Rant’n’Roll: The Best Of The Rest

Rant’n’Roll: The Best Of The Rest

—by , January 25, 2017

01-25 Rant Tom Craig

My grandmother used to say how her cooking always tasted better the second day. I grew up in her household with my mom and grandfather—minus my deadbeat dad—and can still smell her stuffed artichokes and lasagna. She also gave me my love of music and literature so as my mom trudged to work each day at Hudson County News Company on three busses to North Bergen and three busses back to Newark, I’d sit by grandma’s side on the piano bench watching her fingers fly over the keys playing “Wedding Bells Are Breaking Up (That Old Gang Of Mine)” (1929), “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” (1918), “The March of the Wooden Soldiers” (1897), “Beautiful Dreamer” (1864) and “Poet and Peasant” (1846). This last piece—a Russian overture—took major concentration and dexterity. Towards the end of her life, she found it hard to play when her fingers started shaking. So, in the spirit of my grandmother’s delicious leftovers, the following CDs were released in 2016, but found their way to my ears too late to include on any of my “best-ofs.”

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Get Ready For Me by Tom Craig and Soul Patch rocks. It’s a self-released blues- and roots-fest debut with 12 originals by this Philadelphia singer/songwriter/guitarist whose stinging leads are right out of the BB King playbook. Between the shuffles and the funk, the sweet soul and the gritty rockers, Craig, with the help of three saxophones, harmonica, bass, drums and back-up vocalists, achieves a deep south Memphis-at-Midnight feel.

*

I never agreed with the rock critics who decried what they felt were self-reverential, egomaniacal way-too-long electric guitar solos. A good “ride,” as we used to call it, was like manna from heaven to my 20-something ears and that hasn’t changed 40 years later. Brad Wilson knows this. His Power Blues Guitar Live (Cali Bee Music) is a jolt from the left coast taking eight classic blues songs and four originals (some of which first appeared on his terrific 2015 Blues Thunder studio project) which he stretches out to gargantuan proportions. Backed by a tight band that, as Tina Turner once sang, is “funkier than a mosquito’s tweeter” (double-drums/bass/keybs/sax), gems like “Got My Mojo Working” (written by Red Foster for Ann Cole in 1956 and famously covered by Muddy Waters in 1957), the 8:11 “I Can’t Quit You Baby” (written by Willie Dixon as the debut hit single of Otis Rush in 1956 and famously covered by Led Zeppelin in 1969), Albert King’s 1967 “Born Under A Bad Sign” (famously covered by Cream in 1968), and the 8:48 “I Just Want To Make Love To You” (written by Willie Dixon in 1954 for Muddy Waters and covered by half the population of the Western Hemisphere since) make this a stoned soul picnic.

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Back to the Shack (SSR Freeroll Records) by Jack Mack & the Heart Attack Horns rolls with the kind of swagger you’d expect from a band with 10 CDs to their credit, Hollywood soundtrack work on their resume and hundreds of international appearances. Written by this octet with no one actually named Jack Mack, they are all—for the past 30 years—veterans of the bands of Robert Cray, Keb Mo, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal and John Mayer. Guest vocalist Melanie Taylor rips it up on opener “Standin’ Before The King” as much as she did when she did the same thing with Aerosmith (New Orleans fixture Mark Campbell sings the other nine). From jump blues and funky soul to irresistible grooves that positively reek of everything from Mississippi mud to uptown Philadelphia R&B to Muscle Shoals snap, crackle and pop, Back to the Shack is a non-stop party.

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Livio Almeida has stepped out from his role as saxophonist in pianist Arturo O’Farrill’s band to self-release the follow-up to his Pieces debut. Action & Reaction is the perfect title as, indeed, the Action here is funky and groove-laden and the Reaction comes from his far-reaching band of pianist Vitor Goncalves, bassist Eduardo Belo, drummer Zack O’Farrill and trumpeter Adam O’Farrill. Arturo (who produced) is the acclaimed Afro-Latin pianist and son of the legendary Chico O’Farrill [1921-2001] who pioneered the Afro-Cuban jazz subgenre known as “Cu-Bop.” (He’s also the father of Zack and Adam.) The 10:09 title track alone is worth the price of admission yet the other six originals bubble with frothy enthusiasm. The music is powerful, firmly rooted in Brazilian and Cuban modes but this is no laid-back samba (and it isn’t strictly salsa either). It’s a wholly entertaining amalgam of differing influences that you can actually catch live at the Zinc Bar in Manhattan where he holds court every month.

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Finally, one must look upon The Complete Capitol Singles: 1957-1966 (Omnivore Records) by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos as equal in stature to the hits of any other pioneering legend be it Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe, Elvis Presley or Loretta Lynn. In each legend’s case, a new door was opened for future generations of artists to follow. In Buck’s case, that door is “The Bakersfield Sound” (California), a more raw and organic option than anything Nashville ever came up with during that time. Dwight Yoakam took that sound to meteoric heights (his liner notes grace this comprehensive two-disc set of 56 hits). Owens [1929-2006] might’ve had his reputation sullied by television’s corny-as-hell Hee-Haw (broadcast for 21 years in syndication) but there’s no doubting the veracity of these songs. The Beatles covered his “Act Naturally.” Ray Charles covered his “Crying Time.” They knew. So will you.


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