In a world where words like “legend” get thrown around entirely too lightly, it's good to know that there are a few people still worthy of the word's original intent. And when it comes to music in Iowa, Joe Price stands as one of the art's legendary practitioners.
Armed with a joyous, disarming demeanor and the ability to play the doors off most anyone else in the room, Price has opened for the likes of Iris Dement and John Lee Hooker, while Iowa's own Greg Brown calls Price “the Buddha.” Brown isn't alone in his praise, as a litany of Iowa musicians list Price as one of their influences.
Price's reputation was cemented in the 1970's, when he spent the latter half of the decade as part of Mother Blues, one of the greatest and most heavily influential Iowa blues bands of all time. It was a time when Price was playing nearly non-stop, and developed the style that has made him such a memorable performer.
And make no mistake, Price certainly is memorable. Head down while he plays, big ball cap covering his eyes from the crowd while he plies his trade, feet tapping out the time as his hands work those six strings like their on autopilot. Price isn't the kind of artist you “think” you've seen play; once you've been taken to church by that slide, it stays with you.
But no man lives by bread alone, and Price has two great loves in his life. It's the rare man that gets to mix two passions together and make a life out of it, but Vicki Price makes that easy. The pair married in 1987, but Vicki had been holding her own in the wilds of small-town Iowa before then. Her guitar playing has more structure to it than Joe's, while her voice provides a good deal of their songs fire.
Bold and brassy when she wants to be, Vicki's voice has elicited visions of Loretta Lynn or June Carter, but she's able to get far bluesier than any of her most obvious comparisons. This duo is far more than the sum of their impressive parts: it is when these two take the stage together that the genuine magic happens.
Joe's deep love and admiration for his wife is obvious from the moment she joins him on stage—something that can happen at any point during a set; he beckons her with “You Are My Sunshine”—and the amount of fun they clearly have performing with one another elevates their performances, transforming them from something that blues purists and guitar fans can appreciate, into something that everyone with ears and a love of life can understand and tap along to.
Joe and Vicki are both members of the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame. Their 2009 album "Rain or Shine" won the Independent Music Award for best Blues CD of the year. Joe is also a member of the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was a finalist in the International Blues Challenge.
The couple released a slew of solo CD's on seminal Iowa label Trailer Records, including “25 Below” (Joe, 1996), “Mississippi Summer” (Vicki, 1998), “Request” (Joe, 1999), “Designated Drive” (Joe, 2000) and “Looking for Love” (Vicki, 2005). After Trailer closed up shop, the pair released 2008's “A Brand New Place” and 2009's “Rain or Shine” independently. The latter two albums were both lavished with critical praise, but the pair may have just saved their best work for their most recent album, “Night Owls.” Featuring both Joe and Vicki throughout, “Night Owls” is the Price's music at its fullest, most memorable and most fun.
Whether you are seeing them for the first time or the 100th, whether it's live or via one of their albums, experiencing Joe and Vicki Price is an experience worth having, worth sharing, and easy to love. Chad Taylor
FOR BOOKING: Vicki Price - Blues Acres Productions - 563-419-8793 - email@example.com - PO Box 32 - Decorah, IA 52101
Jam for Jam is a non-profit organization. Teaching basic carpentry and music skills to under-educated folks in inner-island Jamaica.