Avoca blues artist Teddy Young releases ‘Movin’ On,’ plans local performances
In a Northeastern Pennsylvania blues scene that is fortunate to have accomplished genre veterans, recently anointed artists reinterpreting the style, and an encouraging number of talented writers and players filling out the spectrum, Teddy Young & The Aces may have just raised the bar.
Their recent release, “Movin’ On,” is a clinic of instrumental expertise, a display of refreshing diversity, and is keenly intellectual without sacrificing an ounce of soul.
In celebration of the release, Young has scheduled two local performances. The first will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. July 30 at Arlo’s Country Store & Tavern in Union Dale and the second from 8 to 11 p.m. Sept. 9 at the Tap at Humboldt Beer Depot in Hazle Township.
Born Teddy Wielgopolski, in Pittston, Young began playing guitar at age 9. “Around 12 or 13,” his new guitar teacher and notable local bluesman, Ray “StingRay” Del Priore, introduced him to blues music.
By 16, Wielgopolski was impressing his older counterparts in the NEPA music scene, whom collectively referred to him as Young Gun.
Around 25, the already respected guitarist took the first part of that moniker and fashioned his lasting stage name, Teddy Young.
“It fits on the album cover more easily,” Young joked in a recent interview.
Among those artists who recognized his talent at a young age, Young names Del Priore and Paul Lion, with whom Young was in Merchants of Groove, as mentors.
“He was also really influential,” Young said of Lion, “because he was way into old-school blues stuff.”
Now a 44-year-old Avoca resident, Young said “Movin’ On” is his third official album, although other projects got shelved over the years.
“Live at the Roadhouse,” recorded in the early 2000’s, was “progressive blues stuff,” Young said.
“The other one was all original, but back then I was into more traditional stuff, so it sounded like everybody else’s blues album,” Young said of “Blues of the ’90s,” which was recorded around 1995. “I was young and didn’t focus a lot on it being really different.”
“Movin’ On” is anything but everybody else’s blues album.
From the ferociously groovy blues-rock of the opening number, “Let’s Start All Over Again,” to the bouncy title track, which utilizes elements of jazz and swing, the record establishes itself as coloring outside the lines from the beginning.
The sultry and worldly-sounding “Buddah Fly,” the outrageously funky and appropriately named “Chico’s Funk,” and the Jimi Hendrix-esque “Young Man’s Blues” follow throughout a volume that holds something different, and intriguing, for the listener at every interval.
It’s fitting that Young lists Led Zeppelin’s eponymous debut and Hendrix’s “Smash Hits” among the records most influential to him as they were vigorous and daring approaches to blues music in their era.
“Over the years, I started getting into different styles, jazz for a while, fusion jazz. I like R&B and funk … and that’s when I really started changing direction a bit as far as arrangements go,” Young said.
“That’s why I’m proud of this one. We really worked on the arrangements and making it different. I think there’s maybe one song on there that’s a standard blues kind of song.”
Longtime collaborators Robert “Frog” Fenstermaker and Bill Gardiner were Young’s creative cohorts at King Room Studios in downtown Wilkes-Barre, where the trio worked with producer James Yamrus.
“It was basically recorded live with some vocal overdubs and some solo overdubs, but that was about it,” Young said. “We didn’t put it together in bits and pieces, so it has that live sound. I think we got a great feel for what I envisioned this band to sound like.”
Young said his ability to visit multiple styles and compose technical arrangements while maintaining an emotive feel comes from years of being a live performer.
“I spent a lot of time on the road, so that’s probably why it comes across that way, because I’ve done it live so many times,” Young said.
“I always put off having an original record like this for some reason, whether it be financial or just not being motivated,” Young said. “I didn’t want it to sound like these canned records, all the same 1, 4, 5 stuff. That’s what this one’s all about.”
For the album release shows, Young will be joined by Fenstermaker on bass, while album drummer Gardiner has retired from live professional drumming. For the Union Dale performance, he’ll be accompanied by accomplished West Pittston drummer Sharon O’Connell, and for the Hazle Township show, he’ll enlist the percussive services of Berklee College of Music graduate Dean Rickard, of Columbia, N.J., whom Young calls “another monster drummer.”
Of the two separate performances in celebration of “Movin’ On,” Young said, “I wanted to cover our whole area so people could come from different directions.”
For a full schedule of upcoming performances, visit teddyyoung.net.
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
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Available in store: Music Go Round, 251 Mundy St., Wilkes-Barre Township