By Martine Ehrenclou
Powerhouse blues vocalist, songwriter Deb Ryder and her stellar band treated fans to a live show at Maui Sugar Mill Saloon on July 5, featuring guests Joey Delgado on guitar, Steve Delgado on drums, and the legendary Debbie Davies on guitar. Ryder’s gig was also a CD release party in celebration of her new album, Memphis Moonlight.
And what a night it was. The Maui Sugar Mill is an intimate club, a flashback to the 70s with deep red banquets, high-table stools at round tables, and a wood bar running the length of the main area. This night it was jammed tight with Deb Ryder fans. Most hadn’t seen Ryder live since before the pandemic, so there was a certain electricity in the room, an unmistakable energy.
Presented by blues promotor Cadillac Zack who brings in the best musicians from all over the world to perform in intimate settings, we were grateful to see one of the blues greats—Deb Ryder.
Known for her powerful, soulful vocals, superbly crafted songs, and outstanding musicians in her band, Deb Ryder has a fascinating musical history growing up in Topanga Canyon, CA with music icons who she performed with such as Etta James, Big Joe Turner, and Taj Mahal. Before releasing her first solo album in 2014, recorded by her husband bassist, Ric Ryder, she was a successful session artist performing on TV commercials, movies, and Las Vegas musicals.
Blues fans adore Deb Ryder. They love her live shows. It wasn’t until this night, that I fully understood why.
Ryder and her band appeared on stage to a crowd that yelled, hollered and clapped for the multiple blues award nominee. Everyone was so taken with seeing Deb, that she had to quiet them down. She said, “I want to say something. I want to welcome you all back to live music after the pandemic.” With honest gratitude, she added, “We’ve all made it through.” Her words brought the room together. She and the band launched into the blues, R&B number with groove, “Jump On In” from Memphis Moonlight.
With superb guitarist Joey Delgado at her side, along with a bevy of uber-talented musicians including Ric Ryder (bass), Alan Maggini (guitar), Mo Beeks (keys), Chris Leroi Hansen (harmonica), Laurie Gral (backing vocals), Steve Delgado (drums), and Craig Williams (saxophone), Ryder owned that stage–not just with her gutsy vocals, but with stage presence. A magnetic frontwoman, Ryder and the band lit up with the music and being together again with their fans.
Deb Ryder never sounded better. To say the show was flush with outstanding musicianship, is an understatement. Harp player, Hansen, added his magic touch to “Enjoy The Ride” a funk infused blues-rocker from Ryder’s previous album. Heating up, the club was rocking. Sharing the spotlight was Beeks on keys, a great player. “Hold On,” a boogie blues number followed with Ryder singing from the seat of her soul, “All we got to do is hold on,” a song she wrote during the pandemic. Ric Ryder and drummer Delgado held down the rhythm on this tune and others. No small feat with so much groove going on.
After a number of songs from her new album, Deb brought up special guest, Debbie Davies to perform. The club was buzzing, excited over the guitar legend appearing on stage. In her unassuming way, wearing sunglasses, Davies stood to the side, Strat in hand. She launched into a dazzling “San-Ho-Zay,” a Freddie King instrumental. Joey Delgado joined her and together they performed a duet on guitars. I wasn’t the only one whose mind was blown by this performance.
For an evening of standouts, one sticks in my mind. Ryder and the band kicked off, “Let It Rain,” a beautiful, melodic rock number with Ryder singing some of her best that night. You could see that she was feeling it and she gave one of the best performances of the evening. The band in fine form, Joey Delgado, Debbie Davies and Alan Maggini all played inspired and soulful guitar.
Deb said to the audience “I’ve got a little hitch in my git along tonight.” After a year and a half off because of the pandemic, she and the musicians were on fire. The inspiring “Get Ready” closed the show, a song about love as the solution to some of the world’s problems, more evidence of Ryder’s impressive songwriting chops. Both guitar players, Delgado and Maggini, riffed on this song.
A guy seated next to me said, “Deb’s the real deal.” Indeed.
Many thanks to Casey Reagan at MusicUCanSee for the video.
Watch “Let It Rain”