Blesok no. 47, March-April, 2006
Sound Reviews

Recommended listening

Vasja Ivanovski

Bob Halperin: “All Kinds Of Blues”

95North Records 8663573666 (2004)

“All Kinds Of Blues” is appropriate title for this wonderful album and great collection of blues material that recalls history in its purest, archaic form, guitar and voice. This is one of the best acoustic blues releases in recent years, impressive work by Bob Halperin, underrated artist who definitely deserve much wider exposure. “All Kinds Of Blues” covers a variety of styles, from traditional Delta beginnings, through Piedmont, Texas, ragtime to contemporary folk explorations, all done with verve and passion of dedicated musician which is rather rare thing in recent times. Halperin’s smoky vocals are matched only by his impeccable playing which is traditional in performance with highly individual personality, there’s always some sonic surprise for the listener throughout the album. Not many players can touch him when it comes to execution, even those who sell much more records could learn a thing or two from Bob. Choice of material shows his ability to provide personal approach to the idiom, his vision and attitude. These songs celebrate life however bitter and raw it may be at time, but always carry an optimistic note that life is, after all, still worth living.
    Carefully picked tracks which include lesser known material by classic artists (Sleepy John Estes, Henry Townshend, Willie Brown, Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon), country tinged material by Jack Clements and Jimmie Rodgers, jazzy stuff by King Oliver, Palmer/Williams, traditional songs and contemporary material by his playing partner Dewey Burns along with two of his originals, presents an artist who covers all this with personal stamp, cooler than most and played with panache that is effortless. He puts his mark on whatever song he chooses and makes it absolutely his own! It’s hard to pick personal favorite tracks, all 18 of them are gems, so give it a listen and you will be hooked and thankful for discovering some great, heartfelt music courtesy of Bob Halperin!
    Stripped down performances, just vocal and guitar (and an uncredited harp on a few tracks) define Halperin’s emotional musical journey which is a must for every blues lover, even the casual fan in search for music that defies time and offers repeated moments of joy.

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Monster Mike Welch Band: “Adding Insight To Injury”

95North Records 8253465149 (2004)

Latest Welch’s release shows this (still) young guitarist working on proving his musical sensibilities which tend to be more rock oriented. First half of his new album is has strong rock edge to it, while the second half is more bluesy oriented with some unexpected twists and at the same time, much better to these ears. While his guitar ability is, as usual, unquestionable, it’s his vocal department and rather thin material that need more punch and care in order to get better results next time. Backed by solid band, Mike Welch delivers 13 tracks including 2 covers which, along with a track or two of his own, offer the best moments on this album.
    Exploring boy/girl relationship within various rock structures, Mike Welch give us his perspective of the same, covering it with fine musical curtain which set the album’s tone and scale of vision in appropriate way. Playing this album from the start, we have a couple of undistinguished tracks that recall some early seventies garage rock  before “Good At Goodbye”  which is a slow rock ballad not unlike some stuff we can expect from Bon Jovi, done with more band effort and sounding just OK. Personal favorite is “Thunder In The Distance”, slow blues with convincing lyrics and great guitar throughout which is half Peter Green and half Ronnie Earl in execution, brilliant track! “I Don’t Want To Come Down” is New Orleans type rocker, rather pedestrian excuse for good guitar work again, same goes for “Do You Know Who You Are”, while first cover on the album, Dylan’s “Masters Of  War” is delivered with feeling and verve in blues structure and can be considered as one of the best renditions of this classic. Here Welch displays some heavy duty rhythm chords, squealing out filler licks and killer solos one after another, probably the best track on the album! Johnny Copeland’s “Flyin’ High” receive inspired reading by Mike Welch and his band, again with excellent guitar break that makes this heavy midtempo shuffle real winner! “Tomorrow Morning” is just “Rollin’ & Tumblin’” in disguise, with nice song structure and overdubbed guitar featuring Mike’s inspired vocals. “Into Thin Air” is uptempo shuffle which recalls Gary Moore’s vocal delivery and guitar we are already familiar with. “Kings And Pawns” is album closer and very effective one with its Santo & Johnny type of guitar, while muted, sleepy vocals add some adventurous feeling to the song.
    Blues lovers might not find this album to be whole satisfactory, but those with broader tastes will probably find much to enjoy on “Adding Insight To Injury”.

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The Boogiemen: “A Little Trim”

Modal King Records

“A Little Trim” is the latest effort from this excellent band which cooks from the very start till the end, offering great stuff written by the band. The band’s sound is rooted in classic West Coast jump style with nods to fifties Chicago sound and occasionally spiced with rockier edges which makes for fine results! All band members are very good musicians with two stand outs being harmonica player Richie Blue and guitarist Lucky John Flynn. Both with Mark Cavanaugh share vocal duties which add nice variety in band’s repertoire, plus having drummer and percussionist in the band makes for some rootsier sound which cannot be bad in my book!
    “Blues On My Radio” is funky little opener with exciting harmonica break, whole band plays great all the way, requesting more blues on the radio to be heard and quite rightly so! Some of T-Bone Walker style comes to mind on “Put Down That Gun” with inspired harp by Richie Blue who plays great throughout the whole album, I guess he is one of the best players you have never heard of! On a couple of tracks you get the powerful sound of The Almighty Horns, check the excellent “My Love Is Solid” which is classic R&B floor filler in the vein of early Tower Of Power! Johnny Viau plays some fiery sax and it’s obvious that everybody has a great time on this one. “Project Car” is midtempo shuffle with some mighty B-3 assistance courtesy of John Barnard, while Richie Blue again offers beautifully controlled high pitched melodic runs that keep this track on the go from start to finish. There’s some evocative New Orleans vibe on “The Devil’s Been Knocking” which is (again) graced by Richie Blue’s excellent harmonica playing. Complemented by great guitar by Lucky John Flynn on all tracks, this band is probably well worth seeing in live setting.
    The Boogiemen create happy-go-lucky atmosphere, a live sound in the studio that generates the same kind of excitement we were used to in the early seventies (J.Geils Band and alike!). It’s that kind of CD, full of well written material and played to perfection by a group of talented people who deserve wider exposure, and by that I mean Europe. I am sure that we’ll be hearing a lot more by The Boogiemen in the future. All fans of funky blues that move your head and feet will enjoy this stuff, all you need is give it a listen and you’ll be hooked!

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Various Artists: “This Is Blues Harmonica, Vol. 2”

Delmark Records DE-780 (2004)

Various blues collections dedicated to different blues genres or specific instruments for blues workouts are common thing within the record industry. Most of blues fans like that kind of blues exposure, sales are positive and music uniformly good. Harmonica blues fans have a nice choice of variety of harmonica blues collections / compilations which offer recent production of specific label or presents anthology like overview of the most important blues instrument since its earliest beginnings. Chicago record label Delmark Records is well known for some of the greatest harmonica players who recorded for them and also for its rich archive of recorded material.
    Like its predecessor,  “Harmonica Blues, Vol. 2 presents fine collection of tracks with all bases covered, from electrified country blues, West Coast swing, tough shuffles, slow Chicago blues and funky blues instrumentals, with early fifties tracks to recent blues production of the label. Here celebrities rub shoulders with lesser known acts and it does not affect the music, it is great all the way! First recordings on this collection date from Little Walter (1950), Junior Wells (1953) and Big Walter Horton (1954) to as recent as Mark Hummel (2004) with stops in between. Of 16 tracks we get 9 unissued sides which is real treasure for harmonica blues lovers, all is first class material that deserve to be heard.
    Hammie Nixon with Sleepy John Estes and Walto Pace give some fine country blues renditions, especially the latter who’s traditional “Fox Chase” is a prime example of rhythmic harmonica blowing, track that has always been used by players to show off their abilities. Tad Robinson and Little Sammy Davis play some cool West Coast stuff with fine backing, Shakey Jake doing his classic shuffle thing with effortless playing along stinging Magic Sam’s guitar. A couple of  great slow, simmering Chicago blues comes in the way of Little Mac Simmons, Big Wheeler and Mark Hummel done in characteristic Delmark style, great melodic playing, production full of that blues bite all blues fans love. Carey Bell’s “Rhumba”, is energetic harmonica workout, at times it makes you wonder when he’s gonna take a breath! Of course, last but not the least we get tracks by Junior Wells, Little Walter and Big Walter Horton, three of undisputed Chicago harmonica masters. Little Walter’s “Tomorrow Night” has some strong slice of Sonny-Boy blowing, Big Walter Horton’s “Back Home To Mama” has some beautifully controlled high pitched melodic runs, while Little Walter’s workout of classic “Rollin’ & Tumblin’” an absolute winner, having in mind it was recorded more that 50 years ago! It has rocking garage feel to it and it rocks, man! 16 tracks with no filler in sight, this is wonderful collection and I can only wait for third installment of these, hopefully, series!

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