Bluesdoodles rating: 3 Doodle Paws – a great listen for an album packed full of authentic acoustic blues with a smile, a wince and a knowing nod to every listener being honest!
Let me introduce you to Gabor Szucs, a Hungarian bluesman more usually known as Little G Weevil. He is a new artist to me and I have only just got my hands on his last release (his ninth) called, descriptively, Live Acoustic Session.
Gee, as he’s usually known, grew up in Budapest, during the newfound freedoms the changing political landscape brought: that time also saw the increasing accessibility of records of every hue…Gee, however, fell in love with the American blues. As that love deepened he took the decision to move to the United States, living first in Alabama, then Memphis, where he spent a year washing dishes and performing on Beale Street. That apprenticeship and daily contact with authentic blues musicians saw him release his first solo album in 2008…there are electric and band albums amongst the nine. He’s no slouch in the awards department either, having garnered recognition from blues award societies in the US and his homeland…oh, and he found time apparently to be a judge on the Hungarian version of The Voice and, if that wasn’t enough, during the first lockdowns he wrote a novel based on his life, Játssz Tovább (meaning Play On). Still not content, Gee then took himself and his guitar (no one else) into the Super Size Recording studio in Hungary and, in his words, “walked into a studio, had three beers, and played sixteen tunes. It came out mighty bluesy, 100% live, no editing.” Now that is a recipe for some new, old fashioned blues.
The album is a generous sixteen tracks and has over an hour running time, so I’ll pick my favourites and let you listen to the rest at your leisure.
I’m a sucker for the “traditional” blues: those songs whose origins are lost in the mists of time, but acolytes still revisit and revitalise these historical songs. Gee chooses two such tracks.
The first Early In The Morning has been adapted and fed into other songs over the years: the only version I have is the Big Mama Thornton recording when she sings and plays the harp brilliantly with a full band in tow. Gee’s version is slower and, with some stunning acoustic work is a damn good interpretation. The second one has nothing to do with the old TV show: Casey Jones is a traditional tale (often called The Ballad of Casey Jones) about a locomotive driver who tried to prevent his speeding train from crashing into another one…he nearly succeeded and saved everyone but himself and so a legend was born. The first known recording came in 1910, ten years after the crash, by an artist called Billy Murray and since has seen many revisions and lyric changes.
Gee stays pretty true to the early ones with a bit of the Mississippi John Hurt version too. He does a fine job with clear picking on the country-ish chords and the well-worn vocals of a true bluesman. A couple of covers also appear: John Lee Hooker’s Roll And Boogie confused me at first, but after listening to Gee’s very good, strident version I realised I knew it as Roll ’N’ Roll…an early (and brilliant) John Lee from 1950. The other cover comes from the underappreciated (in his early days anyway) R L Burnside: Gee’s take on Poor Black Mattie (a song usually attributed to Burnside but could equally have been ‘traditional’) is a lively and very well played and interpreted version with a delightful central and denouement guitar section.
Elsewhere his own compositions stand up to the traditional blues: a man and a guitar (when it’s played this well is always welcome.
Highlights include the Lance Armstrong tale: Fastest Man is introduced by Gee and then, over a light, country blues tells the tale and, when he sings “It`s not for me to say he did good or he did bad, I could not even ride to the store to get some milk, Watching the race on TV is too exhausting for me.” the last line resonates with me!
He upholds another fine blues tradition on Apple Picker: double entendres and humour (unless it’s just my mind) abound across a blues guitar that could be off a 20s back porch and he weaves some nice runs, chords and picked phrases throughout my current favourite. Speaking of porches, Back Porch is an example of just that and the spoken explanation puts it into context…don’t try this at home!
A true story, apparently, from his time in London when a relationship didn’t stay the course…She Used To Call Me Sugar may be set in the recent past, but the blues running through are older and, like Gee is now, wiser.
So here we have someone who understands the blues and how they’re interpreted through an acoustic guitar surrounding tales of pain, enjoyment and humour. This is a well-crafted album that, with sixteen tracks, maybe a little too much in one sitting but it is full of tracks that will be welcome when they appear on my many playlists.
An interesting footnote: Gee has worked with UK singer Dionne Bennett who appeared on his genre-hopping album Something Poppin’ and has just added producer to his long list of accomplishments and produced Dionne’s new album, Sugar Hip Ya Ya, which is also reviewed here on Bluesdoodles.
Real men Don’t Dance
When The King Was Told
Early In The Morning (traditional)
Place A Dollar In My Hand
Casey Jones (traditional)
Poor Black Mattie (R L Burnside)
Going Back South
On My Way To Memphis
She Used To Call Me Sugar
Roll And Boogie (J L Hooker)
All songs by Little G Weevil except where noted.
Gee – everything you hear!
(iTunes stayed with the Little name and delivered the blues big band sound of Little Johnny Taylor and his Everybody Knows About My Good Thing…then I indulged in Little Milton, who has much to offer…I went for If Walls Could Talk.)