Thursday, November 18, 2010

Studebaker John's Maxwell Street Kings Deep Blues Grooves

Studebaker John Grimaldi has been playing straight, non-nonsense blues and roots music for years. The latest project by the vocalist, guitarist and harp player, is the Maxwell Street Kings, a homage to the times when the open air market on maxwell Street rang with the blues sounds of street musicians and when blues giants like Muddy waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James and others could be heard in the Chicago west and south side clubs. His fellow Kings include guitarist Rich Kreher whose credits include playing in Muddy Waters’ last band, and drummer Steve Cushing, best known for his “Blues Before Sunrise,” radio show, but who has played behind, among others, Big Smokey Smothers, Magic Slim and Billy Boy Arnold. Delmark has just issued, “That’s The Way You Do,” a 15 tune romp through traditional Chicago blues styles.
The disc opens with the title track, a tasty Jimmy Reed styled shuffle with lyrics that evoke some of Reed’s hits. Two slide numbers follow, with the a broom-dusting “Fine Cadillac,” conjuring up Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers. I would think Big john Wrencher is among those smiling on “Headin’ Down to Maxwell Street,” with John’s gritty singing about heading to Maxwell Street and jump[ing and shouting to the sounds over a droning accompaniment and forceful harp. “If You Would Love Me,” has a doomy bass line, conjuring up Muddy, Wolf and Eddie Taylor with John adding more potent slide, while “B-Line” is a simple Little Walter styled instrumental with Cushing pushing the shuffle groove along nicely (Fred Below must be smiling too) and nice use of echo in the recording. 
So In Love With You,” is a simple shuffle with some grungy guitars before John rips off another Hound Taylor styled solo. “Son of the Seventh Son,” is a nice slow blues with an obvious allusion to the Willie Mabon recording but a lyric that references numerous Chicago blues song titles and phrases from these songs. ”Low Down Woman,” captures more Hound Dog Taylor flavor in the dirty guitar shuffle accompaniment that is based on the “Dust My Broom” riff with another tight slide break, followed by “When the Mule Won’t Ride,” with the spare backing sound like a Jay Miller backing to Slim Harpo, with a melody that suggests “Scratch My Back.” “Shake It” features more wild slide with a juggernaut groove. “Stepping Stone” is a nice Muddy Waters’ styled blues that mixes the grit and sandpaper in John’s voice with a passionate, yet relaxed, delivery for a vocal that rings true.
The rest of the album brings together similar elements from classic Chicago blues, but always in a fresh fashion that takes the inspirations as a launching point, and not something they try to imitate. Studebaker John may have been inspired by Hound Dog Taylor, and Hound Dog’s influence can be heard in his slide playing. However, Studebaker John brings his own approach to how the solos are put together and with the terrific support he receives from Kreher and Cushing has put together a marvelously entertaining CD with over an hour of foot stomping solid blues grooves.

The review copy was provided by Delmark Records.

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