Bluesmen taking us on Journeys To the Heart of The Blues

Joe Louis Walker, Bruce Katz & Giles Robson Play the Blues

Fans of early blues records, especially those purists who warmly embrace the hiss and crackle of ancient 78s, eschewing the benefits of modern studio cleansing, and who probably don’t respect any blues players that don’t have an added appendage to their name (particularly one denoting an infirmity), will adore this collection of songs celebrating less familiar cuts from very yesteryear (mostly  from pre-World War II), which is not to suggest that this has been recorded in anything but the highest of fidelity (in New York as it happens).  Actually, this will appeal to all blues fans who don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion that the majority of the ranks of people currently bashing out blues-rock are particularly in tune with the spirit of the blues, other than a blues scale forming the starting point for lengthy plank spanking. Talking of which, the guitar is relegated to mainly being a support instrument (nice solos on Robert Lockwood Jnr’s “Feel Like Blowing My Horn” and Son Bonds “Hard Pill to Swallow” being exceptions) on this collection of traditional numbers which are played acoustically without any drums and bass, or any other adornment; Joe Louis Walker, the most familiar of this “supergroup” trio of virtuosos is mainly represented by his vocal talents, piano and harmonica by Katz and Robson respectively do the heavy lifting throughout. The playing is excellent on all tracks and the tone is set from the opening number “Mean Old Train” with Giles Robson’s harmonica imitating the lonesome call of a steam train to kick off proceedings.

The lack of additional instrumentation is an interesting touch, giving the cuts a clean feel, with each note clearly heard, nothing lost in the mix. The idea was presumably to recreate the simpler sound of records made in the infant days of recording and to give the project a traditional feel.  Personally, I think that a bit of percussion and bass on a few tracks would have created a bit more variety.  The title of the record gives a clue to the intention to reconnect with forgotten songs that represent some of the traditional themes that run through early blues recording.  A large number of long dead songwriters are represented: Sunny Land Slim, Son Bonds, Smiley Lewis, Papa Lightfoot and Big Bill Broonzy to name a few.  The recordings seem to be faithful recreations of the originals rather than taking a fresh or different approach.  I caught the trio performing these songs live earlier in the year before the recordings were released and it was a very pleasurable, laid back evening watching the respectful interplay between the three players.  I can’t help feeling, however, that there is an element of playing it safe in the arrangements of these songs. I have really enjoyed seeing Giles Robson and Joe Louis Walker lead their own bands in the last year and on paper this is a brilliant combination of talents, but, while this record is admirable and, as noted above, will appeal to a wide number of blues aficionados, it fails for me to rise above the sum of its parts, which leads me to hope that these talents will combine again to record another batch of songs, but hopefully this time around with a fresh approach.

SEVENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting

  1. Mean Old Train
  2. It’s You Babe
  3. I’m A Lonely Man
  4. You Got To Run Me Down
  5. Murderer’s Home
  6. Feel Like Blowing My Horn
  7. Hell Ain’t But A Mile & A Quarter
  8. G & J Boogie
  9. Poor Kelly Blues
  10. Chicago Breakdown
  11. Hard Pill To Swallow
  12. Real Gone Lover
Bluesmen taking us on Journeys To the Heart of The Blues

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