Chicago guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Nick Moss is a bona fide bluesman down to his soul, a 30-year veteran of the city’s take-no-prisoners blues scene. Moss paid his dues gigging in Chicago’s rough and tumble West and South side blues clubs under the tutelage of some of the city’s greatest blues luminaries. Blues Revue says, “Nick Moss is at the top of the blues world…ambitious and intense…He can play traditional blues with the best.” New Jersey’s Dennis Gruenling is considered among today’s best blues harmonica players. His high-energy, full-throttle playing has earned him comparisons to the late James Cotton. Living Blues says, “Dennis Gruenling is a contemporary harmonica master…impressive, genuine and fresh-sounding.” Now, recording together for the first time, The Nick Moss Band Featuring Dennis Gruenling makes their Alligator Records debut with The High Cost Of Low Living, a dream come true for both musicians.
The High Cost Of Low Living is a tour de force of the classic Chicago blues ensemble sound Moss and Gruenling know, live and love. But it’s no recycling of old songs. Moss wrote eight memorable new originals and Gruenling wrote two, all deeply rooted in the blues tradition with a touch of old school rock ‘n’ roll. Produced by guitarist Kid Andersen and Moss and recorded at Rancho de Rhythm in Elgin, Illinois, the album is a joyous sonic blast of pure blues power.
Although Moss and Gruenling had known each other for 20 years and had jammed together often, it wasn’t until 2016 that they decided to team up full time. Moss’ deeply rooted yet fully modern guitar playing flawlessly meshes with Gruenling’s monster harmonica chops. On stage, the two communicate seemingly telepathically, as Moss lays down the deepest blues licks and Gruenling’s harmonica wails and howls in perfect response, with Moss’ top-notch band adding their energy and expertise to the ensemble.
According to Alligator president Bruce Iglauer, Nick and Dennis are a natural fit for the label. “It’s very exciting to bring artists to Alligator who are so deeply rooted in the Chicago blues tradition, but creating fresh new songs to carry that tradition forward. Nick’s a thrilling guitar player, a gritty, honest singer, and his band is tough as nails. Dennis is a blues harmonica master and a terrific showman. This is a partnership of two world-class talents in one band. These are artists that any fan of the blues has got to love.”
Moss is equally thrilled, saying, “I am extremely excited and honored to be a part of Alligator Records’ legacy. It was 35 years ago that I got my first Alligator recording—Blues Deluxe—and 31 years ago that I saw my first Alligator act, Little Charlie & The Nightcats, in person. My life has never been the same!”
Growing up in Chicago and standing tall at 6’2”, Moss dreamed of playing both music and sports. When kidney surgery sidelined his athletic hopes, he dove headfirst into the blues. His mother was a huge blues fan, even taking a young Nick to see bluesmen like Muddy Waters live in concert. Originally a bass player, Moss got his first professional break touring and playing bass with legendary West Side Chicago guitarist Jimmy “Fast Fingers” Dawkins. He next toured with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith (longtime Muddy Waters’ drummer), leader of the Legendary Blues Band. Finding himself in need of a guitarist, Smith insisted Moss switch instruments. Combining his natural talent with non-stop woodshedding and playing every open jam session, Moss quickly became one of the city’s most highly sought-after players. Bluesman Jimmy Rogers (famous for his pioneering guitar work with Muddy Waters and for his solo hit Walking By Myself) hired Moss to join his touring band and became his mentor. Moss’ other influences include B.B. King, Freddie King, Earl Hooker, Magic Slim and other groundbreaking players.
Moss formed his own band in 1997 and released the first of his 12 solo albums a year later on his own independent Blue Bella label. He’s received 21 Blues Music Award nominations and has earned legions of fans around the world, playing over 100 shows a year. Moss has shared stages with Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Gary Clark, Jr., David Hidalgo and many others, and is an in-demand guest, always welcome to sit in with his musician friends around the world. Elmore calls him “one of the best guitarists on the scene today.”
As a teen, Gruenling heard the Alligator recording Harp Attack! (a summit meeting of James Cotton, Junior Wells, Carey Bell and Billy Branch) and decided that blues harmonica was his life’s calling. In addition to Cotton, Gruenling was inspired by blues harp masters Little Walter and George “Harmonica” Smith as well as by saxophonists, including Lester Young and Red Prysock. A self-taught player and a natural entertainer with seven solo albums to his credit, Gruenling’s giant, fat-toned harp work, raw-boned singing and untamed energy are a perfect foil for Moss’ hair-raising guitar playing and straight-from-the-shoulder blues vocals.
With the release of The High Cost Of Low Living, The Nick Moss Band Featuring Dennis Gruenling will do what they do best: barnstorm the globe, bringing their muscular, high-energy show to clubs, concert halls, roadhouses and festival stages night after night. It is a show that is not to be missed. According to Moss, “I’m a shy person, but when the band and I get on stage, the music takes over. We can’t hold back and the energy just comes pouring out. We get carried away and the audience gets carried away with us.”