Ron Artis II & The Truth debuts at Bluesdays in The Village at Squaw Valley.
Of all the great Bluesdays guitarists this summer, Ron Artis could be the fastest. Blues is just part of the mix that Ron Artis II & The Truth brings to the bandstand. There’s also soul, folk and gospel. But when he wants to, Artis can accelerate to Jimi Hendrix mode.
He plays in a trio with his younger brother Stevon on drums and Riley Pa’Akaula bass. Ron and Stevon are among 11 children who all grew up to become musicians or artists. They are from Oahu. For a time, the children played in their parents family band.
“Anybody who’s got a family knows that it is easy to get in arguments with your brothers, but we have a healthy relationship,” Artis said. “We know how different we are and we come together for a common goal, and that common goal is to really bring a lot of positive music into this world.”
Ron Artis II & The Truth will return to the summertime music and yoga event at Squaw Valley July 19-22, along with Allen Stone and Eric Krasno.
Ron Artis II & The Truth opened for G. Love & Special Sauce on March 29 at the Crystal Bay Casino.
“We did a gig with G. Love back home and he basically screamed at us, ‘You’re not allowed to hide out here in Hawaii no more. I am taking you on tour with me the whole month of March.’ We thought he was joking.”
Ron Artis II & The Truth’s album, “Soul Street,” which will be released April 6, is no joke. It’s reminiscent of Gary Clark Jr.’s breakout album in 2012, “Blak and Blu,” which featured diverse styles. No matter which a listener preferred, the musicianship is undeniable.
So who is 31-year-old Ron Artis II? Like the name says, he is the son of Ron Artis, an artist from California who took a job in Hawaii and never left. Ron II is the eldest son of 11 siblings, each of whom is a musician or artist.
“My dad was pretty very strict about music,” Artis said. “He said, ‘Let me break it down to you like this. You have fun with this or if you want to be the best you can be, let me know.’ And I was a cocky little guy. I was like, ‘I want to be the best.’ He said, ‘There’s no such thing as the best in music. There’s only the best you can be. …
“He’d always be really honest with me. If it sounded good, he jumped up and kissed me on forehead. But if I played like crap, he’d tell me. As I began to develop as an artist, it was always keep your ears open and always listen to the others because everybody’s saying something. There’s no such thing as just notes. So when I grew up, it was a really, really focused learning experience. We were homeschooled. My mother is a singer and my dad played every instrument he put his hands on. He was wildly creative.”
Artis played in his father’s bands and then later in their family band. Artis Sr. died in 2010 and the family band stayed together for a few years before a jam session, a “Kanikapila,” led to the formation of Ron Artis II & The Truth, which includes younger brother Stevon on drums and Riley Pa’Akaula on bass.
— Tim Parsons