Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Almost Guitar Shorty's Best

The review below was part of a review of several Black Top Records compilations issued by Shout Factory in 2006 and appeared in the September-October Jazz & Blues Report (issue 286). I may have received this directly from Shout Factory or from the publication. Reviews of the Anson Funderburgh compilation has already run and another will run in the next few days. I have made some stylistic changes. I should point out that a  number of the Black Top recordings are available in reissue or mp3 and you might want to check collector's choice music as well as Amazon and other websites for the Black Top recordings.

David Kearney, best known as Guitar Shorty, was among the three major rediscoveries that Black top made (Robert Ward and Bobby Parker are the other two). The Florida born singer- guitarist was heavily influenced by Guitar Slim who made some choice recordings for Cobra Records and the LA based Pull label. For a period he was married to Jimi Hendrix’ stepsister and would swap ideas with the future leg-end. 

Kearney had recorded a wonderful My Way or the Highway for the English JSP label before joining Black Top where he recorded three albums, Topsy Turvy, Get Wise To Yourself, and Roll Over, Baby. After leaving Black Top, there were live albums on Collectibles followed by Evidence’s I Go Wild and more recently he signed to Alligator. Shout Factory’s The Best of Guitar Shorty: The Long and Short of It, is taken from the JSP album, the three Black Top CD and the Evidence. The highlights include a stunning remake of Hard Life, You Better Get Wise to Yourself, Swamp Dogg’s I Want to Report a Crime and a duet with Carol Fran, I’m So Glad I Met You

The two cuts from the JSP disc, No Educated Woman and Red Hot Mama, are almost equal to the Black Top discs which employed such first-rate players like Lee Allen Zeno on bass, Herman Ernest III, Shannon Powell or Raymond Weber on drums, David Torkanowsky on keyboards, Kaz Kazanoff on sax. Oddly the only number from Black Top that had South Central, his working band of the nineties, was a credible rendition of Hey Joe, a tribute to Hendrix which is ok, but there are some other selections that are missing, especially his rendition of Al Kooper’s (I Love You) More Than You’ll Ever Know, derived from Donny Hathaway’s recording. Hathaway was a major influence on Shorty as a singer, but you would never know it from most of which has been written about him that focuses on his guitar playing and Hendrix connection. 

With the more rock-oriented production of his recent recordings, his vocals also suffer. But if this gem had replaced a track from the Evidence album, then the title would be more accurate as opposed to really being Almost The Best of Guitar Shorty. Still this will have to do until Topsy Turvy and Get Wise To Yourself are reissued. The JSP is in print. 

Here is Guitar Shorty doing one of his signature songs, It's A Hard Life.

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