Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Zora Young & Little Mike and the Tornadoes - Friday Night

"Friday Night," (Elrob Records), a new release by Zora Young & Little Mike and the Tornadoes, brings back memories of seeing the likes of Pinetop Perkins and Hubert Sumlin backed by Little Mike and the Tornadoes at Twist & Shout in Bethesda, Maryland, and recordings the Tornadoes made backing them. In this same role, they back Zora Young, a solid Chicago blues chanteuse whose husky, smokey vocals go down like a smooth scotch on the rocks. This is blues with kick. On this date are Little Mike Markowitz along with his long-time partners, guitarist Tony O. Melio, bassist Brad Vickers and drummer Robert Piazza. Kim McKaba is on keyboards. Several originals from Markowitz and Tony O are mixed with covers of recordings by Howlin' Wolf, Big Joe Turner, Otis Spann and Lucille Spann, and Bonnie Lee.

Horns are added to originals like the title track from Little Mike and the opening "I've Been a Fool Too Long," and provide additional punch behind Zora's moaning vocal style. Certainly she places her stamp on Tony O's "I Love Chicago" as she belts out about her singing the blues and Chicago being both home and the home of the blues. Her vocal here is supported by the Tornadoes driving accompaniment. Wolf's "44 Blues" is nicely covered, but better is her soul-drenched rendition of Big Joe Turner's hit, "Chains of Blues." On a very enjoyable recording, a highpoint might be the wonderful rendition of Otis Spann-Lucille Spann's "Country Girl," with strong playing from McKaba, Little Mike and Tony O (evoking Sam Lawhorn on this track)." Riffing horns and Mike's harmonica add punch behind a fervent cover of Bonnie Lee's "I'm Good."

Young, Mike and Tony O sit out the closing "Spann's Boogie," which is a driving instrumental for pianist McKaba who is ably supported by Vickers and Piazza. It is a solid performance although odd for an album showcasing Zora Young's blues vocals. Throughout there is fine, idiomatic playing from Little Mike and the Tornadoes. Zora Young has not exactly been recorded extensively, so a new recording by her is welcome, especially when she sounds so fine, as she does here.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Zora Young singing at the Lucerne Blues Festival backed by Bob Margolin, Bob Stroger and Kenny Smith.

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