Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Studebaker John Is a Self-Made Man

Studebaker John Grimaldi and the Hawks have been laying down some house-rocking blues for nearly 3 decades. His band name referenced the Studebaker Hawk as well as served as a tribute to the late J.B. Hutto whose backing band was known as the Hawks. Playing both slide guitar harp, he has been adept in a traditionally oriented approach to the blues (reflecting especially the driving approaches of Hutto and Hound Dog Taylor) but not afraid to mix in a bit of rock and roll and bring his own voice. He has toured and recorded behind a number of blues legends as well as developed his own music. He had several fine recordings on Blind Pig in the 1990s and has just released his new disc, Self-Made Man on the Avanti label.

He is backed by his trio that includes bassist Bob Halaj and drummer Willie Hayes for a collection of straight ahead rocking blues. Perhaps no finer example of Studebaker John’s hard rocking approach is the hot boogie, Back in Your Town, with its stop time boogie break suggestive of Magic Sam. The title track has the rhythm laying down a churning groove with some fine guitar from John. John picks up the harp and displays a nice fat tone on Fast in the Slow Lane, singing about wanting to get home to his woman as the three get a real nice shuffle groove going.

Hayes kicks off a boogaloo groove as John plays some very atmospheric tremolo for The Hard Way, singing about being knocked down and getting back up and taking no easy shortcuts. There is some nice playing on this as John effectively mixes in slide with his single note runs. All Aboard (The Streamliner) is a hot harmonica instrumental where we get taken for quite a ride while Hoo Doo You is a funk blues about having more than a little spell placed on him while Where Are You? is another harmonica blues with a swampy feel. Hey Little Mama is a slide guitar boogie where John evokes Hound Dog Taylor.

By the time the set closes with another harp rocker, Ride With me Baby, one has been taken through an 80 minute roller coaster of blues with more than a few rock and roll accents. Studebaker John has left us another helping of original music that is deeply rooted in the traditional Chicago blues but full of his own personal stamp on the music.

This review appeared originally in the November-December 2006 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 288). I likely received my review copy from either that publication or a publicist for the review. Studebaker John has a new Delmark release, Old School Rockin’ that I will be reviewing shortly. I reviewed his previous Delmark album, That's The Way You Do in 2010.

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