Two of Taos’ favorite musical performers — a legendary keyboardist, and a powerhouse vocalist — are getting into the holiday spirit Friday (Dec. 22), when KTAOS presents “Bob Andrews and Mina Tank’s Holiday Party.” Doors open at 6 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show.
British-born Bob Andrews grew up in the northern English county of Yorkshire. He began piano lessons at age 7, after his mother noticed his enthusiasm for banging on a neighbor’s piano.
By the time he was 16, Andrews was a working professional, playing underage in clubs and discovering the guitar riffs of Howlin’ Wolf and the Chicago blues.
For the next two years, he honed his Hammond organ and piano skills on a whirlwind European road trip, playing six or seven nights a week in nightclubs and at U.S. military bases in Germany and Spain. His virtuosity grew to include electric bass, guitar and ukulele along with a growing collection of keyboards.
He performed with musical luminaries including Nick Lowe, Dave Edmonds, Al Stewart and, from 1969-1975, the Brinsley Schwarz band.
In the summer of 1975, Andrews and guitarist Schwarz joined up with singer-songwriter-guitarist Graham Parker to form Graham Parker and the Rumour. They began in the British pub rock scene, augmented at times by a four-man horn section known as The Rumour Horns. The band has been credited with heralding the arrival of the Punk and New Age eras, and is considered to have influenced a generation of musicians.
After touring and recording in the UK through the 1980s, Andrews moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, and had a successful multi-decade run performing in that vibrant musical hub. He relocated to Taos in 2012.
Mina Tank has been singing since the age of 3. She grew up in a musical family as one of a dozen siblings, singing and dancing in her father’s Polynesian shows in Hawaii. “That’s how it all started,” Tank said. The family variety show continued after leaving Hawaii for New Jersey, then Indiana, and finally New Mexico.
She came to national prominence in 2010, when MySpace videos of her singing “kitchen karaoke” were discovered by television host Ellen Degeneres. Tank was invited to be a guest on the show. Her rendition of the Etta James classic “At Last” received rapturous praise and acclaim from Degeneres, the studio audience and millions of viewers.
Tank is best known to Taos audiences as the fiery lead singer of The Damn Band, which has been enlivening the Northern New Mexico music scene for more than 10 years. The group combines driving R&B/Rock with influences of Blues, Latin, Reggae and Pop to create a sound they describe as “unique as the Land of Enchantment itself.”
In 2014, Andrews joined The Damn Band on keyboards. He and Tank immediately found a shared musical affinity for singing harmonies. Together, they formulated the idea of a vocal duo that could sing and play at lower volume than a rock band, and perform in more intimate settings.
They debuted their duo act last year, and audiences responded enthusiastically to their unique, emotionally charged harmonic blend. Their repertoire, created from an infectious mix of old and new selections, showcased Tank’s evocative vocal depth.
This past summer, the duo opened for the up-and-coming Minnesota band Lake Street Dive. In October, they played the weekly Monday night “Off The Cuff” show at KTAOS, singing “Solid Gold Duets” in front of packed crowds.
Their 2016 Christmas show at KTAOS Solar Center was so positively received that they’ve decided to do it again this year.
“We won’t be using the main stage, and the audience will be seated at tables in a kind of supper club setting,” said Andrews. “We will include songs from lots of different genres. Things we’ve done for ‘Off the Cuff,’ and of course some Christmas favorites.”
KTAOS’ Marketing Director Alex Simeti said he was looking forward to the festive event. “Bob Andrews and Mina Tank’s Holiday Party will be an intimate setting in the KTAOS Pavilion, filled with holiday joy and merriment by two of Taos’ most consummate musicians. Bob Andrews is one of the most accomplished and professional musicians to reside in Taos. He plays with the likes of superstars such as Elvis Costello and Jimmy Stadler. Mina Tank is clearly one of the best female vocalists in the region ...”
“I really love the intimacy of the duo shows,” said Tank. “Singing in a quiet setting makes for better dynamics and timing.”
Some future hopes for the duo include expanding into recording and writing their own material, as well as playing some select shows.
“Singing and playing with Mina is a joy,” Andrews said. “Taos is blessed with such a great talent pool of musicians for such a small town. I love this place. Mina and I hope we can take this duo a step further next year. We’re both really looking forward to singing together. It’s a rare treat for us as well as the audience.”
Tickets are $8 for this all-ages show. The KTAOS Solar Center is located at 9 State Road 150, just north of El Prado. For more information, call the venue at (575) 758-5826 or visit ktao.com.