Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mannish Boys Shakin' That Delta Groove

Delta Groove is celebrating its 5th Anniversary and as part of the celebration is the fifth recording by The Mannish Boys, “Shake For Me,” also celebrating the 5th Anniversary of this aggregation. Returning for this are vocalists Finis Tasby, Bobby Jones and Johnny Dyer; guitarists Kirk Fletcher and Frank Goldwasser; Randy Chortkoff on harmonica; and pianist Fred Kaplan with special guests Nick Curran, Michael Zito, Kid Ramos, Rod Piazza, Mitch Kashmar, Arthur Adams and Lynwood Slim with a terrific rhythm section of Willie J. Campbell on bass and Jimi Bott on drums sparking things throughout. David Woodward plays saxophone on several selections. As expected, it is a celebration of classic blues with a few originals, styled in the vein of classic blues also included.

A ripping cover of Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson’s “Too Tired” with an able vocal from Tasby and Curran playing in the vein of Watson’s original recording. The medley of Bo Diddley’s “Mona” and Johnny Otis’ “Willie & the Hand Jive,” features the famous Bo Diddley groove and Zito’s rocking guitar backing Bobby jones and Zito himself. Goldwasser handles guitar behind Tasby for a nice treatment of Lowell Fulson's “Reconsider Baby.” Few can put together the grainy southwestern approach of Fulson as a singer as does Tasby. Randy Chortkoff contributed “Educated Ways,” an original styled after some of Elmore James’ Fire recordings (“You Got To Move”) with some strong slide from Goldwasser and vocal by Jones. Jones then handles the vocal backed solely by pianist Rob Rio on a doomy St. Louis Jimmy slow blues “Half Ain’t Been Told.” Tarheel Slim’s “Number 9 Train,” is revived by Frank Goldwasser’s vocals and guitar with Bott’s drum. Goldwasser’s vocal and driving, slashing guitar (inspired by Wild Jimmy Spruill’s work on the original), takes listeners on a wild ride.

Rod Piazza’s harp backs Tasby’s nice rendition on “Last Night” with Goldwasser and Fletcher both present, before Jones’ reprises Ray Charles’ on “Hey Now,” with brassy horns and some tough guitar from Fletcher in a Pete ‘Guitar’ Lewis fashion, while Fletcher’s work on the Howling Wolf’s “You Can’t Be Beat,” evokes the slashing style of Willie Johnson’s from Wolf’s Memphis days. More solid playing from Fletcher is heard behind Tasby’s evocation of Lowell Fulson on “Black Nights.” Fletcher trades solos with Curran on “The Bullet,” a hot instrumental combining hot bop flavored jump blues of the likes of Tiny Grimes with the driving Memphis boogie of Willie Johnson and Pat Hare with some nice piano from Kaplan. Chortkoff wrote a nice slow blues for Bobby jones, “These Worries,” with Lynwood Slim on chromatic harp, himself on harmonica and Goldwasser on slide with more of Kaplan’s fine down in the alley piano. “Raunchy,” by Arthur Adams, is a jaunty feature for the veteran singer and guitarist. Johnny Dyer’s sole vocal is a nice rendition of Muddy Waters’ “Champagne & Reefer,” while Bobby Jones reprises Bobby Bland’s “You Got Bad Intentions” with Fletcher taking a frenetic solo. This disc concludes with the Dutch singer and harp player, “Big” Pete van der Pluijim reprising the late Lester Butler’s “Way Down South,” with Kid Ramos’ trebly-laden guitar in support.

The only sour note here is the failure to properly credit the cover photo which I believe is from one of the WPA photographers that documented American life during the depression and in the Library of Congress. The photo has been used a number of times going back at least to Yazoo Records anthology of Jackson Blues in the late sixties. Aside from that (like the previous releases by The Mannish Boys), this disc is a celebration of a wide spectrum of blues and rhythm music, wonderfully played and sang.

This review originally appeared in the May 2010 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 325). A review copy was provided by a publicity firm for the record label.

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