by Darla Parris Smallwood

Herbie D and the Dangermen don’t need speakers to blow away an audience.

Whether these guys bring their upbeat, thumping acoustic blues to a big festival stage, an intimate bar, or a private house party, one thing never changes: You’re guaranteed to feel like one of them.

“It’s more about you than it is about us. It’s about making a personal connection with you. We’re just a bunch of regular guys having fun, and we’ll do everything we can to pull you in with us,” Herbie explains.

Yep, they’re regular guys, all right. Regular guys whose uniquely unplugged take on Appalachian and Louisiana blues is so irresistibly engaging that you won’t be able to stop tapping your feet. You might even jump up to dance in the driveway. Forget about bands that seem like so much background noise in a bar. Herbie D and the Dangermen will make you want to lean in and listen.

The Virginia-based band has a simple recipe for cooking up an unforgettable experience no matter where they play. Combine Herbie Desseyn’s raspy lead vocals and bluesy acoustic guitar style with Chris Gifford’s bumping groove-along upright bass. Blend in Michael Salazar’s (Sal’s) rhythmic, shuffling drums. Then top it all off with a giant shot of Art Martin’s high-octane Chicago-style artistry with every kind of saxophone. This guy can make the baritone beg on Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me,” and the soprano sax– and flute too (yes, flute!) – “sing” on a cover of “Roxanne” that sounds like oh-so-much more.

They’re not opposed to tweaking that recipe once in a while either, and have been known to layer in other instruments like the mandolin, harmonica, and fiddle. One of the songs on the band’s second album features Jay Shank on viola, all because of a chance meeting after he heard Herbie D from next door while on a break during his own band’s show.

Speaking of albums, Herbie, Chris, Art and Sal agree that nothing competes with no-barriers live music. But if you just can’t make it to a gig, their recorded music can tide you over. Listen to one of their original songs like “Route 32” or “Every Guy Wants to Be Your Man” and you’ll quickly be reminded to hightail it to their next performance.
But if you’re within a few feet of Herbie D and the Dangermen – and if they have their way, you will be – you might even get to stand in and sing a number with the guys. And why not? This is a band whose motto seems to be “The more fun you have, the more fun we have.”

Herbie D and the Dangermen’s secret ingredient is that they somehow make everybody in any crowd feel like part of one big family. If you’re at a bar, Herbie may just join you for a beer during the break. If you’re at a house party, don’t be surprised when the Dangermen pull up folding chairs or plop down beside you on the porch swing.

House or no house, wherever these guys play, it’s your party!