Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Matthew Skoller Blues Immigrant

Matthew Skoller
Blues Immigrant
Tongue 'N Groove Records

Harmonica player Matthew Skoller has been playing blues in Chicago for decades working with the likes of Jimmy Rodgers Blues Band, Big Daddy Kinsey and the Kinsey Report, Big Time Sarah and the BTS Express, and Deitra Farr Blues Band. Skoller played an important part on the Blues Music Award winning "Chicago Blues: A Living History," produced two albums by Lurrie Bell and plays on Lurrie's new recording, "Can't Shake This Feeling." He has his new release featuring his singing and songwriting in addition to his harp work. On this he is backed by a fine band including Johnny Iguana - Keyboards; Felton Crews - Bass;, Giles Corey - Guitar; Eddie Taylor Jr. - Guitar; Marc Wilson -  Drums; with Mike Avery and Stevie Robinson - Background Vocals and Carlos Johnson - guest Lead Guitarist.

Skoller lays down a varied program of Chicago harmonica blues with some interesting twists and displays flair in harp playing and appeals as a singer. Songs range from the opening topical blues lamenting how the Walmarts and similar stores have shut down the mom and pop stores, "Big Box Store Blues," a modernization of Sonny Boy Williamson I's "Welfare Store Blues," as well as "The Devil Ain't Got No Music", which is why his home is hell. The title song mixes his life with topical themes as well as considers cultural appropriation as he asks does he need a green card to play the blues while observing how Reagan shrunk the government while the war machine expanded. This is followed by his "Only in the Blues" with his ironic lyrics about the latest young sensation outselling B.B. and Buddy, and while Foundations and Clubs claim to be keeping the blues alive, bands make 250 for four or five while playing three 60's singing to drinks.

In between a rant about the greedy with their contempt for the poor ("Story of Greed"), and celebrating "My Get It Done Woman," Skoller covers Cool Papa Sadler's "747" about his woman who left him and caught a 747 because a Greyhound runs to slow and there ain't no tracks in the sky. It is an enjoyable rendition although not as satisfying as the Joe Louis Walker recording of a couple decades back. There is an original instrumental, the appealing, funky "Organ Mouth," a solid rendition of Luther 'Georgia Snake Boy' Johnson's shuffle, "Get Down to the Nitty Gritty" (with some fine piano from Iguana), and a closing slow harmonica feature, Papa Lightfoot's "Blue Lights."

Skoller has provided us with a wonderful recording of varied performances that are splendidly played. The pace of these performances also stand out, as they never come across as hurried or rushed. Matthew Skoller finally has his own fine recording to join those excellent ones he has contributed to.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Matthew performing "Get Down to the Nitty Gritty" from Blues Immigrant.

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