Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Smoky Greenwell Band Live at the Old U.S. Mint

Subtitled on its cover, "Smoky Greenwell's New Orleans Blues Jam," the Smoky Greenwell Band (led by the New Orleans harmonica player, saxophonist and vocalist) have issued a CD on Greenwell Records, "Live at the Old U.S. Mint." Greenwell is heard with his band of Pete Bradish on drums and vocals, David Hyde on bass guitar, and Jack Kolb on drums with guest appearance by Mark Pentone on guitar and Bruce 'Sunpie' Barnes on accordion and vocals.

There is nothing fancy about this recording of blues with an occasional zydeco touch. The Smoky Greenwell Band is a tight band that playing Louisiana Swamp Blues and Chicago blues except for the tracks with Sunpie Barnes that have a zydeco tenor. Greenwell impresses as a harmonica player throughout (the opening "Smoke Alarm" is an instrumental shuffle showcasing his tone and driving attack) and a capable saxophonist (as on "Peter Gunn"). Some songs have intriguing lyrics like "My Own Blues Club" where he sings about owning a club on Frenchman Street and the difficulties, especially after Katrina, that made him sell it. Set to a slow Excello type swamp blues groove, it has an earnest, if bland vocal.

While the back cover does not credit Mark Pentone as a vocalist, he capably sings on "Jodie," a new contribution to the "Jody" group of songs. "Love's Gone" has Greenwell on sax behind Sunpie Barnes on a nice rocking zydeco number while he plays both sax and harmonica on the boogie woogie-laced "Leroy's Shuffle." Barnes is perhaps the most appealing singer on this. The album closes with a John Lee Hooker inspired instrumental "Back to the Boogie." It is a solid performance that is representative of an enjoyable recording well worth checking out.

I received my review copy of the CD only from a publicist. This apparently is sold as a CD/DVD and I cannot comment on the DVD. This review originally appeared in the November-December 2015 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 363).  Here is a video of the Smoky Greenwell Band performing at the Louisiana Music Factory.

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