Q&A with Sarah Benck and Rex Granite - Omaha's powerhouse boogie swing group of The Rex Granite Band

"Blues music is communication on an elemental level."

The Rex Granite Band featuring Sarah Benck: The True Spirit of Blues Rock

Winners of the 2017 OEA "Best Blues" award, Omaha Nebraska’s Blues/Rock original, The Rex Granite Band draws it’s fresh/retro sound from a variety of sources. Straight-up Rock and Roll, Blues, and Gospel all play heavily in their gutsy roots rock style. Sarah Benck and Rex Granite are the primary song writers in the band, but the true appeal lies with the unique vocal of Sarah along with Sarah/Rex guitar chemistry. The band has put together a powerhouse blues showcase. Originally formed in 2002, The Rex Granite recorded their first CD "Rollin' and Tumblin" in 2003.

Newly reformed in 2015, the band has released their second album "Spirit/ Matter/ Truth/ Lies" (2017). Nine original tunes plus a wonderful stripped down version of Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone To Love". The Rex Granite Band featuring Sarah Benck has won The OEA "Best Blues" in 2017, and been nominated again in 2018.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the rock n roll culture? What does blues mean to you?

Sarah: I learned from rock and roll culture an opportunity to genuinely and safely express myself and connect supernaturally through the spirit of performance. The blues to me are a way to connect with myself and others in the most fundamental and rudimentary way emotionally through music.

Rex: I learned that my relationship with God is much more important than gratifying myself or taking credit for the good things that happen.

How do you describe the bands songbook and sound? Make an account of the case of the blues in Omaha.

Sarah: The songbook of the Rex granite band is a story of our journey through life emotionally and spiritually, reflected uniquely through the input of each member, in an authentic sound categorized coincidentally as the blues or roots genre. Put simply, we are what we are. We do not try to fit or write to belong to a certain type or category of music. Others choose to identify our sound most with the blues and roots genre. We are fortunate in Omaha to live in a community with a strong blues society, that not only supports and encourages lesser known local and touring blues and roots artists, but also implements programs to educate and excite the next generation of young musicians.

Rex: Our sound is blues based honest roots music. We strive for pop sensibilities with ragged improvisation. Omaha's Blues scene is better than most cities, we've lost a few clubs and therefore a few bands but have a healthy amount of original music blues bands functioning regularly.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts or studio sessions which you'd like to share with us?

Sarah: Wow this is a good question. I've been fortunate to rack up a bounty of treasured musical memories. One of my favorites was performing at my wedding reception, singing for my husband and sharing my gift with his family and mine.

Rex: I sat in with Luther Allison on New Years Eve when I was 17 years old. He let me take a number of solos which I didn't deserve to take. His graciousness and expertise stay with me to this day.

"The blues to me are a way to connect with myself and others in the most fundamental and rudimentary way emotionally through music." (Photo: The Rex Granite Band )

What do you miss nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Sarah: I miss the simplicity and purity of the music of the past, uninhibited by technological perfectionism. You could still feel the emotion through the recording, appreciate the charm in the flaws. The same goes for the live performance aspect of music. I believe in the supernatural powers of music the that enable the individual or the band as an individual unit to command and possess the attention and heart of the listener. I fear that superficial aspects of performance such as costumes, big screens, props, and gratuitous "chops" have replaced the definition of what defines a good performance, rather than the true connection that is possible through the power of the music and the heart of the performance itself. My hope is that eventually we will have seen all there is to see and topped all spectacles, becoming bored of the frivolity, to where an authentic performance will become the new awe inspiration once again.

Rex: I miss the music culture, where the average person had an affinity for live music. My hopes for the future would be that a younger generation comes up that rebels against technology, and therefore re-empowers music and live musician performance.

What does to be a female artist in a man’s world as James brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Sarah: I think now more than ever, women are shining in the world of music, and are in a position to share there perspective authentically without discrimination. Musically I've never felt that my gender limited my opportunity. I am the only one who can limit my opportunity, through negative attitudes, fears, lack of work ethic or integrity.

What touched (emotionally) you from the sound of slide guitar? What are the secrets of slide?

Rex: David Lindley's guitar solo on Walter Egan's "Maybe Maybe" shook me. The tone and emotional impact struck me far harder than any standard guitar playing I was listening to. Slide guitar's secret is that it takes you away from muscle memory and a "lick" mentality, and puts your musicality and attitude in the driver's seat.

What is the impact of blues music and culture to the racial and socio-cultural implications?

Sarah: I am an idealist. I believe that a good and true performance is powerful enough to transcend all differences. It is a message from one heart to another.

Rex: Blues music is communication on an elemental level. I recently talked to a young rapper who was a doorman at a blues club. I talked to him about chemistry between human musicians and the emotional impact of collaboration, and the purpose of his art. At the end of the night he searched me out and said "You blew my mind, man, I can see it, I can see it!"

Let's take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Sarah: I'm a family woman. I would travel to the future and witness the birth of my first grand child.

Rex: I'd like to be in the lobby of Chess records circa 1963. I'd offer them $50 if they'd let me be a session guy for a day.

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