Blues with a feeling

Paul Size doesn't recall much about the day (or even the exact year) he went into the studio with Mick Jagger--or, for that matter, if it was a day at all. It might have been two days spent recording with the flabby icon, might have been even more and could have been much less. Size, then a member of the post-trad blues band Red Devils, was just there as a favor, pocketing a few hundred bucks for his lead guitar work and then going home.

What Size doesn't recall has become the stuff of legend: Jagger, looking to regain credibility away from the Stones while paying homage to such blues heroes as Little Walter and Muddy Waters, hired producer and American Recordings owner Rick Rubin and retreated to a Los Angeles studio to record a solo record. But after a couple of days recording such obscurities and standards as "Still a Fool," "Blues with a Feeling," and "Checkin' Out My Baby" with the Red Devils, the sessions were scrapped. Jagger instead released the moribund Wandering Spirit in 1993, which was the very antithesis of the Red Devil sessions that have become the astonishing bootleg The Nature of My Game, on which Jagger finally sounds like the weary and wise bluesman he always imagined himself to be.

What Size does recall of those long-lost sessions is this, and it isn't much.

"What happened from what I could figure out was Rick Rubin already had us on his label [American Recordings] and thought he'll get us in there and have Mick sing and have us back him up," Size says now. "We had the stand-up bass and the old traditional blues sound, at least as far as it goes for L.A. To get it to sound better they should have gotten James Harmon's band, but Rick used us to save money, anyway. I only got $900, anyway. We got $800 and a $100 bonus. Now, I'm like, 'I was stupid.'

"I was so relaxed. The other guys were freaking, but, see, I knew who Mick was, but I didn't know he was like Elvis. I had heard of the Rolling Stones, but the only song I had heard Jagger sing was 'Dancing in the Street' with David Bowie. I know a billion songs, but I don't know who the artists are. If I'd have known, I might have been so shaky and not been able to pull it off. He was just this short little dude who laughed a lot."

But Size's days--or day--of being Mick Jagger's lead guitarist are past him for the moment; he has not even heard the fruits of that session and awaits his own copy of the bootleg. Since then, Size has abandoned L.A. and returned to his folks' home in Denton. He is no longer a Red Devil signed to a major label and playing to packed houses at the King King, where the likes of Jagger and Bruce Willis would show up and sit in with the band.

Size, who began playing when he was 15 and who's still just a kid at 24, is back playing the local blues circuit with a new band, Easy Jones, and rediscovering his passion for the blues that two years in L.A. squeezed out of him.

"I got tired of living out there," Size explains. "I didn't get along with those guys. Well, not so much didn't get along, but you know how you don't want to be around certain people? I dug the music to a certain extent, but I got bored with it, and I missed home. To me, the music was fun--it was all, 'get drunk, play loud, let's go'--but I wanted to moved on. I wanted to do something that wasn't as loud.

"I wasn't disappointed about the end of the Red Devils at the time," Size shrugs. "I am now. I wish it could have worked out because we were on our way. We got to play with Mick Jagger and open for the Allman Brothers, a big ol' tour with Los Lobos, a festival in Holland. It blew my mind to play in front of 75,000 people with the Black Crowes, Lenny Kravitz, Living Colour, Thelonious Monster. I regret it a little, but I'm so happy with the Easy Jones thing. Shoot, I'm happier now and playing a lot better music and with guys I can actually hang out with."

Size initially moved back to Texas to play with old friend Jon Moeller, a childhood friend who first introduced "Kid" Size to the blues; it was Moeller who introduced Size to Buddy Guy and Howlin' Wolf, who helped convince Size there was little reward to be gained from ripping off Ozzy Osbourne or the Scorpions. Jon Moeller and his brother Jason acted as Size's mentors until Size moved in with Hash Brown for nine months and became the guitarist's sidekick and pupil.

"Hash taught me how to learn stuff, how to just teach yourself and listen for tone," Size recalls. "He's the father to all who want to get in the groove of the real shit."

A few weeks ago, Size and the Moellers went into Sumet Studios and recorded a CD, tentatively titled Return of the Funky Worm, for Chuck Nevitt's Dallas Blues Society label, which has been responsible for records by last-of-the-country-bluesmen Henry Qualls and jump-bluesman Big Al Dupree. The disc, which will be released in May or June, plays itself out like a cross between Hash Brown's Texas-bred style and the Red Devils' Chicago distillation--a blues record that relies equally on the guitar and the Wurlitzer.

"We wanted to put in a little bit of funk because we like that stuff," Size says. "We're not the Chili Peppers or anything, but we're more mellow. We still got our blues following. It almost reminds me of the Family Style record, where Stevie and Jimmie [Vaughan] got together and said, 'Let's jam and write some cool stuff,' which is just what we did."

No fingers
Ten Hands is over.
After almost a decade together and apart, the once and future house band for Deep Ellum has called it quits. "There's no coming back," insists frontman and co-founder Paul Slavens, one of the few constants in a band that often changed hands (or Hands, as it were) and has, at various times, included the likes of drummer Earl Harvin and Billygoat frontman Mike Dillon.

"It just got weird being up there as Ten Hands after all this time," he explains. "People wanted to hear all the old material, and that's what was fun to play, but you can only live off it for so long." So on February 9 at Rick's in Denton and February 10 at Club Dada, the band bids its farewells, save for the occasional old-timers games.

Slavens has just finished a solo record, which is split between the material he's been performing around town by himself for a couple of years and self-penned classical music for piano. But the bust-up of Ten Hands means Slavens and Chapman stick player Gary Muller can now concentrate on what they call the Green Romance Orchestra, the band they "formed" last year with former Dr. Tongue (oh, yeah...and former Pearl Jam) drummer Dave Abbruzzese.

Abbruzzese is relocating, in part, to a 6,000-square-foot house in Denton so he can be closer to the other members of the GRO. He's even moving most of his studio here, as well, consolidating his recording equipment with that of producer David Castell, who's moving out to the 600-acre property.

"We're going to have one bad motherfuckin' studio," Abbruzzese says from his Seattle home, which he'll still maintain. "It's the fucking Dave Abbruzzese Memorial Commune.

"We're actually hoping to start scoopin' up people and have fun jam weekends with people we always wanted to play with or just meet. The main goal last time we recorded was to provide an environment for us to do whatever we wanted and to have a good time. Now, we're going to have a little more focus on what we're doing. We're going to try to push ourselves and discover a little more and be goofy. Hey, it's our musical Waco."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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