The High Cost Of Low Living
As Tom Hyslop observes in his liner notes to this new Nick Moss recording, it marks Moss' return "to traditional Chicago and jump blues and old school rock'n'roll after his recent explorations into bluesy rock and jam blues stylings." Moss apprenticed with the likes of Jimmy Dawkins, The Legendary Blues Band and Jimmy Rogers. before his own solo career. He has recorded 12 albums on his own Blue Bella label before this Alligator Records debut. Moss' influences include B.B. King, Freddie King, Earl Hooker, Magic Slim and other groundbreaking players.
Moss' new band includes the vocals and harmonica of Dennis Gruenling, whose full throated harmonica reflects the inspiration of James Cotton, Little Walter and George “Harmonica” Smith and saxophonists, including Lester Young and Red Prysock. Like Moss, he has seven fine solo recordings to his credit. Others heard on this recording are Taylor Streiff on piano, Nick Fane on bass and Patrick Seals on drums. Also present on several selections are Kid Andersen (who engineered this and co-produced this with Moss) on guitar and shakers; Jim Pugh on organ; Eric Spaulding on tenor sax and Jack Sanford on baritone sax. Moss contributed eight songs, Gruenling two, and there are three covers.
This return to straight, real deal Chicago blues by Moss is superb. The original material is first-rate (full of wit and pathos), Moss and Gruenling are solid vocalists, and playing (leads and backing) is top-notch. With horns in the background, Moss kicks off this recording with some Johnny Guitar Watson sounding guitar on "Crazy Mixed Up Baby," with Gruenling coming in for the first solo break before Moss explodes on the second break on a crisp West Coast blues. It is followed by an amusing shuffle "Get Right Before You Get Left," with a groove updating Howlin' Wolf's Memphis boogie recordings. It has more terrific harp and Moss sounds like he's channeling Willie Johnson. Some tough Elmore James flavored slide and rollicking piano help propel the driving title track with its ironic lyrics. Gruenling's "Count on Me," is a bit of classic rock and roll led by his full-toned harmonica and more strong piano.
There is a solid cover of Otis Spann's "Get Your Hands Out Of My Pockets," that has Gruenling evoking vintage James Cotton. "Tight Grip On Your Leash," is a rollicking shuffle about this 'cool little number." The title "He Walked With Giants (Ode To Barrelhouse Chuck)," says it all with an affectionate lyric delivered with plenty of heart by Moss with Streiff again standing out. These ears detect Jimmy Dawkins' influence on Moss' guitar here, while Gruenling just kills it on chromatic harmonica. "All Night Diner," is a hot instrumental feature for Gruenling, with organist Pugh and Moss playing in a jazzy vein.
A bouncy rendition of Boyd Gilmore's recording "Rambling On My Mind," strongly closes this recording. As stated, there is strong and varied material (including choice songs to cover), very good singing, and excellent playing. This is also wonderfully recorded resulting in a superb straight-no-chaser Chicago blues recording.
I received my review copy from Alligator Records. Here is a clip of the Nick Moss with Dennis Gruenling