november 2009

RAY CHARLES, The Genius Hits The Road—On his first album for ABC-Paramount, Brother Ray teamed up with the man who would become his most trusted and longest tenured producer, Sid Feller, and had way too much fun assaying a bunch of songs about preferred destinations. Good for him, even better for us. That this long player happened to also yield two classics in the lush, saloon-song iteration of “Georgia On My Mind” and the effervescent Percy Mayfield-penned barnburner, “Hit the Road, Jack,” makes it even more interesting.

DAVID GANS, The Ones That Look The Weirdest Taste The Best— Now recovering from a self-described “cardiac calamity,” wandering troubadour/Grateful Dead confidante and authority David Gans may not be able to get out on the road to entertain his extensive network of fans and friends at the moment, but his new album is mighty good company in the interim.

THINGS ABOUT COMIN’ MY WAY: A Tribute To The Music Of The Mississippi Sheiks— All the Sheiks are long gone now, but in 1960, Bo Carter, four years from dying blind and destitute, reflected on his group’s glory years in an interview with blues historian Paul Oliver. ‘We was the Sheiks, Mississippi Sheiks,’ he said, ‘and you know we was famous.’ Bo, you still are.

DARRELL NULISCH, Just For You— If you’re wondering if classically styled blues ‘n’ soul is alive and well—blues ‘n’ soul deep and bruised, horn powered with robust organ, moaning harp and crying guitar and a singer who gives it up with each and every note—look no further than this inspired work by Darrell Nulisch.

DAVE RILEY & BOB CORRITORE, Lucky To Be Living— When Dave Riley retooled the lyrics of Frank Frost’s ‘Jelly Roll King’ only Sam Carr among three of the four friends he mentions in the song were still with us, but on September 29 Carr passed away from congestive heart failure in Clarksdale, MS. So now this easygoing Mississippi shuffle becomes a wonderful tribute to Carr, his wife Doris Carr, John Weston and Frost, with Riley growling the lyrics in a manner that would no doubt meet the approval of his departed pals as would the whole of his second teaming with the master harp man, Bob Corritore.

THE BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA, Songs From Lonely Avenue— Louis Jordan, Louis Prima, Fats Waller were all high-spirited jokers whose forte was not singing, per se, but inhabiting a song by the sheer force of their personality and making it musical. Brian Setzer is in that league, and if you’re saying, ‘Brian Setzer never wrote ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’,’’ you best give him time.

CHRIS SMITHER, Time Stands Still— Artists like Chris Smither are treasures in any country, but our Chris Smither is an American, so it’s high time to designate him an official American Treasure. This is too often applied to an artist past his or her prime and living on reputation, but after 11 albums Smither may still be approaching his prime.

CHARLIE WOOD, Flutter And Wow— There’s not much on Charlie Wood’s Flutter and Wow that betrays his decade-and-a-half-plus tenure at King’s Palace on Beale Street, where he often teamed with the legendary blues guitarist Calvin Newborn. No, the Charlie Wood we encounter here aspires to classic pop respectability.

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