Big Harp George Cut My Spirit Loose Blues Mountain Records
Danceable Rhythm & Blues With a Sharply Observed Contemporary Edge Too.
I missed out on Big Harp George’s first two albums; but the last two ‘blew my mind’ as, naively I thought that the type of Rhythm and Blues that I cut my teeth on in the late 70’s and early 80’s was so out of fashion it could never come back. But courtesy of these Cool Cats and a number of their friends’ bands who came to my attention at the same time and who are still plying their classy trade across the United Stares of America; I was proved wrong… and the quality was sky high! For a number of complex reasons I received this album later than any of those involved would have liked; so while I’ve played it almost non-stop for two days …. I may have missed some nuances and fine detail that comes from coming back to a record after a gap of a few days …. but here goes … Boom! Opening track; It’s Tuesday is absolutely everything I’d hoped for …. it swings with a swagger you’d normally associate with Homeboys going on a first date! The band are totally on fire and Big Harp George plays some sweet harmonica in between letting us know that his weekend doesn’t stop on Sunday night! This is followed by a stripped back track; George and a barrelhouse Piano singing Pile Driving Sam; a salacious tale about a local lothario …. and we all actually know a ‘Sam’ in one way or another. While I really like the song; I’d actually have preferred it to be sequenced a bit later … but what do I know? Maybe it’s just my mind playing tricks on me; but there seems to be some slight changes of direction tucked away here; not least She’s a Woman, which has a Hammond and funksome bass linking with some truly gorgeous honking Harmonica that just may have created a sexy Mamba melody? Another left turn is Ranty Town; a song on the cusp of being political but with a beat that pulls back from going full on Bluebeat; even if that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if they did. Speaking of ‘politics’ I was very pleasantly surprised when I heard the Howlin’ Wolf inspired Take a Knee which closes the album; WOW! George must really trust and know his audiences to include a clever and powerful song like this. “All those Fat Cats They Got some gall We can love our soldiers But hate their wars TAKE A KNEE, TAKE A KNEE.” While most of us will associate Big Harp George and his brand of R&B with being ‘party music’ but across the board here; the songs deserve to be listened to in their own intelligent rite; not least the croonsome Give Me The Dark (which features a spellbinding chromatic solo half way through) and the haunting Behind The 8 Ball too which still has plenty of slow and slinky Rhythm but is first and foremost a Blues song that will set your hair standing on end. The album closer; Captain Jack is another song that had me turning my head towards the speakers for some kind of explanation. It sort of defies description; a tragic Folk song about a Native American leader wrapped in a late night Jazzy/Blues vibe and the more I’ve played it; the more I likes it! Which all brings me to the difficult choice of selecting a single Favourite; or even ‘stand out’ track. Initially it was going to be the sassy instrumental Bustin’ Out simply because it had me shimmying my hips and shoulders quite by accident and quite unnecessary too for a man my age and girth! But Prince of Downward Mobility is a rare and special song of our times; that George (and Band) can be rightly proud of; combining a timeless Jive style rhythm to a very contemporary story; and George’s sizzling harp solos do it no harm at all, either! At this stage in his Award winning career this is something of a brave release for Big Harp George; as at while many parts sound like they are distinctively from his catalogue; but the left turns will surely baffle some of his longstanding fans; but music and musicians are legally obliged to move on and try new arenas; and when he does that here it works …. and works very, very well indeed.
RMHQ Radio Show Episode:42 The BLUES SPECIAL Nova Radio NE Newcastle
Tuesday 21st March 2023
Now the Nova Radio Producer Dean has found out I have time on my hands, I’m worried that he has my number on ‘fast dial’ to replace poorly presenters at Nova! Not that I really mind; because it gives me the opportunity to put together themed ‘Specials’ and this week it’s a Blues Special. With only two hours to fill it was a dilemma fitting in as many sub-genres as possible; but I gave it a damn good try! I very nearly made a major faux pas ….. as The Rev’d BLIND Gary Davis was playing I’d already lined up a Rory Block song to follow; then with seconds to spare I spotted that the song was going to be ….. I’d Rather Go BLIND!!! Whoops.
Marc Broussard SOS 4: Blues For Your Soul Keeping The Blues Alive
Smooth As Silk, Lush and Well Considered Blues For The Modern Age
Marc Broussard brings together another mix of Blue’s greats for the fourth SOS Blues album in the series. Eagerly egged on by producer Joe Bonamassa, Marc skilfully blends his soulful voice into a range of standards with a healthy roster of guests stepping into the spotlight.
The great Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘I Asked For Water’ serves as a dark duet with J.J. Grey, a sense of threat simmering below the surface as the two vocalists trade tales of heart ache and betrayal.
Roddie Romero’s cool guitar tone slices through ‘Cuttin’ In’ and compliments the rich orchestral arrangement that recalls early (and the best) Fleetwood Mac arrangements.
‘When Will I Let Her Go’ is the bastard son of studio 54 and the early morning sounds of a Chicago Blues club filling with factory workers, eager to drink away the redundancy of their manual labour.
If we peel away the guests and the lavish instrumentation; at the core of this album stands one man and his voice and it’s a great voice; smooth enough for Sunday, sad enough for Wednesday and just enough Saturday night to remind you of the power and soul that lurks just below the surface .
My only criticism is that at times this album feels too precise, too clean – too studio; a criticism often laid at producer Joe Bonamassa’s door over the years; and it hasn’t done him too much harm. There’s an absence of off-mic shouts of encouragement; ghost notes flourishing in the mix, for me this takes away some of the potential energy of the players; but what Marc Broussard has created is a lush, considered and Soulful album, creating a safe pair of hands to guide you back up the Mississippi, I am reminded of my mothers saying ‘not everyone likes lumps in their gravy.’
This album serves as a great introduction to Broussard but also acts as a health check on the Modern Blues scene – and the vital signs are all looking very good indeed.
Elles Bailey & Brave Rival Sunderland Fire Station
March 11th 2023
Without naming names I’d not had a particularly good week, gig wise seeing three other acts in 7 days that had me non-plussed on the way out. Nothing wrong with the shows; as 99% of their audiences would testify, they just didn’t appeal to me. Which all put extra pressure on as Mrs Magpie was stepping out with me to see Elles Bailey (who she’d never heard of.) Opening act were Brave Rival; an apparent Blues Rock band; who were playing an acoustic-ish set as the ‘warm up.’ I say acoustic-ish, as they had an electric bass alongside two acoustic guitars and the tiniest drum set up in the world, while fronted by two young ladies with astonishing voices and harmonies. After being introduced to the Sold Out audience by none other than Elles Bailey herself; they slid into opening song Guilty Love which was full of soaring vocals and lush harmonies; as were most of the songs that followed in the next 45 minutes. While I appreciate hearing where songs come from, tonight the singers perhaps lingered on these tales a tad too much? Again; probably that’s just me judging from the smiling faces I could see following all of these intros. I’m not sure what these songs will be like when fleshed out with the full-on band in their electric guise; as I thought the stripped back arrangements really suited the material; not least Run & Hide; about being stalked and For The Ones (I think ) which was written in the early days of lockdown but can also be interpreted as a song about fighting to make relationships work. It appeared that a couple of very personal sounding songs were written by the self-depreciating singer Lindsey Bonnick most noticeably Secrets; about an ex-boyfriend who had cheated on her for three years. As is my won’t, I wasn’t keen on the cabaret style request for the audience to join in on the chorus of What’s Your Name Again; about a ‘one night stand’ that Lindsay had one time. On the other hand; it featured some sweet bottleneck guitar playing and smoky harmonies from Lindsay and Chloe. This was followed by Chloe explaining the story behind the rather fabulous and emotional All I Can Think About (oddly enough … anther sad song about a relationship that ended badly for Lindsay!) I was really surprised by their choice of finale; but today I found out that it was their latest single; Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds Of Silence; which was actually perfect for their individual voices and those delicious harmonies.
After the required ‘toilet/smoke’ break there wasn’t an empty seat in the hall when the lights went down and the stage was swathed in red lights as the band and Ms Bailey made their entrance, before they opened up with The Game, which went down well with the appreciative audience. The set was a clever mix of songs from Elle’s latest album SHINING IN THE HALF LIGHT, and her two previous albums plus a couple of fabulous and surprising cover versions towards the end. I particularly liked the second song, which went unnamed and featured some particularly greasy guitar riffs from Joe Wilkins. While it doesn’t make much difference to the audience when an act doesn’t name their songs; but it’s a nightmare for a reviewer! Elles told a heartwarming story about first time motherhood; then went into a gorgeous song supplemented by some atmospheric drumming and bass; but can I find a song of hers with the lyrics I scribbled down! This happened another three or four times; which is a shame for fans who weren’t there tonight. Of the songs I can name; Halfway House was absolutely stunning; and as Elles said in the intro, was meant to be a heartbreaker of the ‘love’ type but ended up being about Brexit!!! This was followed by a song I did recognise; the heavy, heavy rocker Cheats & Liars which I presumed was about ‘men who had done her wrong‘ … but it was actually written following the 2022 Budget which left the self-employed (esp musicians) on their uppers. The next couple of songs have highly excited notes scribbled alongside them and both get three stars each; the first being the soulful Hole In My Pocket, which had a false ending that morphed into a thrash metal ending with requisite light show too. This was followed by the first of her highly surprising choices of songs to cover; John Martyn’s beauteous Over The Hill was a rare treat and had Elles giving it the deference it deserves; and as I noted … “Her voice is perfect for expressing sentiments like these.’ What I haven’t mentioned yet is how important Jonny Henderson’s Hammond playing was to the overall sound in these songs; giving them a bit of a 60’s R&B ‘vibe’ at times. As the time to curfew rattled along, a song Elles wrote in 2017; Help Somebody is still, if not more relevant today in 2023 …. and is well worth hunting out if you haven’t played it in a while. Oh; as Henderson embarked on a keyboard solo, Elles went ‘walkabout’ wandering around the hall, much to the fans delight. Following on from that and closing the show was Beautiful Mess, which was as soulful as it was thoughtful; and the melody swung like a pendulum do; and had Elles skipping and dancing around the stage when her band performed their magic. While it was never in any doubt; the band only had time to count back from 5, before they re-entered the stage for two really special encore songs. The first of which was a really surprising cover; Mary Gauthier’s Mercy Me (which I love too) and while she knelt on the edge of the stage while singing with the lights turned down way low, as the glitterball spun and swathed the audience in little diamonds. Then standing up without the aid of a helper (which impressed out friend Faye!) Elles Bailey and band rocked the bejasus out of this fantastic building with Sunshine City …. and after all the heartbreak that had preceded it; the audience left with a smile on their collective faces.
Connor Selby Connor Selby Provogue/Mascot A Fully Formed Debut Sizzling Blues Album From Essex to Memphis via Dubai.
This album arrived alongside 8 others one day a few weeks ago; and as usual it was immediatly ripped to my hard drive, and then I had a quick listen to the first minute of Track #1 I Can’t Let You Go to make sure the quality was passable. Yippee Why Aye Music Lovers! Originally self released in 2021, which led to Selby being picked up to support Big Leaguers like The Who, and kick start a bill with Pearl Jam, Stereophonics and Johnny Marr in the summer of 2022. Everything was put on hold until I’d played the whole album; and even then I was only removed; kicking and screaming by Mrs Magpie to spend quality time at a supermarket; or else I’d have just kicked back and played it all day! I stand great stead by an album’s opening track; and the fulsome ballad I Can’t Let You Go ticks every box I have, the drum beat is joined by a majestic organ…. then a brass section fill your musical senses….. all before Selby and guitar even enter the fray; and when he does. it’s kick back, relax and listen time! Apart from some Prog I dabbled with in the 1970’s I can’t think of another song that comes in just shy of 7 minutes long that opens an album? And …. the time absolutely flies by; and like everything that follows neither a word or note is wasted. Those of us of a ‘certain vintage’ will play ‘spot the influence’ as the songs come and go; but why should it matter that there are elements of BB King, Peter Green, Eric Clapton and even Joe Bonamassa in the way Connor Selby plays and creates his songs ….. but he does it all in a way that will eventually become his own distinctive signature. It’s all too easy to just immerse yourself in the overall ‘sound’ that Selby creates; but if you listen properly …. and I urge you to do so; his songs are quite exceptional for a young man and his debut album. The delicately beautiful The Man I Ought To Be will ring a tear to a glass eye; whereas the heartbreaking Anyhow with its female harmonies and piano that sounds like it could be Ray Charles playing alongside the acoustic Hear My Prayer, take us to some truly unexpected Bluesy places with the youngster as our guide. There’s even a cover song here from Ray Charles’ back catalogue and I’d wager nobody would know that if you hadn’t read it first and (the bonus track) My Baby Don’t Dig Me virtually sizzles from start to finish. Speaking of the Bonus Tracks that close the album; all four are quite exceptional and show a maturity in his writing; although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with anything that precedes I Shouldn’t Care or Love Letter To The Blues which simply sashays along as the sentiment in his words will have you nodding your head and thinking “Ain’t that the truth Brother Connor!” By the time you reach the sparkling the Hammond drenched, The Deep End which closes business; I swear you will be like me that first day and be desperate to play it all again, just to prove that your ears were right after all. There are certainly a couple of the songs I’ve already mentioned that are contenders for Favourite Track status; but I’m slipping back to two of the earlier tracks to compete for the title …. Track #2, Falling In Love Again is probably the one track that kind of symbolises the album and something I can point you to as a ‘sampler’; beautiful and thoughtful lyrics wrapped up in a blanket of sweet guitar, chunky bass lines, a Hammond of The Gods and girly backing singers worthy of the Stax days! Then there’s Emily; the ‘heaviest’ song here and a ‘dirty love song’ that stands out mostly for the guitar work that compliments Selby’s velvety smooth vocals that draw you in like a siren on the rocks. I feel that I’ve ‘missed out’ over the last three or four years by not knowing about Connor Selby; but obviously the cognoscenti did as he has already been voted “Young Artist of the Year” at the UK Blues Awards for the last three consecutive years (2020, 2021, 2022); and this re-released album will ensure he’s on the Top Table in 2023.
Walter Parks Shoulder It Continental Record Services
Old, New and Blue Spirituals and Gospel Given a Stunning 21st Century Makeover.
This is a late edition to the ‘to do’ list ….. and under most other circumstances would have been lost; as it arrived after release …. but when I saw that Walter Parks had been the side-man to Ritchie P Havens for many years my intrigue was piqued and I played it as I did some research and realised we; or should I say Jack Kidd had reviewed his last album for RMHQ in 2021!! There’s a Spiritual thread that links all of these songs together; but there’s enough Soul and Blues captured in the melodies and lyrics (both old and new) to satisfy pedantic fans of all persuasions. The title track, SHOULDER IT opens the album in the most delightful manner via a shuffling rhythm section and some heartbreaking guitar before Parks and a Hammond B3 come into play. There are several songs hinted at in the melody; but Parks world weary vocals and wise words make this a very special song indeed; and no doubt a song I’ll use on future ‘best opening tracks’ lists I’m so fond of. Every song here has a story in one form or another; and most nod to the times of the slave trade and bondage back in the 19th Century. Don’t worry; even though the tales are as dark as can be; the constructions and arrangements will capture your attention and make you fall in love with ‘the music itself.’ As I skimmed the track list I noticed Wade In The Water and Amazing Grace are here; and I instantly thought ‘does the world need yet another version of these Classics’ … then when I heard them; and the way Parks’ and Ada Dyer’s voices entwine will make your jaw drop and your pulse beat dangerously fast. There’s another new song here, in the form of Georgia Rice; based on an old folk tale; and it’s simply stunning and while dark in every way; also has a ray of light and hope not just for the character in the story; but for all of us in 2023. SHOULDER IT closes with another Classic of the genre; an epic near 8 minute version of Down By The Riverside and the only word I can find to describe it is sublime; and I can easily picture the reaction when played in concert. In every which way, this is an album that should be listened to from start to finish in the way Parks has intended; but I’m going to point you to a couple of really special songs that stand out like poppy in a corn field. Steal Away is a gorgeous stomper of a spiritual song that just begs to be turned up loud; not least because of the way Parks and Ada Dyer combine again; but the way the trombone solos cut through everything in its way is simply outstanding. Early In the Morning is an ages old prison work song; that treads a dangerous path that will send a shiver down your spine; especially when Parks’ rumbling vocals go way down low and Michael Bellar’s Hammond comes into play like a misty morning and the guitar sounds like a police siren …… what an amazing song! But; there is one other that took my breath away; Follow The Drinking Gourd; originally a ‘code song’ for escaping slaves who needed to follow the North Star. But … but …. but there is so much more in these words and the way Park and the Unlawful Assembly create an atmospheric and beguiling song that could and does apply to many as a metaphor today in 2023, making this my Favourite Song on an exceptional album. As I said at the beginning, I could easily have missed this recording; but the fates have played an outstanding hand and I’ve already decided/realised that this will feature in my Top 20 albums of 2023.
Raw and Earthy Contemporary Blues With a Jazz Filter and a Heart Full of Soul.
Fantastic Negrito? Or as his mother christened him; Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz has never crossed my path before this album arrived through the post. I recognised the name of course; but had no idea what to expect, and when I spotted that this is an ‘Acoustic remake’ of a Hit Album I also had nothing to compare and contrast with. So this has been a learning journey for me. Even with that minimal background, I was taken by surprise by the opening song; Drifting Away ….. WOW …. what a voice this fella has! He’s almost feminine in the way he caresses the words in a way I’d normally associate with Ella Fitzgerald and perhaps Aaron Neville in the way his voice soars and sweeps. This followed by a more raw take on Locked Down, as Xavier stalks the listener like tiger, slightly menacing and always sounding dangerous …. mostly from the scary string section and piano arrangements. The Press Release tells us that Fantastic Negrito has won three Grammy’s in the Blues section; and I can see why that genre would embrace him; but listening here; songs like Nibbadip, Man With No Name and Trudoo could easily be Contemporary Jazz, because of the way Fantastic Negrito uses his amazing voice. He really does have an ‘amazing voice’ ….. soaring like an eagle one moment and dragging the bottom of a river the next and it’s all ever so natural. While this is an ‘Acoustic remake’ …. don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s just a singer and an acoustic guitar; there’s a whole band behind him making magic on their acoustic instruments; which gives his words an extra depth on Highest Bidder and especially Oh Betty, which is the most obviously Blues song here; but given a claustrophobic backing as if it was recorded on a sultry night on the banks of a Louisiana swamp (it wasn’t by the way). Virginia Soil closes the album with his response to Sam Cooke’s Change Is Gonna Come; but rawer and dare i say it; angrier and more contemporary with a slide guitar that sounds like a switchblade and a chorus that just perfect for the live setting. Grandfather Courage is one of those album that you put on the CD player and can’t take off …. playing it on repeat for hours on end and just wallowing in the beautiful music he has created. So, with that in mind you will appreciate my dilemma at selecting a single song as a personal Favourite. Every song has it’s merits; and some have stories that are still to unravel if I give them time; but I’m constantly drawn to two; In My Head and the 11 minute opus, They Go Low …. which sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place in a Film Noir soundtrack especially with the trumpet solo (artist unknown I’m afraid … but sounds as good as Chet Baker!). In My Head, on the other hand is based around a really funky riff as Fantastic Negrito growls a ‘talking Blues’ in a way that will nearly blow your mind. Is this a Blues album or a Jazz album? Who knows and who cares ….. it’s the type of album that crosses genres in the way Stevie, Curtis and Marvin all did with ease and aplomb. This album has made me buy two of his previous albums (that I’ve refrained from playing until after this review is published)and I’m going to see him a couple of hundred miles away at a venue in Manchester (The Deaf Institute) that has been on my bucket list for years.
Joe Louis Walker Weight of The World Forty Below Records
Sharp and Contemporary Blues With a Soul Filled Heart
Joe Louis Walker is one of those ‘names’ that I recognised, but when I scoped through my collections of albums and downloads found I own nothing of his previous work – sad but true. Right from the ‘git go’ of opening track and titular song Weight Of The World you know you are in the presence of a Mastercraftsman of their Art ….. a really clever and heartfelt ballad about the sadness that is all purveying these days; but wrapped in a velvet blanket of musicians who never waste or miss a note; and in Walker’s vocal delivery …. a voice that will warm your heart at the same time as sending shivers down your back. Walker has a sublime talent in the way he delivers his message throughout; Waking Up The Dead is a prime example; blending African style drumbeats with an ultra-modern; jazz tinged beat that sounds like a minor earthquake as Walker sings as if his life depends on it; but never loses the listener’s attention even for a second. It’s a similar story with Count Your Chickens where the energy playing out behind him would overshadow many another singer; but Joe Louis Walker fights them off with a stellar performance up front and centre. Presumably many of his fan base will buy this to hear his guitar playing; for which he’s rightly famous … and there’s plenty here to please them; although he’s more of the ‘less is more’ school …. but when he does insert a solo ….. WOWZA …. that guitar sounds like it could melt at any moment. Personally I like this album as much as I do because of the songs themselves; even though the construction and arrangements are fabulous throughout; but it really is the stories in the songs that have made me play this over and over again; not least the intense Bed of Roses and It’s a Matter of Time which has hints of Stevie Wonder and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson in the mix; and that’s no bad thing; is it. Eric Corne’s razor sharp production brings out plenty of nuance too in Don’t Walk Out The Door and perhaps Root Down too; which could easily have been missed in lesser hands. I’m not totally sure where to fit this album in, as while it’s most certainly a Blues Album, but there are more than enough elements of Soul (both urban and raw) that it could easily win prizes in that category too; not least when the judges hear the finale; Got Me Whipped; but then again Scott Milici’s gentle keyboard playing subtly takes this ballad into Jazz territory too. I’ve been really impressed by Walker’s songwriting throughout; but one song in particular Hello, It’s The Blues highlights what a clever and articulate songwriter he is; as he treats us to beautiful conversation between the listener and a Guardian Angel in the guise of The Blues as a talking entity …. don’t worry; it’s a stunning song that my words don’t do justice to … listen and be seriously impressed. Sometimes songs and albums are too clever for their good; but here Joe Louis Walker pushes the boundaries of what we know as Blues and Soul, but stays well within those same lines to give us an ultra-modern album that will impress not just hipsters and the cognoscenti but cynical old Blues Hounds alike.
Slinky, Soulful and Swampy Blues Straight Outta Beale Street
I don’t know anyone in the Soul or Blues world that can sing a song the way Barbara Blue does.I’m not saying that she’s better or even shoulder to shoulder with the greats like Aretha, Diana, Nina or the like; but in this day and age she’s one of a kind and I love her and her music. Back in the day; Barbara would surely have been on Atlantic Records; the coolest of the Big Three labels; and when you hear opening track The Shoals for the first time I’m sure you’ll agree. There’s a self-confident swagger in every note she sings and the band behind her, are all excellent keeping the funky melody in line with Barbara’s deep and sexy voice; never even coming close to crossing the line. The second song won’t get radio play, simply because of the title; Nutthouse Blues and it’s fair to say the Queen of Beale Street plays on that innuendo with glee; but the Nutthouse in question is the name of the recording studio this was all recorded in. The best of both Blues and Soul; which this album criss-crosses with ease can both be listened to in the quiet of your own home; and also be danced to on a Friday or Saturday night in a seedy club or bar that your Mother claims not to know about; but strangely the bartender knows her favourite drink! Danceable Soul and Blues songs they are invariably meant for the end of the night when you slowly shake, shimmy and grind…. and that’s exactly what springs to mind with (Etta James’s) Tell Mama, Curse of Beauty and especially the sensual Nothing Lasts Forever which even has a hint of Disco in that phat bass line. Of course there are a host of Lurve songs here; but not the usual teenage lovey-dovey type of our youth; Ms Blue is a fully grown lady and knows what she wants; even if it as as bittersweet as the stories and characters in the simmering ballads Severed and Too Far, which are probably best heard in a dark room; but will also drag hardened lovers onto the dancefloor to cling onto each other when the lights go low and the glitterball twinkles at the end of the night; and I guess Never Stopped Loving You falls into the same bag too …. as it’s a heartbreaker of the Deluxe variety. The album closes with the beguiling epic; Trail of Tears; not your ‘obvious’ Blues song as Barbara recounts the story of a Native American woman set to a swampy Blues melody I keep repeating myself that these days albums no longer need ‘obvious commercial singles’ on them; most especially when the target audience is a grown up one; but that doesn’t stop some songs being extra-special; which brings me to the two songs I can’t seperate for the accolade of Favourite Song. The haunting Song of The River is deceptively ‘gentle’ with crackling sound effects and pristine bottle neck guitar leading into Barbara with a ‘talking Blues’ which is as hypnotic as it is poetic ….. different from absolutely everything here and an absolute stunner of a song. The other is a more traditional Slide Man; and Will McFarlane’s guitar playing is as cool and dreamy as you’d hope on a song of that title; but the Slide Man in question is a lover not a ‘picker’ and the way Ms Blue describes her needs …. I’m ruling myself out! There is absolutely everything you’d hope to find on an album of this quality; love, heartbreak, making up, dance tunes and even a little bit of a history lesson …. highly recommended.
Rick Berthod Tribute to Peter Green (The Fleetwood Mac Years) Self Release
A Beautiful and Thoughtful Homage to a Forgotten Master Blues Guitarist.
Rick Berthod appears to have been around the American Blues scene forever, playing alongside and/or supporting most of the Legends in a career that has also produced 8 previous albums; and today he finds himself fronting the house band at The House of Blues in Las Vegas. A couple of nights ago I was out with some ex-colleagues; all younger than me and mostly music fans. After a couple of pints I got mischievous; asking “who was the guitarist in Fleetwood Mac?” To a man they agreed on Lindsay Buckingham; and when I asked the follow up; “Not Peter Green?” Their faces were left scrunched up, as they didn’t know who I was talking about …. although they had heard (of) Albatross. Which is why this album is a) an oddity and b) essential listening for the younger generation. OK there probably is a version of the legendary Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits floating around e-Bay; but Rick Berthod’s song selection and beautiful homage to a Master Guitarist is well worth checking out; and/or giving as a Christmas present. Although the opening track, If You Be My Baby isn’t one of the better known tracks from this period; but the guitar playing is simply ‘liquid gold’ …. no; scrub that ….. ‘liquid platinum’ and it never leaves that trajectory all the way through to the finale Loved Another Woman. The other thing about that opening song; is Berthod’s voice; beautiful yet melancholic and simply aching with the longing that these songs all conjure up. When I was at senior school in the 70’s selecting and then defending your selection of Favourite Guitarist was a key part of the day; and while I was always a Rory Gallagher fan; Peter Green was always a great back up. Coming back to the album and it’s contents; when I first scanned the track list my first thoughts were “does the world need another version of Black Magic Woman?” Well; in this case … yes. Berthod slows it down to a feisty shuffle and after a minute or so you forget that Carlos Santana ever recorded his version; as this is short, sharp and timeless; with a vocal performance worthy of a Chicago speakeasy in the mid 60’s. There a few songs here that I either can’t remember or have not heard before; but the sting in the tail that Rattlesnake Shake left me was staggering; and if I’d heard Stop Messing Around in a ‘blind tasting’ I’d have sworn it was from John Mayall’s ‘Beano’ album, featuring the best guitar playing Eric Clapton ever managed. The Peter Green Classics are all here of course; and are all played with loving care and not a note out of place; most notably on the sublime Need Your Love So Bad (with additional Prof Longhairesue piano interludes) and Oh Well; which both benefit from Berthod’s distinctive world weary vocals; which puts a new spin on them; as they now sound like the original youngster, looking back on life in 2022. Albatross is …. well…. Albatross; spellbinding of course; and had to be included, but no one is ever, ever going to compete with Green on his Masterwork, will there? On an album like this I always look for something unexpected as a Favourite Track; and here there are another two songs that I have no memory of and both stopped me dead in my tracks as I tried to do some paperwork. Jumpin’ At Shadows is heartbreakingly beautiful and with hindsight; sounds as if it was written many years after Green left The Mac, as it sounds like a love story to the man himself; and there are times the guitar playing brought tears to my eyes the first time I played it. The other, in the tie; is the majestic Driftin’ … which fits in somewhere between Hank B Marvin, Clapton and Joe Bonamassa in the guitar stakes (remember what I said about ‘liquid platinum’ …. but here it’s the actual song; Blues so dark it’s almost black that I’ve fallen in love with! It’s a Peter Green ‘original’ but I’m pretty damn sure he was immersing himself in BB Kings older albums before writing it. So; my overall thoughts? I like it …. a lot; mostly because of Berthold’s lovely and ‘lived in’ vocals sufficiently different from Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’s ‘originals’ to make it well worth recommending … esp if you know a young person (under 50 hahaha) who doesn’t know who Peter Green was.