I’m sure you’ve heard of Professor Louie and The Crowmatix after all, this is their second album this year and their fifteenth in total…so far. In case you missed him, Aaron Louie Hurwitz (better known as Professor Louie) collaborated with The Band for over 16 years and has produced and performed with Graham Parker, Commander Cody, Guy Davis, Buckwheat Zydeco, New Riders Of The Purple Sage and many more. This Woodstock, New York-based band now present us with nine new tracks and a ‘bonus’ live cut on the suitably titled Miles Of Blues. It fuses blues, rock ‘n’ roll, rock and gospel to make a varied and immediate set of originals and two covers.
Opening with delectable dobro slide, L-50 Blues is a tribute to the Gibson guitar of that name. It has a swing to it that captures the attention and the slide is acoustically electrifying. The harmonies of the ‘ooohed’ chorus fits brilliantly as it sounds almost slide itself and the shuffle on the snare and piano subtlety is spot on too. Jungle drums herald Funky Steampunk Blues and then electric guitar leads us into a verse structure beloved by Bo Diddley and Billy Boy. The real star is the bass line that is complex and yet simply structured and works a treat. The piano takes a laid back lead after the hissing filled bridge (steampunk perhaps?) Love Bound is next and has a great riff that Miss Marie brings a soulful vocal that works well with, essentially, a blues-rock song. The guitar solos are inventive and varied and use all six strings and twenty-one frets showing that there is more to soloing that high bends. Piano blues next as a few blues standard structures are employed to great effect on Passion In My Life. The guitar phrases are slow and sensuous to suit the story of the Prof’s love for Marie and, as the blues heritage is so strong, even lines such as “you’re the candy my heart” aren’t mawkish and the piano solo just delights with its runs and chord work. We move to the bayou next and a story of the seemingly ever more frequent hurricanes to devastate the US. Rain 40 Days is introduced with cymbal and snare making you think it is indeed raining and then the Hammond and guitar bring a touch of funk to back the heartfelt and yet upbeat (in the beat sense!) lyrics. The solo is a lovely aural illustration of the depth and feeling a good player can wrench out of the beast that is the glorious Hammond. (I’m not sure which Hammond but I get the feeling it is the C3 rather than the bulkier B3…but I could be wrong as usual.) Exit Zero is Hammond led again and with the shuffle feel it will remind you of the archetype that is Booker T…but that is not a bad thing. The guitar solo has a suitable twang that pulls the whole into the 60s r’n’b frame and it all adds up to a glorious romp that is heightened still further by the piano solo. Please Send Me Someone to Love is the well-known song written by Percy Mayfield (also known for the ubiquitous Hit The Road Jack) and the Prof and the Crowmatix certainly make it their own with a hearty and well-crafted take. It still has the feel of the original and its time. The Hammond and Marie’s singing fit so perfectly and piano and guitar highlights add texture to what was a fairly lifeless song in its first form. It isn’t a favourite for me but really well executed. Orange Juice Blues will be familiar to fans of The Band as one of the songs on the Basement Tapes release…this version, without Bob Dylan, is not really a cover version as the Prof. was an indispensable part of The Band; it is more a re-interpretation by the qualified…and he does it more than justice. It’s wandering shuffle, with added barrelling piano topped off with classy guitar means I would choose this version over the first and also over the version on Music From Big Pink…yes, really! A slow blues pulls back to earth with Oh My Lady and we also get a first taste of the formidable Woodstock Horns as they bring a genuine horniness to the proceedings. It may sound a little Animals at first but it develops into a remarkable soulful blues song. The final ‘bonus’ live track is a full-blown jam and so is aptly titled Bull Frog Jam Blues. It gives everyone a chance to shine and they most certainly do and, for me, the slide guitar and varied pick/slide solo makes this a repeat, repeat tune…even the whistling didn’t put me off although my two Westies were fascinated by it!
This is a high-class blues album that has variety without a drop in quality. So, if you like your blues in many hues this album will satisfy your needs.
(The now traditional ‘fumbled fingers track’ that I started instead of The Prof was a delight too…Your Blues by Primevil from their Smokin’ Bats at Campton’s album is harp led slow blues that, in the hands of Primevil, remind me so much of Free…wonderful stuff.)
NINEdoodle paws out of TEN …
- L-50 Blues (Platania, Hurwitz)
- Funky Steampunk Blues (Hurwitz, Spinosa)
- Love Bound (Hurwitz, Spinosa)
- Passion In My Life (Hurwitz, Spinosa)
- Rain 40 Days (Hurwitz, Spinosa)
- Exit Zero (Hurwitz, Spinosa)
- Please Send Someone To Love (Percy Mayfield)
- Orange Juice Blues (Richard Manuel)
- Oh My Lady (Hurwitz, Spinosa)
- Bull Frog Jam Blues (Live) (Hurwitz, Spinosa)
Aaron Louie Hurwitz; Professor Louie: Hammond, accordion, vocals
John Platania: guitars, vocals
Gary Burke: drums
Miss Marie Spinosa: vocals, percussion, piano
Frank Campbell: bass, vocals
Bobby Van Detta: guitar, vocals on Oh My Lady
The Woodstock Horns – Nick Driscoll, Jim Buckley, Danny Coyle, Chuck Smith