Welcome to the first installment of Friday Fast Five CD Reviews. I hope to do this every week. There’s a lot of music out there to sort through and we’re here to help you find something appealing. The idea is to present five short and to-the-point reviews in 300 words or less. Yeah, I didn’t think I could do it either!
Livin’ It Up is the follow up to Andy T & Nick Nixon’s 2013 breakout album Drink Drank Drunk. It’s big but uncluttered, crisp, clean Rhythm & Blues. Nick Nixon has a smooth voice and a heartfelt delivery. Andy T mixes classic guitar influences from T. Bone Walker to Jimmy Rogers into a personal style with rich tone that avoids being derivative. These guys know the importance of creating your own music beyond your influences and they do it well. They claim to play Chicago, Texas, and New Orleans Blues and R&B. Somehow they manage to wrap all those styles into a singular package without getting messy or losing the plot.
“Livin’ It Down” is ostensibly the title track. She undoes everything he has and while she’s out there livin’ it up, he’s trying to live it down. He had his “ducks in a row and she shot ’em.” That’s cold! The words are playful and fun even though Nixon gets continuously dumped on by his erstwhile love. Nick Nixon is a consummate vocalist and varies his intensity according to the song. He can be silky smooth or rasp saw rugged and Andy T plays exactly what’s needed to accompany his partner’s voice. Both men work for the song, making every track a keeper. The band falls in behind and consistently delivers big grooves and deep blues. Larry Van Loon is a master of Hammond B3 dynamics and Ron Jones and Dana Robbins shine on saxophone. Producer Anson Funderburgh puts it all in the blender and serves up fresh organic blues with the finest ingredients. If you want fun, good time blues with a vintage feel this is your band.
Anthony “Big A” Sherrod is around 30 years old, plays guitar like a man possessed, sings from his soul, and entertains a crowd like he was born for the stage. He’s the total blues package and very few people have heard of him outside Clarksdale, MS. Very little about him can be found on line and if not for his two stellar performances at Briggs Farm Blues Festival this past July I’d know even less about him. This CD was, as the title suggests, recorded at Red’s Lounge. Red’s is one of the last true jukes in Clarksdale and is featured heavily in the film We Juke Up In Here. Big A is also featured in the film and wrote the title song for the film. This disc captures the energy of Big A’s live show, backed by Big Jack Johnson’s former band, The Cornlickers. The Cornlickers are tight and know every blues lick ever played, every rhythm, every chord. The music in their collective soul and they get the house rockin’ every time.
Sherrod works the crowd like Buddy Guy, and even covers one of Guy’s latter day tunes “Midnight Train.” In his hands it becomes a raucous down home jam instead of the Jonny Lang-overwrought-singing, big-production crossover blues. Anthony plays it so funky you could smell it – something Buddy should have done. “Big A” personalizes “Have You Ever Been Mistreated,” bends the notes long and hard and heats things up by having Rita Engedalen join in for a vocal duet. At the center of the album is a nine minute excursion called “The Blues Is Serious.” Even though Big A has some fun with it and the crowd, you can tell this young man is a serious rising star. The set closes with a raucous “Got Something On My Shoulder,” with Anthony digging deep and playing from the gut. This is good time, Mississippi groove music and it translates well to disc. Keep an ear to the ground for Anthony “Big A” Sherrod. His train will be leaving the Delta shortly and hopefully coming to a stop near you.
Roger Stolle has informed us that Anthony’s CD is available to order from his store in Clarksdale, MS – the legendary Cat Head.
Joe Louis Walker has been on his share of labels, which happens with a lot of blues artists. Stony Plain has released a selection of tunes from his tenure there. From 2008 to 2010, Joe Louis Walker made three records, 2008’s Witness To The Blues, 2009’s Between A Rock and The Blues, and Live On The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise in 2010. I like it best when Joe rocks it up a little and there is plenty here to scratch that itch from “Eyes Like A Cat” and “I’m Tide” to “Slow Down GTO” but there’s something for everyone here. There’s the big band R&B of “Black Widow Spider,” the jazzy jam of “Highview,” the heart-wrenching soul of “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry” featuring Curtis Salgado, and acoustic back porch blues on “Send You Back.”
JLW’s plaintive vocals and outstanding guitar playing are mainstays of the collection no matter what direction Joe sends the music. Part of the fun of a Joe Louis Walker record is wondering where it’s going next. He’s a blues man by trade but he is a well-rounded musician who draws inspiration from a multitude of sources. He has become a master of compiling those sources on record and keeps them coherent. The Best Of The Stony Plain Years gives a glimpse of all Joe’s styles and because of his eclectic tendencies, this works well as a standalone album.
Rick Estrin & the Nightcats are the result of Little Charlie Baty retiring in 2009. The band Little Charlie & The Night Cats changed the name, added Chris “Kid” Anderson on guitar and took off with their new moniker. The sound has remained familiar as Estrin has always been the singer, harp player, and principal writer. His sly lyrics, self-deprecating humor, and astute word play make the songs interesting and the band can play anything. They can get deep in the pocket, funk it up, or dust up the boards with a rollicking shuffle. The new disc, by popular demand, is You Asked For It…Live!
There’s a lot of good humor here including “My Next Ex-Wife,” “New Old Lady,” ‘Dump That Chump,” and “That’s Big.” Estrin’s harp playing is in fine form all over this album and it no surprise that he is every bit as good live as he is on record. Kid Anderson has settled into his role whether comping behind the soloist or burning up the fret board. He’s a full-blown Nightcat by now and brings a lot of energy to the band. “Smart Like Einstein” gives everyone a chance to jam and keyboardist/bassist Lorenzo Farrell plays his ass off, and effortlessly covers the deep end even when working his magic on the keys.
Surprisingly, the disc has no tracks from the band’s two albums as Rick Estrin & the Nightcats, so I’m not sure how well it represents their live show, but it’s only one disc and maybe they didn’t want to repeat recent offerings. What we do get on You Asked For It…Live! is energetic and entertaining especially with Estrin’s stage banter and stories. Whatever the reason, if You Asked For It…Live!, you got it: 76 minutes of fun.
Suit Ty Thurrsty
People In The Street
Released December 16, 2013
Suit Ty Thurrsty play Blues, Rock, Funk, Soul, & Hip-Hop. I don’t know if it’s a new hybrid or not but they are convincing. The trio is named for its members Tom “The Suit” Forst, Tyree “TY” Pope, and Pedro “Bigg Thurrsty” Johnson. Their assorted backgrounds meet in R&B and Soul and their music weaves in and out of the modern R&B idiom. This isn’t James Brown’s R&B nor it is blues, but it’s not not-blues either. It’s a peculiar mix. Many songs have group vocals that maintain the R&B/Soul vibe, however, much like the real People In The Street, there is a lot of diversity here. “You Make Me Real” draws from ballads of sidewalk soul singers and “Drawers” rips everything wide open with its punky metal blues. There are nods to Jimi Hendrix all over this record, most obviously on “Diamonds” which has parallels with “Purple Haze,” especially during the verses. “Same Old Song” is the closest to straight blues but it also has a 70’s blues rock feel and squealing ZZ Top style guitar leads.
Suit Ty Thurrsty is trying to be a lot of things at once and while I can appreciate the desire to avoid being pigeon-holed, sometimes you need to establish a tone for your music and build from there. People In The Street has the feel of throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. It’s messy and scattered and even includes a bonus track alternate version of “Same Old Song.” It’s like they’re saying “if you didn’t like the hard blues version here’s a funky urban version.” Their overall success might be better served if they pick one and stick with it. They do offer samples on their website so check it out.