Sunday, 30 December 2007

CD Review - porterdavis

Live At Eddie’s Attic
Independent Release

There’s a rare magic in music when exceptional players mesh perfectly.

Porterdavis’ music is deeply traditional yet totally new. It is of no genre yet of them all – Blues, folk, jazz, bebop. Before every show, band members pour a drink on the floor in homage to their heroes: Ray Charles, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Elvin Jones, Miles Davis, Townes Van Zandt, Muddy Waters and Little Walter.

This CD captures the trio – a guitarist and drummer, both Americans, and a British harmonica player – live at a club near Atlanta.

Key to their sound is Simon Wallace, who won the U.K. National Blues Harmonica Title at age 17. His harp takes the lead on more songs than not. Sometimes his harmonica and Daniel Barrett’s guitar track each other exactly, an octave apart.

On other songs, Barrett provides rhythm or slide-played bass. The sound is complemented by Mike Meadows’ creative, intelligent percussion. This is a tight, tight band.

Lamentably, there are no credits on the promotional CD, but the album seems to mix covers and originals.

Muddy Waters’ ‘I Can’t Be Satisfied’ is transposed into a minor key, barely recognizable but deeper, blusier, more cutting than the original.

Robert Johnson’s ‘Come On In my Kitchen’ is eerie and true – brilliantly reworked, completely new.

‘Long Legs’, apparently an original, is aching folk, pure poetry: “I could see that freckled, bonesy girl would one day be my world. Would you be my world? … I dare not dream so dangerously. You could be the death of me.”

And ‘Diamond Eyed One’ is a delightful finger-poppin’ ode to desire: “I want to cook your favourite dish. I want to kiss your favourite kiss.”

With heartfelt singing by men who follow their own muse, this album is a revelation. Porterdavis is a band worthy of your attention.

CD Review - Toby Walker

Just Rolled In
Toby Walker

This is a fabulously fun CD, featuring acoustic blues guitar the way everyone should play it – with precision, gusto, and sass. You won’t hear better picking than this.

Walker, a Long Islander, was raised far from the Mississippi Delta. But his passion for blues and rag prompted him to head south. He tracked down musicians from an earlier era, learning from the likes of Eugene Powell, James "Son" Thomas, Etta Baker and R.L. Burnside.

His repertoire, a mix of covers and originals, is, he says, “99.9 percent songs of thieving, lying, stealing, cheating, murder and mayhem” – leavened, thankfully, with a large helping of humour.

Walker’s vocals rarely rise above serviceable, though they grow on you. The thing here is the guitar. Whether it’s blues or ragtime, the syncopation and rhythm make it hard to sit still when he plays.

With his funny between-song patter, Walker is a born storyteller; his guitar is an extension of that. His playing is not frantic and overfull, but still technically astonishing. He senses when the spaces say more than notes, and when a single bent note can move the story along.

‘Blame It On The Bass Player’ – an instrumental paean to those underappreciated musicians – is humour without words. Walker’s thumb gleefully picks out classic bass lines while his fingers tell another story up top.

And when Walker sings, the interplay between his vocal storytelling and that of his guitar is guaranteed to raise a smile.

Most of the album is light-hearted, but it ends with two barnburners – notably the defiant ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’, on which Walker’s voice, playing and blues come into their own.

This CD is 98 percent happy and 100 percent blues. If you think that’s a contradiction, just listen a while – and smile.

CD Review - J. Dorsey Blues Band

Worried Blues EP
Independent Release

By M.D. Spenser

Let’s be upfront about it: If you want to buy this CD, it’ll be tough. You won’t find it at HMV, nor on amazon, and the band’s web site on myspace – had, as of late December, not a speck of information.

But that’s OK, because there’s no reason to buy it anyway, unless what you need to fill out your collection is a complete lack of originality.

This CD is not horrible, but it’s not good, either. The five tracks are a melange of styles that don't really mix.

The title track is a droning one-chord version of a song listed as ‘Worried Blues’ and called “traditional”. In fact, the title of the song is ‘Someday Baby’ and it was written in 1935 by Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon. It’s played with some slide guitar and a whole lot of racket.

Track 2 is the only original, a one-chord number so slow it sounds like an LP played at the wrong speed. It is topped by Jimi Hendrix-like vocals and descends into distortion. Clocking in at 8:22, it’s about eight minutes too long.

From Hendrix territory we jump improbably to Nina Simone: the cover of her ‘Do I Move You’, slinky and sexual, is the EP’s one high point.

Then we hop to a dreary Chuck Berry cover. Chuck Berry with the fun taken out? What’s the point?

The CD closes with a Fred McDowell number, which is fun in a Fat Possum, Mississippi hill country sort of way. The song has a driving rhythm, but there is still a tendency to confuse cacophony with musicality.

The verdict? Twenty-three minutes of mishmash.