A perfect title for a perfect pairing, “Simple Pleasure” (self-released) by Smiling Jack Smith and David Gwynn bristles with Gwynn’s fancy pickin’ and solos atop Smith’s downhome original folk’n’blues. It’s an honest sound…the sound of two men making music fit to smile at. Smith has that lowball deep bass growl like Johnny Cash (especially on “Lovestruck”) and you believe him. I mean, hell, who here hasn’t been bamboozled by some floozy’s “Bedroom Eyes” and ultimately disappointed. I know exactly what he’s singing about. Check that age-old musical question “What You Gonna Do When The Love Runs Out” (it always does) for some hot Gwynn licks. Gwynn, from San Francisco, has recorded in Spain and produced other artists for years. Canadian Smith has performed on street corners, clubs and house parties on three continents over five decades, These two meld beautifully.
Luther Allison [1939-1997] was one great blues man, had nine children and brought a rural Arkansas feel to his pioneering electric Chicago blues. Bernard Allison is his youngest son and on “In The Mix” (Jazzhous) barely hints at the influences that molded his dad. Instead, he uses Chicago as a jump-off point for five soulful originals in a funky R’n’B groove and five well-chosen covers (two by his dad). He brings a gruff sophistication to Tyrone Davis’s “I Had It All The Time.” Graduating from the Koko Taylor school of balls-out blues’n’boogie in which he spent three years, he’s paid his dues since his 1990 solo debut. Self-assured, streamlined and modern, Bernard is his own man on this, his first all-new studio work in six years.
I like action. I like action in my movies, my sports, my love life, my books and my music. “Gaadi Of Truth” (Sinj) by Red Baraat is about as action-packed a CD as I could possibly hope for. It doesn’t let up. It will ricochet off the walls of your room with ping-pong dexterity and you’ll find yourself literally watching the music pour forth from your speakers. Oftentimes, it gets so crazy that it zigzags through the air like a demented fly or a balloon losing air. None of this blabbering, of course, tells you what kind of music this is…but that’s just the point. There really is no precedent. Horns and layers of percussion clash with funky bass throbs and Indian ragas. Its inherent jazz complexity is dizzying but this ain’t jazz! Its synthesis of brass and electronics will go straight to your feet to get you up or your libido to get you crazy but this ain’t boring EDM. Far from it. Yeah, there’s rapping but this ain’t hiphop.
All I can say is it blew me away.
A Brooklyn collective, what it is, truth be told, is an eight-piece drum and brass ensemble specializing in the tastiest worldbeat you’re ever going to hear. All 13 tracks are bold and declarative. If you don’t like it, leave the room. Bandleader Sammy Jain admits his approach is experimental. Influenced as much by Bollywood soundtracks as by New Orleans Mardi Gras, where everything is pumped up, like on steroids, providing a knock-out punch to your gut. Oh baby, hit me again!
With the release of “Muddy Wolf At Red Rocks” (J&R Adventures), tenacious guitarist extraordinaire Joe Bonamassa has achieved a level of blues audacity that only the late greats like Rory Gallagher, Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan dared to claim. Sure, you have your Clapton/Page/Beck triumvirate and a host of working class heroes like George Thorogood and Tab Benoit yet Bonamassa has proven himself time and time again to have transcended his hard rock roots in achieving a blues validity all his own.
Released last month in three formats (DVD, Blu-Ray and CD), this, as Joe said, “was the gig of lifetime.” To pay tribute to arguably the two greatest bluesmen ever, Howling Wolf [1910-1976] and Muddy Waters [1915-1983], he stepped outside his own usual parameters to channel the essence of both men. You could tell he felt it. And that feeling permeates the show with its two friendly ghosts who must have been smiling the whole time.