The Long Road

With a new line-up and an old gig, Iko-Iko keeps rolling along

The key, as it is in so many of the better rock and blues bands, is the rhythm section. Drout and Swetland sound as if they've been playing together since birth. "Being in a band is like going into combat," says Drout, "if you're always worried about someone else screwing up, you're going to screw up. With Danny, I can relax, because I just know that's not gonna happen. It's like you walk in and you've known the person all your life. He's a pro. He's played with the Amboy Dukes, the MC5. You know Bob Seger's `Ramblin', Gamblin' Man'? That was Danny on traps. He's great."

Drout, a self-taught guitarist who learned the bass-ics (sorry) from another local blues luminary, Fleet Starbuck, when the two decided to perform as a duo for awhile, has evolved into a pretty fair four-string player himself. Nobody's going to confuse his instrumental work with Jaco's, but he's always in the pocket and he makes it look easy. Come to think of it, that description applies to his vocals as well. He is the polar opposite of an R&B poseur like Michael Bolton. Drout's seemingly effortless singing and bass playing have carried the band through myriad personnel changes over the years, and in all likelihood will continue to stoke the Iko-Iko engine for many to come.

There was some apprehension among blues insiders that the departure of guitar-god Julian Kasper would leave Iko-Iko with a void too large to fill. After all, the band has always been a showcase for killer axe men, with Wenzel and Nick Kane preceding Kasper in the glamor position. While neither Williams nor Bauer is from the grandstanding Hendrix-Stevie Ray school of blues guitar, their taste and flexibility serve the band in good stead. There are no holes in the sound.

The only question now appears to be whether Iko-Iko will still be the house band when the Road celebrates its centennial.

IKO-IKO performs with Los Lobos, NRBQ, Marcia Ball, Lester Chambers Blues Band featuring Bobby Keys, Kenny Neal, and Guardians of the Flame after 2:00 p.m. Saturday at Bayfront Park Amphitheatre, 301 Biscayne Blvd, 374-1198. Tickets cost $12.

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