Blues and Bourbon Wednesdays: Ben Rice and The PDX Hustle

2708 J St., Sacramento, CA 95814
: (916) 441-4693
Ben Rice might be described as quiet and unassuming – until he picks up a guitar. That stealthy quality has earned him the moniker “blues ninja,” evidenced in his vocal chops and songcraft as well as his guitar playing. While Ben started in traditional blues, over the years he’s built upon that foundation with soul, R&B, folk and country to fashion a welcoming front porch where everybody wants to hang out into the wee hours. Since his large-stage debut at the International Blues Challenge in 2014, Ben has made the leap from Northwest act to national and international touring artist, featuring at festivals and stages far and wide. In 2023 Ben added horns, vocal harmonies, piano and organ to his lineup for a larger, more energetic band that he calls Ben Rice and The PDX Hustle. The response locally and on tour has been electric – the higher-intensity presentation of Ben’s music brings audiences to their feet and makes it clear Ben Rice is a formidable artist with more career triumphs still in his future. Ben’s early influences were vinyl records – his dad’s Steely Dan, Bob Marley, and Marshall Tucker and his mom’s Al Green, Barry White, and George Benson. Once his dad bought him a guitar at age seven, Ben was hooked. Soon all his allowance money was going toward exploratory thrift store finds: blues compilations featuring Mississippi John Hurt, Bukka White, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and cassette tapes of more contemporary artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Robert Cray, all played until they wore out. That broad range of influences combined to yield a guitar style that’s been described as “fearless,” “inventive,” and “powerful.” Whether he’s sliding up and down on a steel resonator or reeling off stinging leads on his custom-crafted electric, Ben’s intensity and inventiveness never fail to turn heads. Audiences also respond to his heartfelt songwriting that carries a classic, strongly relatable vibe. “My goal is to reach people in a way that they need to be reached,“ Ben says, “to say things they may not get to say or hear things they may not normally get to hear.” Although Ben’s first passion was guitar, he diligently hones his singing to best support his original tunes. Besides the technical exercises that build and maintain his vocal abilities, he puts significant thought into what his singing conveys. In performance he strives to be mindful of the meaning behind his lyrics, treating every song like a story and evoking the mood of what the story’s main character is going through. “I try to write songs that hold weight and meaning, but my songs mean whatever they need to for whoever hears them,” Ben says. “I want people to enjoy my music on their own terms.”