Blues Traveler Biography
The phrase “jam bands” is officially part of the music world’s vocabularly – and although “punk” and “new wave” have made it all the way to Miriam-Webster’s, “jam bands” hasn’t. Which means, semantically speaking, jam bands remain cutting edge as a genre.
When “Jam Bands” officially make it into the dictionary, it’ll be largely due to one of a handful of artists: Blues Traveler. Blues Traveler, who made their name through relentless road work as well as a string of hit records, are first and foremost a live band, a fact that’s easily recognized in listening to the live Blues Traveler CD What You And I Have Been Through.
It’ll only take one listen to get it – the “it” being what it is about Blues Traveler that places them amongst the finest of the genre. The musicianship, the quality of John Popper’s vocals, the spontaneous and fluid explosion of instrumentals that accompanies each song, the songs themselves and the passion with which they’re delivered.
What You And I Have Been Through was recorded during tour dates during November and and December 2001, soon after the events of September 11th. (The CD’s opening track, Popper’s harmonica instrumental of “The Star Spangled Banner,” was performed to an emotional hometown crowd in New York.) The songs on the CD represent various phases of Blues Traveler’s career, from their debut album through to their most recent release.
A brief history for the uninitiated: based in New York and formed in 1988, Blues Traveler released their self-titled first album on A&M in 1990; it was quickly followed by Travelers & Thieves in September 1991. Singer/harmonica player John Popper was hospitalized following a serious motorcycle accident in 1993 -- but by the end of the year he was back on stage, performing in a wheelchair. When Blues Traveler released their third album, it broke into Billboard’s Top 100, and by the time they recorded their fourth album (Four), the band had officially broke: The album spawned one of the biggest hits of 1995 – the Grammy-winning “Run-Around.”
From there, Four went on to sell more then 4,000,000 albums. A double live album followed, Live From the Fall, in the summer of 1996 and in 1997 Blues Traveler released its fifth studio album, Straight On Till Morning. 1999 proved to be a tragic year; original bassist Bobby Sheehan passed away, and after completing his first solo effort, Zygote, Popper – who’d been facing chest pains for months -- was forced to undergo an angioplasty. (Popper also had gastric bypass surgery in April of 2000, and is gloriously healthy.)
The millennium saw a newly charged Blues Traveler, and their sixth record Bridge appeared in May 2001. (After the loss of Sheehan, the band added bassist Tad Kinchla and keyboardist Ben Wilson.)
What You And I Have Been Through reflects the rejuvenated Blues Traveler, as well as drawing on what it is that has always made the band the standard bearer of passionately played music that just happens to fit into the category that will one day be listed in Miriam-Webster’s following this: “To force one's way into or through a limited space.” Then again, with Blues Traveler, it’s not that far off of a definition: this is a band that finds astounding ways to integrate their sound into a limited space.
Blues Traveler Bio from Discogs
Members : John Popper (vocals, harmonica)
Chan Kinchla (guitar)
Bobby Sheehan (bass, 1988-99)
Brendan Hill (drums)
Tad Kinchla (bass, 1999-present)