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Honey B & T-Bones

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Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

Formed in 1982, Honey B. & T-Bones have been a formidable force, not only in their native Finland but all across Europe. The band was founded by Aija "Honey B." Puurtinen (vocals, bass) and Esa Kuloniemi (guitars, vocals), and they have been the consistent core of the band throughout the years. They began as a semi-traditional blues group, offering a mix of covers and original songs performed with a distinctive style. Deeply attuned to current music trends as well as the blues traditions of such acknowledged masters as Elmore James and lesser-known legends like Frankie Lee Sims, they took no hostages in their incendiary arrival on the scene. The smoky range of Puurtinen's vocals, which can vary from a fluid blues howl to Afro-pop scatting, and the naturalistic mastery of Kuloniemi's instrument of choice proved a killer combination that has expanded and improved in leaps over the following decades.

They released their first 12" EP in 1984, followed it with 1985's self-released 7" single, "Lucy Mae Blues/Coming Home," and made their big breakthrough with their EMI/Parlophone debut, Anytime, later in the same year. TV appearances and prominent festival performances solidified their status, and follow-up records, like 1986's Help Me, kept the band current and visible. In a slight shift in priorities, 1987's Queen Bee Against Dr. Oddball had more pop influences and could be seen as the beginning of their slow transformation into a modern rock & roll band with significant blues influences.

In 1988 they met the late Texas blues harmonica virtuoso Gary Primich, performing in Finland at the time with his group Mannish Boys. Three years later they would join forces and record the six-song mini-album Maantiekiitäjät '91 (Roadrunners '91). T-Bones followed this guest appearance the next year when they toured Finland with "Lowdown" Mel Brown, though only one song from their joint studio recordings has appeared so far (on the compilation CD Hot Dog Pop, Hit Singles, 1993). They were one of the hardest-working blues bands on the old Continent during their first ten years, performing an average of 200 gigs a year with half of these abroad. They proved to be particularly successful in Germany, and a testament to their versatile 1994 sound can be heard on 2006's staggering live double-CD Live! Vol. 1: Rockender Tornado aus Finnland. The band was equally at home performing originals like "Shake Your Shimmy" as it was scorching through Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor" or running through a medley of Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock," "The Munsters Theme," and "Tequila," with the crowd chanting "go, Honey, go go go!" wildly in the background. The two-hour recording is a culmination of the band's early work and a textbook example of the vital, electric charge that results when the blues tradition is merged with a garage rock sensibility.

The number of their performances decreased in the '90s and into the new millennium due to extensive projects outside the scope of the band. The records kept coming, but 1993's Shake Your Shimmy was the last of the old Honey B. Supernatural from 1995, Psychophysical from 1997, and 2000's Now & Eternity were exponential expansions to their sound, adding pop, surf, electro, and psychedelic influences to their roots base with considerable artistic success. Puurtinen recorded solo albums and made guest appearances concurrent to their work with HBTB, and Kuloniemi covered the world of blues in print by translating blues biographies, writing columns and reviews, and running a weekly national radio show. All these side projects collided in 2005's fiery Terrifying Stories from T-Bone Town, a sumptuous return to their beloved roots with the added experiences from the intervening years. At this juncture, the band was equally at home covering Bo Diddley as it was ensconced in the garage blues tradition exemplified by Fat Possum artists like Black Keys, and adding samples to the mix with results equaling those of late-period R.L. Burnside. While it didn't reach the sales peaks of the earlier material, the album was a towering artistic achievement and a potent reminder of the combined capabilities of the band.

Since then, Puurtinen produced the 2006 album Miero by Finnish folk sensation Värttina, and Kuloniemi released his solo album Legend of Bicycle Bronson with guest performances from a wide range of blues greats, including Gary Primich. In 2007 they performed successfully with the grand master of Finnish roots music, Tuomari Nurmio, under the moniker Judge Bean Meets Honey B. & T-Bones, as well as performing experimental blues and jazz shows alongside the renowned UMO Jazz Orchestra.

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