Sunday, April 06, 2014

Mark T. Small's Smokin' Blues

With a background that includes stints in a Newgrass band and later leading various blues combos, Mark T. Small has produced a fascinating solo recording that is centered on blues Smokin’ Blues (Lead Foot Music). On the CD cover he states that it “contains a collection of my favorite guitar grooves using both fingerpicking and flat picking guitar techniques). And the grooves includes songs associated with Blind Boy Fuller, Tampa Red, John Lee Hooker, Rev. Gary Davis, Charlie Patton and others.

The variety in this album can be heard in the first three tracks. His rendition of Fuller’s Step It Up and Go has a rockabilly flavor in his vocal along with his spirited flat picking. On Tampa Red’s Sell My Money he states his accompaniment is based on the piano accompaniment and not Red’s guitar. The resulting imaginative performance evokes Robert Nighthawks’ reworking of Dr. Clayton’s I’m Gonna Murder My Baby. He gets a chugging groove on John Lee Hooker’s Jockey Blues. Buck Rag is a lovely fingerpicking showcase on the Gary Davis number followed by Small’s country blues reworking of Rufus Thomas’ Walking the Dog.

Small doesn’t have the voice to pull off the solo rendition of Wolf’s Moanin’ at Midnight on which he also plays harmonica. He is more successful on Gary Davis’ Lamp Trimmed & Burning with some nice slide guitar. His newgrass roots are displayed on Sam McGhee’s Railroad Blues where he is heard on some terrific flat-picking. The album closes with the “America Medley,” a Chet Atkins/ Merle Travis styled fingerpicking showcase on a medley of America, Take Me Out To The Ball Game and Yankee Doodle.

While Small's vocals are not at the same level as his guitar playing, the fresh arrangements he brings to these songs and the lively playing makes this quite an engaging recording that should appeal to acoustic blues and folk listeners. His website is from which this can be ordered.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Mark T. Small in performance.

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