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Band continues healing from hardships
by Chris Kornelis
University of Idaho Argonaut, Boise, ID
Nov 12th, 2002

The members of Blues Traveler had such a good time in Idaho this summer they decided to return this Tuesday for a show at the Big Easy in Boise. The road has been long for John Popper and company as the band made its way around the country non-stop for the last couple years in true Blues Traveler fashion. Last week the band played a four-night stand in their home town of New York City. The band played Irving Plaza, selling out the first three nights, before returning to the road for another run through the states.

The last couple of years have not been kind to Blues Traveler on many fronts. Popper underwent emergency angioplasty, original bassist Bobby Sheehan died in his home of a drug overdose and their sixth album, Bridge was a commercial disappointment. After Sheehan died, the band hired Tad Kinchla, brother of the band's guitarist Chan Kinchla, to take Sheehan's place as bass player. Taking the place of a player who had been with the band for nearly 15 years was a delicate one.

"Bobby was a good friend of mine," Kinchla said in a phone interview from New York. "The band sat me down and said 'Don't re-create a sound.' Bring your own bag of tricks." Before making Bridge the band added a keyboardist for the first time in its history. Having a keyboardist in the band had always been a dream of Sheehan's and the band felt it would be an acceptable tribute to their good friend.

Ben Wilson responded to an advertisement in a magazine and sent in an audition tape, never expecting to hear from the band. To his surprise the band liked his style and he found himself as the fifth member of the group. Playing with a new instrument and different bass player has been an evolution the band has slowly been growing accustomed to.

"We are now developing where all the instruments fit in," Kinchla said. The band's latest record, Bridge, released in May of 2001, did not receive the kind of recognition or radio play that previous albums Straight On Till Morning or four received, which was a surprise to many fans and critics who saw Bridge as one of the group's finest. Kinchla says the commercial setback was not because the album lacked great songs or musicianship.

"It was disappointing," Kinchla said. "We were in the middle of a bunch of record company stuff. There was a shift in priorities and new ideas." The band is now free of its contract with long-time label A&M Records and plans on releasing its next album through Artist Direct.

"We are feeling very good about it," Kinchla said of the band's relationship with Artist Direct. "We are something they are interested in and we are on our own making our own decisions."

Making an album with Artist Direct is the most comfortable route for Blues Traveler to make a record in an industry they are growing tired of. "Unless you bring in millions, you can get nothing," Kinchla said. "You can give so much all for very little. Now we feel there is more power to the people. Good music is good music."

Blues Traveler plays Boise's Big Easy Tuesday. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8. Tickets are available through www.ticketweb.com for $28.50.