Guitarist Chris James and bassist Patrick Ryan have been working together for quite some time, playing the clubs in Chicago, touring with Sam Lay for several years as well. This writer saw them as part of Jody Williams backing band at the 2007 Pocono Blues Festival (seen above with James to the left and Ryan obscured by Williams guitar) and had a chance to chat with Chris finding him as knowledgeable as he was a marvelous player. Earwig has just issued a release by the duo, Stop and Think About It, which is a terrific recording of old school Chicago-styled blues.
James fronts the recording with his powerful vocals and his terrific guitar (evoking the late Robert Lockwood and Williams). He and Ryan are joined by a variety of backing musicians including harmonica player Bob Corritore with whom they have toured Europe, pianist Dave Maxwell, drummers Sam Lay and Willie Hayes and saxophonist Jonny Viau. They mix in some wonderful originals that suggest John Brim, Little Walter along with covers of songs from Elmore James (four numbers, of which only Hawaiian Boogie, may be well known), Jay McShann, Bo Diddley, and Snooky Pryor.
Whether the title track, a strong shuffle taken a relaxed tempo; a remake of Jay McShann’s Confessin’ the Blues, with a terrific tenor solo from Carla Brownlee and strong piano from Julien Brunetaud; and Mister Coffee is a easy rocker with hints of Jimmy Rogers and John Brim as James sings about being man who grinds so fine,” with Corritore adding harp. Early in the Morning, is one of the Elmore James covers here with some nice slide along with horns using the “Fannie Mae” riff. Hawaiian Boogie, is often is played with a no-holds bar manic tempo the performance here benefits from James’ restraint which does not diminish the power of this rendition. You Got to Move, is one of the songs Elmore recorded for legendary Harlem record man Bobby Robinson, and with Brownlee’s baritone helping give bottom to the performance, James lays down a first-rate vocal, and takes a terrific solo. Its so refreshing to hear someone put his own stamp on Elmore’s music yet remain true to the music’s essence. James is a tad bit out front on the vocal on Snooky Pryor’s Someone to Love Me, but it still is a solid performance. Relaxing at the Clarendon,” is a fine instrumental that displays more of James’ strong slide style taken at a walking tempo. Mix in the fine rendition of “Bo Diddley’s Mona, and one has little to find fault with Stop and Think About Me. When I saw James and Ryan backing Jody Williams I could appreciate how good they were as musicians, but this stellar release shows even more, how good they are out in front. This was an unexpected blues delicacy and highly recommended.