Monday, January 21, 2008

Memphis Gold's Prodigal Son

In light of Memphis Gold's recent serious injury, it is appropriate to reprint my review that originally appeared in the D.C. Blues Calendar back in the December 2004-January 2005 issue. I made a few minor corrections. I acquired an advance of this CD at his triumphant appearance at the 2004 Pocono Blues Festival which I used for a review copy.

It was gratifying seeing Memphis Gold at this past summer’s Pocono Blues Festival. Having seen Chester Chandler perform at long gone venues like Smokehouse Blue and Fleetwood's, as well as his band with Charlie Sayles with their regular gigs at JVs and being regulars when Whitlow’s on Wilson first opened, one has to admire how he and his band has matured. At the time of the festival, he gave me an advance copy of his new self-produced CD, The Prodigal Son, which is being released imminently. Comprised mostly of originals it includes his regular band with guest appearances by Phil Wiggins on harp and Pete Ragusa on drums on a track or two, and several tracks have the late Willie Hicks on them.

Anyone who has seen Memphis Gold knows how much soul he brings to his performances and his Memphis influences go beyond the late Reverend Robert Wilkins and other influences of his youth. Certainly, the Stax sound underlies some of his songs like his evocation of
Don’t Make Your Move Too Soon on the opening Come Wit Me, with its funky tempo and groove. Its not surprising to see folks filling the dance floor and when he takes his guitar solo on this, it does not slow things up one bit. They avoid hurrying the tempo too much on the shuffle, Don’t Let Her Ride, which I believe was previously recorded by James Peterson, and has a nice piano solo and raw acoustic harp before Memphis Gold’s guitar takes the tune out. After the hot racetrack groove on Crabcakes, the tempo slows down for Big Leg Woman with more fluid fretwork. The title track, Prodigal Son, is not the song by his mentor, Rev. Robert Wilkins, but has a similar theme about a wondering blues man heading home set against the melody of the classic 44 Blues. Then there is an instrumental Chicken It, with a riff that suggests Howlin’ Wolf’s Killing Floor (and some nice harp), Preacher Blues, where he talks about bringing his shotgun to church with a driving solos, and the humorous bit of double entendre on Test Drive That Woman. The lengthiest track, Serves Me Right, is a terrific slow blues as pleads to his lady that he wants to come back home.

I had not listened to this in a couple months, but hearing it again I was struck how good this is. I should point out that I am among those who are thanked in the credits (reflecting my long friendship with Mr. Chester Chandler). I am just so gratified to have a friend produce probably the best local electric blues CD since Bobby Parker’s two discs for Black Top. It is that good. I am sure you will be hearing this on WPFW and you should check for information on purchasing this superb CD.

Addendum: This CD is available through and has been picked up by Jim O'Neal for his Stackhouse Records which is distributing this. The James Peterson song I refer to is Don't Let the Devil Ride with the same melody and slightly different lyricLinks. I do wish to reiterate what I said three years ago. This is the best local electric CD (local being the Washington DC area) since Bobby Parker's Black Top discs, and the quality is reflected by the fact that Stackhouse is now distributing it, and Memphis Gold has received rave reviews overseas and has been featured on the cover of Jefferson, the world's oldest blues periodical. If you don't have it, but it and help support my friend Memphis Gold. The DC Blues Society is putting on a benefit at Chick Hall's Surf Club on February 9, 2008. Go to for more information.

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