Another new recruit joins Mike Zito’s Gulf Coast Records roster which, as always, gives a sense of what will be on offer… blues-based music of quality that will be well produced and bring something a little new to our much-loved genre.
This is definitely true of this latest release by guitar/harp/vocal maestro Kevin Burt. His debut album, Heartland and Soul, gave clues to his twenty-five-year journey and his destination: on Stone Crazy, he has arrived safe and sound wrapping the blues around his Bill Withers/Aaron Neville inspired vocals, his mean mouth organ, and skilful guitar. The added bonus is Zito’s signature guitar flourishes that entertain and astound in equal measure. I should mention that Kevin can compose some fine songs too as, of the ten tracks on offer, nine of them are originals, the other is by the aforementioned Mr. Withers.
The opener, I Ain’t Got A Problem With It, starts with a lovely harp intro before heading into proper funky blues shuffle that quickly becomes irresistible and has the kind of harp solo I like: not overblown and full of imaginative phrasing. Purdy Little Thang Is slower, deeper blues with acoustic backing and electric picking and punctuation that lifts this above many songs of this blues/rock kind of structure…listen for the clever snare throughout as it pins everything down beautifully…no proper guitar solo though!
Rain Keeps Coming On Down has a lot going on: acoustic, electric slide, harp, and neat bass and hi-hat work that, added together, makes for a great slice of blues-based rock. Stone Crazy, slows right down for a love song (not a ballad) that has some jazz-tinged electric over the acoustic guitar background. Not normally my thing as it is at the very soulful end of the blues, but the picked, short solo is a delight. I’m Busting Out is back to the funkiness…nice Hammond and more great hi-hat work make the intro special and continue to underpin the funky sloppy bass and dextrous fret work of the lead.
Same Old Thing is a swinging slowish blues that has a lilt that draws you in and the slightly understated guitar solo is excellent. You Get What You See has stablemate Jimmy Carpenter on sax and he adds a different dimension to a familiar structure. The guitar/sax duet is a delight. Something Special About You brings an intro of crystal acoustic before the soulful and earnest vocal wraps around the melody. Should Have Never Left Me Alone starts with infectious drum and then harp intro before we hit the funk button again…but not predictable funk as Kevin’s harp lights up the song; both behind the vocals and with a superb solo.
The penultimate track is the Bill Withers cover I mentioned…Better Off Dead was (apparently) the B-side to that big hit Lean On Me. I haven’t heard the original, but Kevin certainly pours the soul into his version of Better Off Dead…a “drinking problem” song that has a complex and rather good backing; many layers with the electric strumming, solo and phrasing real highlight. Wrapping up with Got To Make A Change, we get an almost primitive rhythmic base with delicious slide on the lower strings adding atmosphere…this continues through a simply ingenious slide solo that makes this my favourite by a mile. Not fast, not rock; but blues with more feeling than some put into an entire album…the nearest comparison I can make is a Woody Guthrie song electrified and updated.
Faultless across every track, Kevin has put together the ideal package for the soulful blues lover and, although sometimes too soulful for me, it still gets a regular outing…particularly the final track.
Bluesdoodles rating: A Wonderful album soulful blues album with plenty to offer across the sub-genres. Excellent musicianship throughout means it is an album that repays repeated listens to appreciate the layers of sound behind the main melodies
1. I Ain’t Got A Problem With It
2. Purdy Lil Thang
3. Rain Keeps Coming Down
4. Stone Crazy
5. I’m Busting Out
6. Same Old Thing
7. You Get What You See
8. Something Special About You
9. Should Have Never Left Me Alone
10. Better Off Dead Got To Make A Change
Kevin Burt: guitar, vocals, harmonica
Mike Zito: guitars
Doug Byrkit: bass
Matthew Johnson: drums
Lewis Stephens: keys
Jimmy Carpenter: saxophone
Recorded at Marz Studio and produced by Mike Zito
(The iTunes run on track this time took me back to 1927 and the blues of the little known Kid Bailey and his tasty rendition of Mississippi Bottom Blues.)