The combination of acoustic guitarist and vocalist Chris Gill and Derrick "D'Mar" Martin on drums and congas is heard on Real Good Friend (Airtight). While at first sight one might wonder if this duo is another in the vein of North Mississippi Hill Country groups, they are not as rhythmically heavy in their style. Martin embellishes Gill's vocals and guitar playing as opposed to the the no holds bar approach on some North Mississippi Hill Country styled recordings.
Gill wrote most of the songs (the one cover is My Babe) and sings with a definite warmth and plays very adeptly whether finger-picking or adding slide runs while Martin's percussion adds a swinging feel. The songs suggest, without copying, the classic country blues. One example is the title song where Gill opens with a spoken reference to Honeyboy Edwards and Robert Johnson before his delta-flavored, slide accompaniment to a lyric about riding the rails and jump off and get to the hobo jungle. Maybe Baby is built upon a delta groove and features nice slide. Martin's drumming and percussion helps this performance percolate. He never is flashy but it always sounds like he has added just the right amount of syncopation.
Crawfish Boogie is an infectious medium tempo salute to the mudbugs with a catchy vocal chorus (with D’Mar adding a vocal response) and a kazoo solo before some nice finger-picked guitar. It is followed by the jazzy sophistication of Harmony Street as Gill whistles and displays a different side of his guitar playing. The contrast in these two performances shows how the two are able to paint a varied musical palette here. The rest of the album is as engaging with Tore Down, a focused blues with a strong vocal, standing out. This concludes with an instrumental, International Blues Stomp, that matches Gill’s adroit slide playing and the duo’s refreshingly understated approach.
D'Mar & Gill have provided here solid performances of interesting and original songs. The performances of Real Good Friend are rooted in the blues tradition but provide their own slant on acoustic blues and will delight folk-blues lovers. Recommended.
My review copy was provided by a publicist.