Monday, October 24, 2011

Scott Ramminger's Crawstickers A Rich Musical Stew

I have known Washington DC area saxophonist-vocalist Scott Ramminger from performances at clubs in the area. I have seen him both as a sideman in a band and leading his band the Crawstickers. He has just issued a CD titled Crawstickers with some of the DC area’s finest roots and rhythm players, including guitarist Dave Chappell, bassist Claude Arthur and drummer Pete Ragusa (best known for his long tenure in the Nighthawks). Also on this on backing vocals are Mary Ann Redmond and Patty Reese, two of the wonderful female singers that grace the DC area.

Watching Scott, I am always struck how good a vocalist and saxophonist. He is quite an accomplished musician whose saxophone solos are much more than simply honks and squeals. He is a storyteller and his solos provide a nice voice to contrast with the guitarists he plays with. The other thing is that his bands are tight and can swing and jump. They never came off as forced nor do they ever sound heavy handed or lead footed. These same strengths characterize this recording.

In addition to the strong playing, Ramminger has provided us with eleven originals that display his way with words. His songs are full of astute, often quirky, observations about everyday relationships and life. The songs include a strong blues duet with Mary Ann Redmond, There Must Be Something Wrong With You, and the Crescent City groover Real Fine Gumbo, about a woman not too sightly and a bit mean, and whose parents hate Scott, but she makes a real fine gumbo so all is right. The are funky grooves of Give a Pencil To a Fish, where he sings that give a pencil to a fish and the fish ain’t gonna write like Joyce, and give a hammer to a cow and he will never build a barn, and to his lady he says that’s why I won’t “give my love to you.” In addition to the fine studio band, Real Fine Gumbo sports a larger horn ensemble while Give a Pencil has some hot trumpet from Vince McCool who effectively uses a mute on it. That song also has features fine tenor from Ramminger’s, while Dave Chappell adds strong slide guitar. This is typical of their strong playing throughout.

Brian Simms plays keyboards throughout including accordion on Three Dollar Beer. This number has a Tex-Mex groove and a strong lyric about a man losing his job on a rig off the Gulf Coast and his wife going off with an insurance salesman and no matter hard he tried, he ended back at the roadhouse for a three dollar beer. Another topical song, I Dreamed I Met Jesus, has Jesus in a bar late last night , having a salad and an Amstel Lite while saying he was troubled by the way the world looks and people setting fire to each other’s holy books. The album concludes with a rocking duet with Patty Reese, “The Country’s Gone From Me.”

This is seriously entertaining music here with plenty of substance in the performances. Mix together strong original material with a first-rate band and a terrific singer-saxophonist, the result is the real fine gumbo of Scott Ramminger’s excellent Crawstickers. Scott’s website is and this is available on cdbaby and iTunes.

Scott provided me with a review copy.

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