Sassy, Sleazy and Even Sensitive Blues Songs for Purists and Clubbers Alike.
Without spoiling any surprises; this disc has been welded in the car stereo for three days now and may remain there until next Saturday! Yer Blues come in many shapes and forms from basic six string Country Blues through to Stadium Fillers that can ‘noodle’ for England; but my favourites are usually Club Bands who create amazing music, best heard in an intimate setting and that’s were this quartet sit very, very comfortably indeed. Opening track Won’t Give It is as tight as a Mash barrel, with singer Kimberley Dill taking no prisoners with both her delivery and powerful message to any possible suitors; you want her ‘love’ then you are gonna have to work for it. This is followed by the title track Alive; with its funky guitar intro and Ms. Dill’s passionate rendition of a personal song about being re-born; which could be a metaphor …… but was actually written by her, after a year of health problems. We hear you, Sister! The guy who supplies all of the awe-inspiring, yet understated guitar Jamie Holdren gets his turn at the mic on See My Baby when he also plays some eye-popping slide cigar-box guitar too! Between them and alongside an industrial strength backing from Kevin Lyons and Eric Guinn; Dill and Holdren tap into the R&B that made Tina and Van the Man famous in the 60’s, with barnstormers like 99 Pounds, Fussin’ and Fightin’ and the sizzling duet Think About You (which actually has some delightful Country undertones to it too). Tucked away in the middle is a real sleazy Blues belter of the highest order; when Kimberley warns ‘her man’ to get his act in order or else ‘the back-door man’ will come a’ knockin’ …… Respect Your Woman, with the blistering harmonica of Eric Hughes duelling with Jamie’s guitar is a synonym for the song itself! I’m sure when they play live Sister Lucille will slip in a few Classic Blues tunes to supplement their own articulate offerings; and here Kimberley gets to give Etta’s W.O.M.A.N a new lease of life with added sassy shimmer and sizzle. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any other of these songs; two songs stand out like diamonds in a coal mine. As I write this the new James Bond theme song is taking all of the headlines; but IMHO they’ve missed a trick; because Kimberley’s sultry Devil’s Eyes, with its Bossa Nova tempo, and Holdren’s sweet Blue Note style guitar offering is worthy of such a soundtrack…. Then, from the opposite end of the musical spectrum is the dark and deeply moving final song, Lost which just about shades it as the RMHQ Favourite Song. This finds Holdren singing from the pits of his heart on a very contemporary song about the broken world we find ourselves in today. Give it a ‘proper listen’ and you will realise that the Blues can still move you in a way no other genre can.
As regular readers already know, I still put a lot of stock in an album’s cover artwork; ‘pretending’ I’m flicking through the racks of a record store looking for something new and interesting …… would that be true, this album would certainly have stopped me in my tracks. Then as Cummings’ Memphis Soul inspired version of Hold On (I’m Coming) was less than a minute old I would be thrusting my hard earned cash at the shop assistant……. then running hot foot to the car to hear the rest of the album. Okay, we’ve heard most of these songs before and to some extent we’ve heard Cummings style of singing and guitar playing before, but …….. and it’s a big BUT ……. we ain’t ever heard them combined in this funky, kick-ass way ever, ever, EVER! Do What Mama Says, which follows at first sounds like the Rev’d Green fronting Them; but it really doesn’t as Albert blends his Gospel Roots with some mighty fine Juke Joint Blues to give us something very special indeed. Does the world need another version of Red Rooster or My Babe or even Van the Man’s Crazy Love? A week ago I would have just rolled my eyes; but today each of these ‘Classics’ have become shiny Tour de Force’s that will make you forget that they aren’t 21st Century Contemporary grooves. I’ve been a fan of ‘The Blues’ for nearly half a century now; and it amazes me still that the likes of Albert Cummings still have the power to amaze and stun in equal measures; with his staggering guitar playing on the instrumental Call Me Crazy and his ornery Country Blues song It’s All Good making me wonder why I’ve never heard of him before. Over the last week nearly every song here has been a contender at one time or another for the title of Favourite Track (especially Red Rooster); but Queen of Mean somehow manages to outshine all others, with the glorious harmonies, funky beat and Cummings singing as if his life depends on it (and it just might when you listen to the lyrics!) Albert Cummings ticks all of the boxes I have for buying Blues album; and when I played it to my eldest brother we got into a heated discussion of how good and innovative his guitar playing really is, which brings me to the outstanding finale, Me & My Guitar which sees the guitarist shifting gears yet again playing chords from what my Big Brother calls ‘the dirty end’ of the guitar; but no; I’m sticking with my first choice of Favourite Track ….. for now. Ultimately I will leave it to you to decide of course; but if you are a fan of BB King, SRV, Albert Collins or Eric Clapton ……. I’ll take it personally if you don’t fall in love with this album.
More Fabulous UnAmerican R&B Activities From Britain’s Finest Purveyor.
You don’t really need all of the fingers on one hand to count the number of British Rhythm & Blues artists who command world-wide respect, especially when it turns to universal acclaim and musical success. James Hunter is one of the very few exceptions. He’s the *Essex boy who commenced his career over 30 years ago, originally as “Howlin’ Wilf and the Veejays;” and eventually reinventing himself as The James Hunter Six to take his ‘coals to Newcastle’ and making it big in the USA …… and beyond. Nick of Time is his new album, the third on the renowned Daptone Record label, and contains 13 brand new self-penned songs; and once again production is by Grammy winning Bosco Mann (aka Gabe Roth) recorded in his Riverside Studios in California. Overall it’s less frantic and much smoother than previous offerings, oozing with self-confidence, consistency and maturity. James is now backed by an ace band of top New York musicians, who are just as ‘sympathetic’ to James’ ‘groove’ as the original members; but it’s his unique smoky voice that has always drawn comparisons with legends of the genre, evolving nowadays into something that is something very special indeed. Lead track “I Can Change Your Mind” kicks off in mid-tempo and sets the tone for what is to follow, then “Brother or Lover” provides a different take on an old conundrum whilst the super-smooth acoustic guitar and piano ballad “Paradise for One” shows James’ musical dexterity as it recalls the era that was dominated by the likes of Nat King Cole. “Till I Hear it From You” is one of two numbers where we even get to hear James on harmonica, which is a special treat for fans of old; like myself and The Rocking Magpie. Although lurve is the main subject matter, there are other options such as “Ain’t Going Up in One of Those Things” being a tongue in cheek take on the fear of flying. However, the lyrics that made me smile most come from “Can’t Help Myself” where you’ll hear :-
“If monkeys rule the planet, by 2902, Will they have written Hamlet Before I’ve gotten over you”
Choosing a favourite wasn’t easy, as there’s not a dud track on the album, but if pushed I’ll suggest that “Missing in Action” with all it’s military type metaphors in the clever lyrics wins my vote, but on another day just about everything else will be a Favourite at one time or another. All in all I see no reason why “Nick of Time” shouldn’t reach No. 1 spot on the USA Blues Charts, just like The James Hunter Six’s previous 2 albums.
Young British Blues Rocker Comes of Age on Exciting Double Live Album.
Most regular readers know of my love of The Blues in just about every format imaginable; and also my desire to promote the great and the good among British exponents to the outside world, as well as those lonely men and women who haul their guitar case across the highways and by-ways: Plymouth on a Monday night, Aberdeen on a Tuesday and then Norwich on the Wednesday. When I first came across Ben Poole he was just on the verge of leaving the latter category and is now firmly in the former camp being both a great singer-guitarist and a good guy. I’m not normally a lover of Live Albums; especially in this category as it wouldn’t be the first time someone I admire for filling their studio albums full of 4 and 5 minute belters get a tad self-indulgent on-stage. But; Guitar lovers and Rockers alike can be assured that there are more than enough guitar solos here to satisfy their cravings; but song lovers like me are indulged too, with Poole’s fine penmanship probably being allowed to overshadow his marvelous fretwork on most songs; even the 8, 11, 14 and 15 minute long tracks. It’s no surprise that most of the tracks here come from his last two albums; as it was recorded in July 2019; but there are a couple of juicy oldies tucked away for the long serving fraternity. Following a very brief intro the band get off to a growling start with Take It No More and already you know you are in for a treat. Being a Live Album there’s a glorious rawness to many songs; with a personal favourite Win You Over now maturing like a fine wine and Found Out The Hard Way somehow seems even more intimate than the album version, to me. Start The Car; from the same album really finds drummer extraordinaire Wayne Procter and bassist Steve Amadeo on fine form as Poole sings as if his heart could break at any moment. That powerhouse duo are the spine that allows the singer-guitarist go meandering on Anytime You Need Me and Time Might Never Come which close the set; coming in at just shy of half an hour when played together; but even I haven’t got bored listening to them (yet). Another elongated song is the exquisite cover of Have You Ever Loved a Woman; and I swear there’s not a wasted note from any of the trio in the 11 and a half minutes of transcendental Blues-Soul which builds and builds to a crashingly luxurious ending that had even me head-banging in the car! Where to go for an actual Favourite Song? Further On Down The Line is a doozy; as is his take on Jeff Healey’s I Think I Love You Too Much; which is another song Poole has allowed to grow and develop over the years; and Dirty Laundry now sounds like it’s fast becoming his Trademark song; but I’m going for Don’t Cry For Me; where the band come together as one and for me; it’s Poole’s finest vocal performance across two glorious albums of quality British Blues Rock that will not just surprise but impress American Blues fans (and promoters?) PS The album was recorded over three nights in July 2019 at the OldSchoolhouse in Barnsley, The Half Moon in South London and Bootleggers in Kendal, Cumbria.
Mike Farris Jumpin’ Hot Club Live Theatre Newcastle Thursday 16th January 2020
For a variety of reasons; (both work and health) my Gig Going Mojo left me in late 2017; meaning I’ve only been to a handful in those last two years. This made tonight a ‘big deal’; as even though I implicitly trust promoters Jumpin’ Hot Club, I’d never heard a note from Mike Farris until Thursday morning when I checked him out on You Tube. Plus; the gig; in the larger theatre room at Live Theatre had completely Sold Out two weeks previously and there was a waiting list for ‘returns’ …… so an expedition was in order. The support act was being introduced as I chatted to some friends and my ears immediatly pricked up; did they just say ‘Martin Fletcher’? Oh yes Shipcote did! FYI many years ago Martin was the harmonica player in a local band called the Blues Burglars who were as good a live band as I’ve ever seen; and I’ve seen some megastars! Tonight Martin was accompanied by singer-songwriter Chris James and the duo regaled us with 40 minutes of ‘Bastardised Blues Classics’ plus a couple of Chris’s own compositions. The first of these own compositions, was the duo’s ‘Internet Hit’ (147,000 views and counting on FB) Simple Man, which was from the Folkier side of the Blues and I easily realised why so many people would like it; even though Chris forgot the words halfway through! The set flew by; with Fletcher sounding every bit as brilliant as I’d remembered, with his assortment of harmonicas plus he even got to sing a rather racy Charlie Musselwhite song; but the night really belonged to the languid Chris James and his intricate guitar picking and super-smooth vocals.
Well; I said the ‘night belonged to Chris James’ ……. that was before I saw Mike Farris! There was a genuine air of excitement in the hall as the band filtered on stage and ‘got a groove going’ and I ain’t heard a roar like it at a gig for years; when Farris made his appearance! Looking every inch the Rock Star with his jet-black quiff; shades, split knee jeans, biker boots and a sporty leather jacket, he immediatly strapped on a big ole black *Gibson with an obligatory Bigsby and blasted into **When Mavis Sings, which his adoring fans instantly recognised. On the next song he dispensed with the geetar and stalked the stage dragging the mic stand behind him, like many of the Great Soul singers that have obviously influenced him over the years. The influences didn’t stop there; as while Mike Farris can write a cracking song, certainly has a fabulously distinctive voice and singing style; his choice of covers at the end of the gig were outstanding; a Tom Petty song then Jimmie Rodgers T for Texas and Mary Gauthier’s A Little Mercy Now bringing the house down; and the encore of Ann Peebles’ I Can’t Stand The Rain being not just a surprise but a highlight too. In between Farris and band rocked the joint like it was their birth-rite; using the ubiquitous ‘call and response’ several times, much to the delight of the hordes of people who had made their way South from the quaint ***fishing village of Ashington in Northumberland; who had seen him play locally the year before and seemed very excited and excitable all evening; especially when Mike mentioned the difference in local dialects. (Cos they talk right funny up there!) I was won over very early on; but during his acoustic set in the middle realised I was watching a very clever and professional act that could adapt at will. One of the joys of Live Music is seeing something no one else will ever see, as every gig is different. Tonight; one of the highlights was when Mike told a story of playing a Charity Gig in Guildford, Southern England earlier in the week and seeing and meeting one of his childhood heroes, Rod Argent and discovering the delights of Andy Fairweather-Low ……… I love the fact that Farris can still get excited about discovering new music at this stage of his own career. If there was one of his songs that stood out for me, it was Tennessee Girl, a genuine love song written for and about hid delightful wife who was standing at the back watching her husband perform; with a smile on her face all night long. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, for a boy from Tennessee; but this was a clever and very impressive mix of Blues, Gospel, Soul, Country and a hefty dose of Southern Rock that combined to create Mike Farris’s very own, and very enjoyable ‘style’. Now to find a couple of his albums.
*According to one sharp eyed fan …. it was a Silvertone **When Mavis Sings? As I didn’t actually know any of the songs I just picked up on the main lines of the choruses! ***An ‘obvious joke’ I thought; but has illicited strange responses ……. Ashington is not actually a ‘fishing village’ but once a mining village and famously home to footballers Jackie Milburn and the Charlton Brothers.
I suppose the whole reason I do this reviewing malarkey is because even at my advancing age, music still excites me …… sometimes it’s an artist or band I’ve never heard of or perhaps, as is the case with a couple coming in February young musicians taking their first steps into this wacky world and I think they deserve a little help getting their songs ‘out there’; but every now and again somebody from my youth comes back into my life and I’m 17 all over again. It was the latter feeling when I unwrapped this CD. Gary Moore was one of those acts where I never actually owned an album of their’s, but saw them play live quite a few times. Can you remember those halcyon days when Deep Purple where in town and you could make your decision to see them as you ate your tea because you could pay on the door? Gary Moore was one of those acts; and always, always, always gave excellent Value For Money. Recorded at Islington Academy, only 14 months before his untimely death in 2011, Gary shows no signs at all of road-fatigue here, right from first track (Albert King’s) Pretty Woman he pulls out all of the stops and leaves ‘nothing in the dressing room’; and I defy any guitarist alive today to hit all the notes the Northern Irishman hits on the 100 mph Country Blues tune, Down The Line ……. in fact he’s so fast there’s even a Punk element to it! I’m not sure Fame and Fortune ever entered Moore’s life; and to some degree he’s the ‘forgotten man’ of British Blues; coming along at the tail end of the 60′ and 70’s boom with Skid Row and he died before the Second Wave which has swept the country in the last ten years or so. But; listening to this fantastic Live album; it’s fair to say he’s been more of an influence on the younger generation than nearly anyone I can name from the Elite we fawn over in public houses. There’s still a rawness to his playing; but even when he ‘goes off on one’ …….. Since I Met You Baby, The Mojo Boogie and the stunning The Blues is Alright there’s a sparkling sensitivity in the way he plays his guitar that very few of his peers ever mastered ‘back in the day’. #Fact. Unlike his guitar playing, Moore’s singing was never going to win him any Awards; but hey …… this is the Blues and his distinctive guttural growl sounds like a man who has ‘Lived the Blues’ all of his life; and being born in Belfast in 1952 would have given him an upbringing akin to his musical forefathers in the Deep South; and that defiant spirit comes out in the glorious Bad For You Baby and Too Tired/Gary’s Blues #1, which both show you don’t have to come from Chicago to know how to play Chicago Blues. I can’t think of a better epitaph than his call and response rendition of Walking By Myself or his beautiful re-interpretation of Donny Hathaway’s I’ll Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know to win him a legion of new fans in 2020; with the latter being something of a precursor to his ‘hit single’ Parisienne Walkways, which is a lot more fiery here; although just as Soulful as I remember. Them’s ‘the hits’ but there’s a couple of other gems hidden in the shadows too for you to discover yourself, and one of which; John Mayall’s Have You Heard is easily my Favourite Track here; simply because the quality of Moore’s playing simply oozes out of the grooves in a most unexpected manner; even though I shouldn’t have been surprised ……… I still was; and have been again this morning. At this stage I also have to pay due respect to Moore’s band on the night; who support him like solid oak roof timbers; allowing him to shine like the Shooting Star he always was.
Tucson’s Best Kept Secret …… But Not For Much Longer.
You can easily tell that Black Cat Bones were formed as way back as 2004 by the exceptional musicianship and multitude of ‘influences’ that go into their sharp and articulate songs too. Obviously to be filed under ‘Blues Rock’, but trust me, there is so much more to these songs once you give them enough time to breathe and unravel. Opening track Manslaughter is wrapped as tightly as a Tennessee Mash barrel and you can not just picture the band giving it their all on stage; but also an accompanying video if such a thing exists. While most ‘break-up’ songs are text-book in appearance; this one takes a different road; and is all the better for that; and once you hear Richard Rivera’s spine-tingling guitar solo midway through, you know you’re gonna fall in love with this band hook, line and sinker. Without getting too deeply involved in the influences here; songs like the intricate Lone Lobo and Dead Broke Blues don’t just hark back to the heady days of Free and Taste but early Skynard and ZZ Top too. At times the band threaten to wander off into Heavy Rock territory; and I guess they aren’t afraid to turn it up to 11 on a Friday night; but don’t worry as Pay You Back With Interest and especially the downright dangerous sounding Lowdown, are still accessible if your ears are shot like mine. Like all of the best bands out there, Black Cat Bones offer both light and shade here; When I Get That Feeling is a timeless soft-rocker in the seductive mode, while I Don’t Care proves that an acoustic guitar can be just as powerful as an electric in the right hands. There’s even a really low and sultry Soulful blues tune here, that utilises three …… yes, THREE saxophones and boy oh boy, is The Race a belter of a song about growing old in a young man’s world. In many ways this is an old fashioned record, taking us on an emotional journey from tracks #1 right through to #12; but a couple of songs really, really do stand out from a bustling crowd. Not So Funny somehow takes a thread first born in and around Chicago at the cusp of the 1960’s and make it as contemporary a Blues Song as you will here in the next 12 months or more. Then, there is Led To Believe, the obvious Favourite Song right from the first time I played the album two weeks ago, and a song that has stuck in my mind ever since. A slow burner that will have you nodding your head along with the funky bass led beat; and not for the first or last time Richard Rivera’s guitar comes out of nowhere to blow you away. As I don’t think Black Cat Bones have ever been to the UK, I have no idea if they are Tucson, Arizona’s best kept secret or the biggest thing since the Grand Canyon was discovered; but they have been a highlight of 2019 around these here parts and I hope you think so too.
Proving That There’s a LotMore To The Harmonica Than Just The Blues.
As my friends know; there’s only one actual instrument that I ever learnt to play and that’s the harmonica. Even that was 20 years ago and I doubt I could even get a genuine note out of it today. I have no idea who the first harmonica player I ever heard would be, but I’ve amassed scores of albums from Blues through Country and even Jazz featuring harmonica playing and my love for this utilitarian instrument remains undiminished. Which brings me to Sugar Blue, who not only has a love for the ‘mouthie’ but skills beyond my wildest dreams. This album not just showcases these skills, but being recorded on four continents and using a myriad of musicians shows how just versatile not just the harmonica can be; but Sugar Blue is too. Opening track And The Devil Too is a Contemporary Blues stomper in the style of Diddley Daddy, that will not just shake the fillings in your teeth, but that bass run may rattle them out if you’re not careful. The first trip left of centre is the rolling Country tune Bass Reeves, the true story of a ‘man born in bondage’ but eventually growing to be not just be a famous US Marshall but the man the Lone Ranger was originally based on. The song is an absolute doozy and when Sugar’s harmonica slides in the hair on the back of your head will actually stand on end. Arguably not the greatest version of Day Tripper; but the way Sugar Blue turns the Beatles classic into a Jazz Funk dancethon has to be heard to be believed. While obviously famous for his skills on the harmonica, Sugar Blue is one hell of an expressive vocalist too, with the grungy Man Like Me and super smooth Downhill being opposite sides of the Blues coin but both showing the man can not just make his harmonica wail but his voice can make you stand to attention too. I’m especially loving this album because it’s so diverse, with Shanghai Sunset being beautifully laid back, and even introducing us to a Chinese reed instrument called the Sheng, while the heartbreaking We Will Be Alright features a stunning choir called Afrika Riz from Soweto in South Africa takes us in a direction we never expected at point of purchase. Selecting a Favourite Song is incredibly difficult as COLORS is a giant goody bag of delights; making me have to toss a coin between the deep down n dirty Blues tune Dirty Ole Man , which features some stunning guitar and harmonica interplay and the acoustic Bonnie and Clyde, which like Bass Reeves is as much about the Depression as it is about the Gangster couple as it’s based on true events rather than the romantic imagery of the film; and both songs feature some truly sublime harmonica playing too. Which one wins? Neither ….. it’s a draw. Harmonica lovers are going to instantly fall deeply in love with this album; but fear not if it’s not your first love for an instrument, as there is so much here that music fan of all persuasions will find plenty to not just admire but play over and over again.
Delta Blues is Still Alive and Well and Thriving in Bentonia, Mississippi.
As I keep moaning about, RMHQ is getting overwhelmed with albums to review and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to select ones to listen to in depth then find the time to write about the music’s intricacies. As is oft the case I still ‘judge an album by the cover’ just like my teenage days trawling record shops for something to spend my hard earned pocket money on; then I would ask Jeff Herdman or a pretty girl in FW Woolworth’s to play the first track. While Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes dark and mysterious rendition of Hard Times may have had the Saturday afternoon shoppers scampering for cover; I would have gratefully handed over my £1.50 and rushed home on the #3 bus to play the rest long into the night. This is followed by another Skip James song, Cypress Grove and the album’s title track and is actually unsettling at times; probably because of Eric Deaton’s heavy, heavy bass lines which will shake the fillings from your teeth if you’re not careful. While only being a mere 72 years of age, Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes is a) the last of a dying breed and b) the real deal; because he still runs the Holmes Blue Front Cafe which his parents opened in 1948; and Jimmy still plays a set or two every single week. Holmes has a perfect ‘world weary’ voice for these songs; mostly Classics covered in what appears to be his own inimitable way, plus a couple of his own which I’ll come to later. Of the ‘Classics,’ Little Red Rooster and Catfish Blues, while still utilising electric instruments both are stripped right back to bone and sinew and owe absolutely nothing to the versions I grew up listening to by the Rolling Stones and Taste respectively …….. this boys and girls, is how Delta Blues should be played! Another stone cold Classic is Muddy Water’s Rock Me; and again Holmes natural swing and heartfelt vocals aligned to Dan Auerbach’s sensitive production make for four minutes of Blues Deluxe that should have many of today’s upstarts considering a new career. The nearest to a ‘commercial song’ here is Train, Train; a gorgeously soft-paced Blues Rocker that features some stunning guitar interplay. Holmes keeps his own three songs for the end, with the hypnotic and soulful All Night Long and the low down groove of Gonna Get Old Someday coming from 2008 and 9, while album closer Two Women, with yet more heavy, heavy drum n bass sounding like a heart about to break; being brand new and written especially for this here collection. I’ve only got one other version of Skip James’s Devil Got My Woman; and it’s by Newcastle duo Monkey Junk and while this breaks my heart; it now bares no comparison to this red, hot and raw performance, with Holmes dragging the soul out of every line and stanza in a way that will send a shiver down your spine. Even as a teenager I had a perverse love of Delta Blues, and thanks to the likes of Jimmy Holmes …… that passion still burns just as brightly half a century later.
*Jimmy “Duck” Holmes (born July 28, 1947)is an American blues musician and proprietor of the Blue Front Cafe on the Mississippi Blues Trail, the oldest surviving juke joint in Mississippi. Holmes is known as the last of the Bentonia Bluesmen, as he is the last blues musician to play the Bentonia School. Like Skip James and Jack Owens and other blues musicians from Bentonia, Mississippi, Holmes learned to play the blues from Henry Stuckey, the originator of the Bentonia blues. Holmes’ music is based in the Bentonia tuning utilizing open E-minor, open D-minor and a down tuned variant, and is noted for its haunting, ethereal, rhythmic and hypnotic qualities.
Screamin’ John & TD Lind LITTLE BIG MAN Down In The Alley Records
Dazzling Adaptation Of Classic Down-Home Blues For the 21st Century.
So many things have conspired this week to try and stop me finishing writing this review; but I’m adamant that I will get it done and posted by close of play! Even from the opening rinky-dinky piano chords that lead into opening track the breezy Rollin’ Joanna I knew that this album was going to be right up my street; and when TD Lind’s slightly grizzled vocal cuts in I knew that this was indeed; the Real Deal. A polite mixture of self-penned originals and Classic Blues Oldies has conspired to hijack every CD Player I have this week; and I haven’t minded a minute. I hardly recognised BB King’s The Letter; primarily because this powerhouse duo have stripped it back to the bone and feature Joel Pinkerton’s ‘most Blues wailin’ harmonica’ as lead instrument instead of the geetar …… and the combination works a treat. This is followed by Jimmy Reed’s Shame, Shame, Shame and short of howling Hallelujah! I can’t think of a better way of expressing my admiration for this startling 3 minutes of Blues Heaven. I will come back to a couple of the cover songs later, as the duo’s own work is rather good too ……. with the title track Little Big Man the type of R&B you would associate with John Lee Hooker; but these cats have a sound very much of their own, and not a bit like the big man. I always chuckle when unbelievers think that The Blues is depressing music; Hell’s Bell’s it’s anything but as Screamin’ John and TD prove on the rambunctious Gonna Drag You and Seth Walker and Jarod Dickenson’s Way Past Midnight …… this is Shotgun Shack dance music at its finest. They can do dark and dangerous too; Reaper’s Knockin’ is a great example; and a tune I now want played at my funeral …….. just to scare the Grandkids! I’m lucky in as much as I do hear Blues albums like this more than the average bear; but that doesn’t stop me being not just impressed but thunderstruck when I unearth songs like Cold Stone and Emptiness. On an album that will be stacked in the Classic or probably Chicago Blues rack; Screamin’ John and TD Lind turn the genre upside down on this very, very contemporary song; and one that deserves a much wider audience than what I can give it via these pages; hence it is the Official RMHQ Favourite Track here by a country mile. There’s another song here that deserves an ‘honourable mention’; Huddy Ledbitter’s Goodnight Irene. A staple of most Blues bars and clubs I frequented as a young man; and probably you too; and more recently a song local troubadour and friend of mine Paul Handyside once recorded for my old radio show; gets a whole new lease of life here. Honestly there’s no way anyone under 50 hearing this beauteous song for the first time would ever guess it was over 100 years old. This duo; producer Glyn Johns and their friends have created a brand new album, that can comfortably sit shoulder to shoulder with Classics of the genre in my collection (and yours).