Rip Cat Records
California based Harmonica player and singer (and sometimes guitarist) John Clifton brings together a solid blues-rockabilly mix with touches of rockabilly and soul on "Nightlife." He is backed by Scott Abeyta on guitar, Matt Moulton on bass, either John Shafer or Roman Rivera on drums and Bartek Szopinski on piano or B-3.
The program consists of choice covers and interesting originals. Clifton impresses as a vocalist in the straight-forward manner suggestive of Phil Alvin of The Blasters opening with a hot take of Charlie Musselwhite's "Strange Land," as well as the hot rock and roll of his original "Brand New Way To Walk," with guitarist Abeyta showcasing some slashing rockabilly-tinged, playing.
A cover of Little Walter's "Long As I Have You," is a solid performance full of some explosive harmonica with Szopinski's accompaniment outstanding. Muddy Waters' "Still a Fool" is treated to a solid rendition with a slight distortion of his vocal contributing to the moody version here. It should be noted that Clifton has played and toured with Muddy's son, Big Bill Morganfield, playing on Morganfield's recording "Blood Stains On The Wall." The title track is a brief rocker that is not the familiar Willie Nelson classic. There also is a solid interpretation of Leiber, Stoller and Otis' "Last Clean Shirt."
A moody instrumental, "Swamp Dump," has nice understated, well thought out guitar and harmonica solos. Some spicy chromatic harmonica opens another instrumental, "How About That," that finds Clifton in a Little Walter mode with a sizzling jazzy single note guitar solo and a brief drum solo. "Wild Ride" is a sprite duet between Clifton's acoustic harmonica playing and Szopinski's piano.
The album closes with its longest performance, a terrific slow blues, "Every Now and Then." It has a heartfelt vocal and strong playing from everybody. The rhythm section, whether Shafer or Rivera on drums, bassist Moulton, and pianist Szopinski, is splendid throughout this strong recording.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the May-June 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 378) although I have made some minor edits. Here John Clifton performs "How About That."