Healing Blues Project reunites Haymarket Riot members for new single

by YES! Weekly staff

There’s this old adage in the music business that if you haven’t “made” it by the time you’re 30, you might as well hang up your microphone or guitar strap and find a different career. With few exceptions, this adage has proven to be the norm more so than not. So, what happens when you find a band that discovers their new voice and sound 30 years after they started? Haymarket Riot is the answer and their story is a unique one.Back in the 80’s heyday of the Greensboro music scene, Haymarket Riot formed and after a few of the obligatory member rotations their bass player Jon Epstein and lead singer Charlotte Whitted were half of what was a popular band playing clubs and festivals all over North Carolina. Fast forward a few years and after graduate school, marriages and kids, the four members parted ways and went on to work on other projects.It took the plight of homelessness and Greensboro College’s Healing Blues project to ignite a fire that flamed Haymarket Riot back into existence. Epstein, tasked with writing a song for the Healing Blues album, reached out to Whitted to see if she’d lend her vocals and local guitar legend Jim O’Gara his guitar chops. Everyone said yes and from there, Epstein and Whitted realized that a few decades had given them an entirely new perspective on making music. As Whitted points out, “When you’re in your 20’s you’re concerned with making money and a name, but after some time you realize that making music is its own heals a musician’s soul.” When it came time to perform at the concert, Epstein knew something was brewing. “I’ve always wanted to have a band that was without all of the requisite drama and could just simply play good music. All of us come from different backgrounds—I played in the rock and metal scene in Cleveland, Jim has a progressive rock vibe and studied music for years and Charlotte had been going down the country music path—but when you put all of us together it just works”. Next, Epstein went on a search for a permanent drummer and he found Phil Holder and suddenly it looked like Haymarket Riot was not just a one-time thing but an ongoing musical project.O’Gara observes, “Playing with Haymarket Riot has been different from all the other projects I have worked with because my initial working with them was for a project in which everyone tossed away their ego. Also, everyone, while living crazy hectic lives with family, is focused on making good music that we all enjoy. We’re not doing this to get signed, become world famous, which if it happens, great. We’re making this music to create something that we can be proud of, that our families can be proud of.”Phil Holder, the newest member just feels lucky. “Even though I started playing drums when I was 12, HMR is only the third professional band I have been in during my career and I have to say how thrilled I am about all of the talent in this band, I appreciate how lucky I am to be here”.The Healing Blues was the catalyst but Epstein’s drive to make relevant music that rocks is what is fueling this new iteration of the band. “Playing and writing the blues was a different path for me and I loved the experience but at the end of the day, I gravitate towards a sound that has some teeth to it.. I’m a rock guy,” he said. As the author of a book titled “If It’s Too Loud, You’re Too Old’ (reissue 2016), Epstein should know.The band just finished recording at Earthtones in Greensboro and their first single is a combined cover of “Mississippi Queen” and “Fire and Water”. Guest vocalist Chuck Johnson takes the reins with “Mississippi Queen” giving Leslie West a run for his money and Whitted turns “Fire and Water” into a feminine anthem . At first listen, their versions of these rock hits will have you anxiously waiting for their full record, which is in production now.So maybe you may not make it by the time you’re 30, but Haymarket Riot proves that after 30 years you may just rediscover a whole new sound and purpose.