The Real Deal
Little Village Foundation
In his brief notes to this debut by John Boyd, Rick Estrin speaks of his stylistic range at times reminiscent of shouters like Big Joe Turner and Wyonnie Harris and other times like blues crooners like Junior Parker and early B.B. King. I am not sure I agree, although listening to this I agree with the Rick Estrin penned opening track where Boyd proclaims "I Am The Real Deal," that he certainly is. I assume Estrin is the harp player on this selection while Aki Kumar is also heard on this album. Others here include Kid Andersen, Big Jon Atkinson and Robert Welsh on guitar; Jim Pugh, Welsh and Andersen on keyboards; Dave Chavez, Danny Michel and Andersen on bass; June Core, Atkinson and D'Mar Martin are among those on drums; while horns include the saxophones of Eric Spaulding and Terry Hanck. Andersen produced and recorded this at his Greaseland Studios. Boyd wrote ten of these songs
After emphatically letting us know he is the real deal, Boyd takes on a hot rocking shuffle "I Will Discover" that suggests classic Junior Parker with some blistering guitar in the vein of Roy Gaines backing Bobby Bland on Duke whereas the following "I'm Like A Stranger To You," has the feel of a Percy Mayfield Tangerine recording. Whoever did the arrangement here is to be commended, while Boyd again shows just how fine a singer he is. There is plenty of humor in Rick Estrin's ode to big-legged woman "That's Big!" with a bass line that evokes Jimmy McCracklin's "The Walk." Another hot shuffle, "That Certain Day" features some outstanding guitar in the vein of classic Freddie King.
An Estrin-Andersen collaboration "Dona Mae" takes us to Chicago in a performance in the manner of vintage Muddy Waters, while the musical setting of "I'm So Weak Right Now" evokes B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone," as Boyd sings about not being able to get himself together as his lady has gone. Then there is a terrific slow blues with some haunting sax at the opening "Screaming in the Night" with a great vocal and backing evocative of an unissued Otis Rush Cobra side, whereas musically "(Have You Ever Been To) Marvin Gardens" is reminiscent of the Willie Dixon Argo album by Walter Horton. Unlike the limited vocal of the late harmonica wizard, Boyd handles the vocal with plenty of personality and there is some fine harp here.
The album closes with Boyd's marvelous "John, The Blues Is Calling You," as he sings he knows what must do, because he was born a blues disciple with some greasy organ and more terrific guitar. With the excellent players Kid Andersen assembled, it would be pretty hard to produce something other than a very entertaining recording. When one adds a terrific singer like John Boyd, then one has a stellar recording that is as impressive a contemporary real blues debut as one might have heard in some time.
I purchased this. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 371). Here is a video that introduces John Boyd.