About 61 North
61 North is an electrifying blues-rock band whose high-energy performances have established them as one of the Northeast’s best live concert and festival attractions. Their swampy, guitar-heavy sound has drawn comparisons to Gov’t Mule; their freewheeling, Southern-rock vibe to the Allman Brothers Band; and their charismatic funk-pop to the Black Crowes. Now, having captured that live energy on their new record Back Down To The Woods, 61 North is set for a national breakthrough in 2012.
Back Down To The Woods, co-produced by Jeff Glixman (Kansas, Black Sabbath, Ludacris), is a ten-song, all-original affair, running the gamut from tightly constructed hard-rock singles to extended jams, unified by tight grooves, passionate vocals and — above all — generous helpings of creamy, ferocious guitar sounds. Their 2008 debut On The Road garnered regular airplay and accolades from local radio, including WSTW’s “Best Rock Song”for “Loaded Gun”, as well as coveted spots opening for national acts such as Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Dumpstaphunk, Big Sam’s Funky Nation and many more.
The band’s unique origin also has attracted notice. Childhood friends Brian LaPann and Ryan “Gooch” Nelson had made plans to get together and jam on New Year’s Day, 2004. Instead, Gooch awoke days later in a hospital, having suffered a severe spinal injury in a car crash. He lost all use of his legs and most use of his arms as well. Even more devastating to the dedicated young musician, he lost the ability to play guitar—permanently, he assumed. Through two years of rehab, Gooch didn’t play a note.
Gooch’s fate changed in 2006 when his grandfather bought him a new electric guitar and suggested he try to play it with a slide. Overcoming his limited range of motion, Gooch developed a unique slide technique using a custom-made hand-blown thumb slide on the left hand and thumb pick on the right playing his cherished Les Paul. Later that year, LaPann and Gooch finally got together for that jam session, and Gooch’s playing soon moved from therapeutic to out-and-out shredding.
In the meantime, LaPann had developed into a fierce, nimble rock guitarist in his own right, and a skilled vocalist as well. After performing briefly as a duo in coffee shops, LaPann and Gooch invited bassist Bob Comfort and drummer Joe Bross to join the band, and 61 North soon arrived, however improbably, as a fully realized four-piece rock band and serious live act. The rhythm section’s most apt comparison is with Led Zeppelin—with Comfort as the highly creative, well schooled and highly skilled musician on bass, and Bross as the young, hard-pounding drummer with incredible feel at any tempo, in any style.
As 61 North continues its rise on the radio and on concert stages, the band remains committed to helping others who have suffered spinal cord injuries, in particular those who who didn’t have the same family support that has benefited Nelson. The band performs at many fundraisers throughout the year and hosts its own annual Benefit Concert For Spinal Cord Injury, with money raised donated to the Adam Taliaferro Foundation and Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, where Gooch conducted his rehab.