Ghost Hounds, Eric Gales help bring the blues to Pittsburgh’s first Maple House Festival

Black Pumas

We don’t know what Pittsburgh-based blues-rockers the Ghost Hounds might have had planned for the rest of their set at this past weekend’s inaugural Maple House Festival at Hartwood Acres Park, but we’re pretty sure it would’ve been good, judging from what we were able to hear from them before the set was cut short by approaching severe weather. Unfortunately, by the time the winds settled, the skies somewhat cleared, and the gates re-opened for the return of the crowd, it was already time to move on to the night’s next act in the R&B/soul-funk sounds of the Black Pumas, who, we think most would agree, put on a pretty spectacular show themselves, including closing with their smooth soulful hit “Colors”.

Ghost Hounds

But we have to say, we certainly liked what we heard from the Ghost Hounds before the break in the action, with a nice mix of songs from past albums (including the rocking “Bad News” and their cover of Cliff Richards’ “Devil Woman” off Roses are Black and the catchy, soulful, part-responsibility-owning cooker “Half My Fault” off A Little Calamity), their latest album, the recently released blues-focused You Broke Me (the driving “Baby We’re Through”), and even an upcoming album, which, from this preview, sounds like the band will be very much carrying forward the momentum they’ve started to build on other recent projects.

This was our first time catching the Ghost Hounds live, and we’re pleased to report that the band delivered everything we looked forward to seeing, with lead vocalist Tre’ Nation playing the soulful, dynamic frontman but other band members and backing singers also getting plenty of chances to shine throughout the set, including some great solos from guitarists Johnny Baab and Thomas Tull as well as a few shout-outs to hometown keyboardist Joe Munroe, all making for a highly energetic and entertaining set that guaranteed we — and lots of others in attendance from the look and sound of it — will be coming back for more.

Stay tuned for more Ghost Hounds coverage in the coming weeks as we bring you an interview with band guitarist Johnny Baab

Eric Gales

Someone else who hopefully will be returning with more soon is blues guitarist and singer Eric Gales, who we had the chance to hear earlier in the day on the festival’s other stage and who revealed that this may have been his first time in Pittsburgh, which is a bit hard to fathom considering the respect and praise Gales’ playing has garnered through the years. 

Approaching six years clean and sober in July, Gales paused a few songs in to explain to the audience: “I need you all to understand where I’m coming from, ’cause I’ve been through some shit and I’m playing my way out of it”.

Of course, by then, that task was already well underway, with Gales having come out strong on numbers like “You Don’t Know the Blues” (concluding, at the end, that Pittsburgh does indeed know the blues) and “Put That Back” off his new Crown album. After slowing it down for a few minutes with the more R&Bsy “Been So Long”, Gales closed out his set with some familiar riffs, first encouraging the crowd to join him in giving “a big middle finger to the past two and a half years’ of pandemic with “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” and then keeping it rocking with a “Voodoo Chile/Back in Black” medley.

With other acts that included Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Big Sam’s Funky Nation,  Lake Street Dive, Elle King, and many others, this inaugural offering of the Maple House Festival was quite a good one — and for a good cause too, benefiting Allegheny County parks such as Hartwood, which will hopefully serve as home to many future Maple House Festivals.

Big Sam’s Funky Nation
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