Introduced as from Hells Kitchen in New York City, Chris Barnes logged over 2000 performances as a member of Chicago's Second City comedy troupe. With that background, he brings a certain live dynamism to a blues concert stage. This CD was recorded on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, produced by Tony Braunagel and engineered by Johnny Lee Schell, both of the Legendary Blues Band. His backing band includes the remarkable Steve Guyger on harmonica, Gary Huey on guitar, Sandy McDonald on piano, A.J. Pappas on bass, Matt Scurfield on drums, Mark Earley on sax, Doug Woolverton on trumpet and Gracie Curran on backing vocals.
This is party music played loud and sometimes lacking in subtlety as best illustrated by Barnes doing his original, "Hungry & Horny" set to the music of Earl King's "Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)." As he huskily shouts out his vocals, he receives tight, brassy backing. Sometimes the musicians rock out as guitarist Huey overplays on the cover of Muddy Waters' hit "Hootchie Cootchie Man." It is arguably Barnes' weakest vocal. Then Little Walter's "Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights" is taken as at too fast a tempo.
There is a credible rendition of Bo Diddley's "You Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover," and an imaginative rearranging arrangement of "It's Tight Like That," set to a "Bo Diddley' groove. Also, Big Bill's Broonzy "Keep Your Mind To It" is set to an understated New Orleans groove with exceptional solos from Sandy McDonald and Steve Guyger. There is also covers of Don Nix's "Going Down," and the Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post," with the latter number showcasing Huey's blues-rock slide guitar.
The CD closes with the Eddie Floyd classic, "Raise Your Hand." It has one of Barnes' better vocals. The performances here display his showmanship. and if he is not a consistently compelling blues performer, Chris Barnes is an entertaining one. This CD certainly will enliven many a party.
I received my review copy from Vizztone. Here he performs "Raise Your Hand."