years. Their best musical work, however, has shone through during their time as the two-man, one-virtual band, 2 Blue Shoes.

John & Smokey at Betsys Bar

2 Blue Shoes are keep the island hopping with regular gigs at Betsy’s Bar in Frenchtown every Friday night, at Bottoms Up every Wednesday and Azure on Thursdays. Saturdays are reserved for private parties. They’ve cut 3 CDs over the years. Welcome, Careless Love and The Lost Tapes. Their upcoming CD 2 Blue Shoes Duhs Tom Waits, a tribute to one of their favorite songwriters, will debut this coming April.

They may be local, but not for long! In April, 2 Blue Shoes are packing up the Footnotes and taking them on the road for a month long 2 Blue Shoes 2006 North American 2-er. In true blues style, they’ll travel by train throughout the country, with gigs booked along the way in South Carolina, Arkansas, Texas and Washington State.

For more information:
call Smokey at (340) 777-3060 (leave message) or
contact John at

Lori Abbotts is a regular contributor to Destination USVI, St. Thomas This Week, Places To Explore St. Thomas - St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands Marine Guide, Aviator Magazine, Tradewinds Magazine and the Virgin Islands Daily News.

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