MSG The Acoustic Blues Trio

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M.S.G.- The Acoustic Blues Trio Packs a Sound Steeped in Piedmont Blues
Appearance Part of Bristol's Monthly Stateline Jamboree Concert Series

Bristol is a good place to live.
Bristol is also a good place to play music. Miles Spicer and Jackie Merritt of M.S.G. - The Acoustic Blues Trio learned that firsthand while appearing at last year's Rhythm and Roots Reunion.

"Oh man, Bristol is so cool," Spicer said.
Now, Bristol welcomes back the trio. Slated to appear at the Bristol Public Library on March 22 as part of the monthly Stateline Jamboree concert series, M.S.G. packs a sound steeped in Piedmont blues. Just as bluegrass defined Bill Monroe or grunge rock defines Pearl Jam, blues defines this lively trio. "I've never really played anything but the blues," said Merritt by phone Tuesday morning from her home in Hampton, Va. "Blues always speaks to me. My record collection is all blues. "It's like, if it ain't the blues, then it ain't."

Along with vocalist extraordinaire Resa Gibbs, M.S.G. formed as a group in 2003. As with many a band, they evolved from a jam session. One song was played, and then another, followed by more. Gibbs sang. Spicer finger-picked his guitar. Merritt howled on the harmonica.

And lo and behold, a band was born.
"The cool thing is that when it's a jam there's no pressure," Spicer said by phone from his office in Washington, D.C. "We were saying, 'let's try this.' Then hey, we had something new that was worth exploring." M.S.G.'s explorations have to date led to one album, "Meet Me in the Middle," and a growing cadre of concert dates. Now, they're birthing a new album, which they said is about halfway completed. "Most of it is new with a few traditional songs," Merritt said.

As with most blues acts, M.S.G. built their sound while standing upon the shoulders of those who crafted Piedmont blues from long bygone eras. Stripped naked and lacking ostentation, their sound relies on Gibbs' fluid and encompassing vocals out front with a backbone strengthened by Spicer's guitar and Merritt's harmonica. Translated, they are the musical offspring of the legends. "I really go to the old guys - Etta Baker, John Jackson, Brownie McGhee," Merritt said.

Yet, there's a marked difference. Blues like most any genre often embraces fodder associated with the underbelly of society - booze and barflies, cheating men and no-good women. M.S.G. generally do not integrate those things into their music. "Drinking and drugging and misusing women, we don't go there," Spicer said. "I'm a friendly guy." Likewise, M.S.G. leaves no doubt as to how blue the blues can get. While tiptoeing away from its seedier aspects, they nonetheless meet head-on with the essence of blues - life lived, love won, love lost and that which can follow. Sounds simple. And in a way it is exactly that - simple.

"Blues tells you that your troubles aren't unique," Merritt said. "It also tells you that your troubles are not fatal." Comfort therefore results for many in the knowledge that yes, we may suffer, yet not alone. So when M.S.G. whips out lively renditions of Leadbelly's "Midnight Special" and oft-covered "Frankie and Johnny," perhaps more than a few in attendance will sit, smile and remember days for them that were.


TOM NETHERLAND is a freelance writer. He can be reached at

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