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Blues Traveler bassist will be remembered
by Kristi Singer
Wilmington Morning Star, Wilmington, NC
Oct 20th, 2000

Blues Traveler is coming back after reflecting the loss of original bassist, Bobby Sheehan, who died at 31 due after an accidental drug overdose last August.

The band, which plays at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the House of Blues, has since added a new bassist, Tad Kinchla, brother of guitarist Chan Kinchla, and a keyboardist, Ben Wilson.

The new additions not only give Blues Traveler a different sound, but a new perspective. Drummer Brendan Hill said that they make the whole experience feel fresh.

"It's invigorating. It makes me remember how it was like back in the day, when all of us were starting out and playing small gigs and everybody just being all excited and nervous, it's refreshing. When you do it for 10 years, you get kind of into a rhythm, not that those emotions ever go away, it just becomes a routine," Mr. Hill said.

The routine was broken by new songs, new solos, and the new musicians.

The new bass player has a funkier style, and the keyboardist will help vocalist John Popper to focus more on his vocal and solos rather than doing chords with the harmonica, Mr. Hill said.

Fans can check out Blues Traveler's new sound in February, when the new album is scheduled to release.

The album will contain 12 or 13 songs from an original collection of 30, which Mr. Hill said is the longest the band ever took to write an album.

"We've mixed 15 songs, so we still have to weed out 2 or 3 songs, but it's real complicated because we all like different ones," Mr. Hill said.

"I think this album is going to be a surprise to a lot of people and there's going to be a lot of happy fans out there. The album has a lot of variety."

The band is still not sure what to title the new release or what the first single will be. According to Mr. Hill, its record label, A&M Records, heard the final mixes and were happy about four or five songs.

"For a record that's great to have four or five songs that are possible singles, but we're not sure which one we're going to release yet," Mr. Hill said,.

"We'll probably release it in February. We're kind of focusing in on the tour and just getting things back together, playing again live with two different guys, just basically having fun again. That's what it's all about, having fun."

That may be, but the loss of Mr. Sheehan is reflected in the upcoming album.

"In a way, Bob's passing away kind of made us all think about what we were doing. And I think this record reflects a lot of emotion about Bob in a couple of songs, which directly relate to him and his passing away and how we grieved through that," Mr. Hill said.

Mr. Sheehan was a close friend to the entire band. In 1998, the band decided to take a year-long break to concentrate on other things.

"Bob moved down to New Orleans the year before, and you know, I think he, out of all of us, needed to be on the road the most," Mr. Hill said. "When he was at home, he had to be doing something, whether it was playing music, he just wasn't comfortable just sitting around."

Mr. Sheehan's dislike for sitting around led him to go out and make a lot of friends who were into the New Orleans lifestyle of heavy partying, Mr. Hill said.

"Unfortunately, I think it just ran him down. And you know, he had money; he had a house. Just one thing led to another and he just overdid it, and unfortunately he wasn't able to cope through it," Mr. Hill said. "It was such a shock to all of us, we just figured this would be the year we'd recharge and do new songs and record the new record."

Mr. Sheehan's death forced band members to rethink their lives and realize how lucky they were to be able to play music for a living.