Saturday, July 23, 2011

Byther Smith and Blues On The Moon

Yesterday I posted an older Byther Smith review. The following review is of what I believe was his last release, a live performance issued on CD and DVD by Delmark.

Chicago blues guitarist-vocalist Byther Smith has not had an easy life, but he certainly has overcome a lot and produced plenty of solid West Side Chicago blues. This writer first became aware of him from some tough 45 rpm singles, including a strong, insistent rendition of Detroit Junior’s Money Tree. He had albums for small labels like Grits and Razor, and the latter was picked up by Bullseye Blues, with whom he also recorded a new disc. In more recent years he has recorded for Delmark and the European Black and Tan and his music has remained pretty constant. Impassioned vocals, stinging, driving guitar and tight bands that kick the groove along.

Delmark’s latest live recording is Smith’s Blues on the Moon: Live at the Natural Rhythm Social Club. It is available on CD and DVD, with the DVD including one track not on the CD. Over a hour of straight blues with no filler. Smith’s propulsive attack and soulful vocals is ably supported by the band of Anthony Palmer, guitar; Daryl Coutts, keyboards; Greg McDaniel, bass; and James Carter on drums. Coutts piano is especially noteworthy backing Smith who tackles a variety of material including the driving title track, Your Mama’s Crazy, inspired by Mama Talk To Your Daughter, by his cousin, J.B. Lenoir, with a different lyrical cast and some stinging guitar instead of Lenoir’s boogie riffing.

Smith’s staccato single note playing has a drive to it and enhances his pleading vocals. And he has a few distinctive riffs that enliven his rendition of the well worn Rock Me Baby. A highlight is the autobiographical Monticello, set to the melody of Let’s Straighten It Out, and the performances closes with an marvelous original recasting Don’t Start Me Talkin.

Sound on the recording is excellent and the DVD continues Delmark’s straight-forward approach in its video production. Focus is on Byther and musicians with some crowd shots added, but not to any distraction. The performances, and Byther’s intense focus in his performances commands our attention. As a bonus, there is a fascinating interview and commentary by Steve Wagner and Byther Smith discussing his career and the performances, along with Wagner discussing the actual production of the CD/DVD.

This is another excellent addition to Delmark’s CD/DVD pairs and I would be hard-pressed to name another blues label that is producing such new live blues CDs at such a high level of artists that frankly should be documented. Jimmy Johnson next please Delmark.

I received my review copy from Delmark.

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