Probably best known for numerous live and studio recordings with the Velvetones, vocalist and harmonica maestro Tony Holiday decided to eschew the trappings of studios and with his long time friend and guitarist Landon Stone, travelled across the US and pitched up at various blues luminaries homes and recorded a set of tracks that embody the blues.
That said, I think I managed to find most of the artists on this remarkable release and even remembered some of the composers or found them in my blues CD library. It is remarkable because, as I intimated earlier, on Porch Sessions Tony and Landon have recorded these songs on the “front porch” of the places they visited and, whilst the equipment might be different, the ethos is still like the field recordings of old. Lovers of blues harp will be quivering in anticipation as they read the contributors…nine harp players performing solos and duets backed by a skilful band.
The first track, on my copy at least, sets the scene with its live and loose feeling and, as expected, some fabulous acoustic guitar and harp playing. It brings a neat shuffle feel to this very good slice of blues, with the lyrical story of “Me and Jim Beam” on Three-Way Party. The spirit of that spirit flows through this irresistible song with the harp sounding great. Next up is Little Sonny’s Woman Named Trouble and it is, as expected like an updated and very empathetic reading of a great song…this is how to cover a cover as the bass and drums have a tone to match the originals age and feel. Electric blues lights up Tell Me Baby by, I think, Jimmy Dawkins and with the harp once again to the fore it is a neat version and performed with a touch of class by those involved. Becky Ann was written by Mitch Kashmar in 2005 although it sounds like it could have been done fifty years ago as it takes the blues and feed them through a basic riff and the harp flows and the solos at a pitch that takes some doing! Moving to some good old R’n’B blues next with Goin’ To Court and this benefits from guitar solos that not only sound great, but the tone is carefully preserved to match the song and its antecedents….no real surprise as Kid Ramos gets a name check in the song and he is a consummate guitarist. Slide guitar and harp combine on the intro to the slow blues of They Call Me John Primer. As Muddy Waters’ band leader he has the experience and skills to write a song about himself and play an absolute blinder on it…I have always liked this song and I think this is the best version I’ve heard because that slide speaks volumes and communicates more emotion that some guitarists can find in a whole album…the harp solo isn’t too shabby either. This is my firm favourite and thankfully it’s one of the longest tracks at over six minutes and it just flies by. The instrumental, Hip To It, is an all harp with the gob iron providing rhythm, bass and lead…it works really well and is a blast from start to finish. Victor Wainwright’s Coin Operated Woman is a classy cover as the humour and sadness of the original is communicated brilliantly through the vocals, guitars and harp soloing…the guitar solo is so inventive and yet stays in character for the song. Pick-Pocket Fingers is another song that has all of the elements of old blues but blues for today with a great guitar tone, solo and backing from the harp. Junior Wells’ Blues Hit Big Town may be very short but it packs a mighty punch and is simply a sublime distillation of the blues. The laid back strummed guitar intro to Don Robey’s This Time I’m Gone For Good (recorded by Bobby “Blue” Bland in 1970) herald soulful blues of the highest order…it may not be my favourite sub-genre, but the playing makes it very listenable and William G Kidd’s vocals are powerful to say the least. Electric blues that again evokes days gone by but it is very up to date and the harp and guitar interplay is magical. Jimmy Rogers’ That’s Alright is as good as the original as the band put all of the same emotion and skill into their interpretation. The guitar solo is pure acoustic genius…love it!
So, after sorting laboriously through misnamed tracks and a totally different order, I hope I have communicated the wealth of very good blues available on this quality release. It is well worth a listen and if you love old style blues with a patina of modern interpretation with blues harp and guitar featuring strongly on every track, then you will certainly love this. It will feature regularly on my listening schedule just so I can revel in the blues without frills and the emotions that engenders.
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Pickpocket Fingers (feat. James Harman & Kid Ramos)
- They Call Me John Primer (feat. John Primer & Bob Corritore)
- A Woman Named Trouble (feat. Jake Friel & John Nemeth)
- Becky Ann (feat. Mitch Kashmar & Ronnie Shellist)
- That’s Alright (feat. Charlie Musselwhite & Aki Kumar)
- Three Way Party (feat. Mitch Kashmar & Ronnie Shellist)
- Special Friend (feat. James Harman & Kid Ramos)
- Hip To It (feat. Mitch Kashmar & Ronnie Shellist)
- Blues Hit Big Town (feat. John Nemeth)
- Tell Me Baby (feat. John Primer & Bob Corritore
- Goin’ To Court (feat. James Harman & Kid Ramos)
- Coin Operated Woman (feat. Johnny Burgin)
- This Time I’m Gone For Good (feat. William G. Kidd & Ronnie Shelllist)
Rockin’ Johnny Burgin
William G Kidd
NOTE:to our readers from Tom – . A small gripe here: this unpaid but rewarding labour of love of reviewing new albums is made difficult when the PR and even the CD cover doesn’t give the detail to share whilst reviewing…so apologies to you and to any artist I might have missed as the information for this one was minimal: even the tracks were all.
Produced byGreg Shaw and Kid Anderson.