FAIRFIELD — The Craig Caffall Band makes a return engagement Saturday to Winterhawk Winery, bringing its up-tempo blues and rock designed to get people up on their feet and dancing.
Caffall is a journeyman guitarist who, in addition to fronting his own band, also tours and records with Maria Muldaur (“Midnight at the Oasis”). He also is a record producer with a mobile studio.
Caffall started to develop his style in childhood, when he sopped up influences during his family’s travels.
“I originally started out as a drummer at about 8 years old because my parents discovered I had rhythm,” Caffall said. “But drums are hard to cart around the world. When I went to boarding school in England, I started getting into rock ’n’ roll and blues. My stepdad took me to see Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall and also to see people like Lena Horne. I liked it all as a 12-year-old.”
Caffall’s stepfather was John Muir, descendent of the famed naturalist with the same name. When Caffal’s mother and Muir married, they bought a house in Mexico and would spend most of the year there, coming back to the states for about a month so Muir could tend to his book publishing company.
“In Mexico, I was exposed to lots of Latin music – a lot of Santana-type stuff, but also the music of rancherias and boleros,” Caffall said. “I love Mexico and the music was great and opened my eyes to a lot of different styles. I speak fluent Spanish and have two Spanish songs on my latest album, ‘That’s When You Got it Made.’ ”
When he was 17, Caffall began playing professionally at a club in Mexico, backing up a singer from Chicago. He learned the ins and outs of performing as well as developing his chops by accompanying her on guitar and then finishing out the set after the singer went to schmooze with the crowd.
Caffall has been the guitarist for Muldaur for eight years and through their association has played and shared the stage with many other musicians, including Taj Mahal, Dr. John and Huey Lewis. Still, musicians he’d one day love to make music with include Sting, Meryl Haggard, Santana and even AC/DC.
“The Young brothers, Angus and Malcolm, can play a power rock song like nobody’s business. It would be fun to play with them,” Caffall said.
A different project Caffall undertook, two years in the making, was producing an album for the widow of John Stewart, titled “Same Old Heart.” With modern technology, he basically set up the studio in her living room.
“John Stewart was an original member of The Kingston Trio and his big claim to fame is that he wrote ‘Daydream Believer,’ recorded by The Monkees,” Caffall said. “His widow, Buffy Ford Stewart, recorded tracks with Roseanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Dan Hicks, Timothy B. Schmidt from The Eagles and we even got Davy Jones and Peter Tork to sing ‘Daydream Believer’ with her as well. It’s amazing. All of the artists who contributed to ‘Same Old Heart’ were really big fans of John Stewart.”
Caffall’s live set is about tapping into the vibe and spreading it to the audience via the backbeat.
“I love to see people dance and get off on music. It makes me feel good when they are reacting and I want to play songs that they know so they’ll want to get up and dance. Then I throw in my originals and they dig them, too,” Caffall said. “I lived in New Orleans for five years and we would play a song on my last album called ‘Mudbugs and Dixie Beer.’ After a solo, we’d bust into ‘Iko Iko’ and ‘Jambalaya’ and they loved it. The band is just smokin’ hot.”
As for what those who have never experienced his blend of rock and blues with Latin and swamp influences can expect at Winterhawk Winery, Caffall had four words:
“Bring your dancing shoes,” he said.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected].
Craig Caffall Band
- 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday
- Winterhawk Winery
- 4537 Abernathy Road