Monday, April 18, 2011

Rory Block "Shake 'Em On Down"

This cd is subtitled "A Tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell" and it is a joyous celebration of two masters of the acoustic guitar blues--Mississippi Fred McDowell and Rory Block. This time out Block brings to vibrant bubbling life seven of McDowell's songs, along with Sonny Boy Williamson's "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" and 4 Block originals that sound like they should belong in the McDowell catalog. This disc is part of Block's on-going project "The Mentor Series," a collection of, as she writes in the liner notes, "tribute albums to the masters who I had the priviledge of meeting face to face." Like Block's previous Mentor sets, one lifting up the music of Son House and one lifting up the music of Robert Johnson, this one is flawless and fabulous and spot-on. The singing and playing are up to typical Rory Block perfectionist standards, which means 99.5% of the guitar players out there can't touch it. This time out I'm not lifting up any individual songs--just buy this disc and listen to it, and you will soon love it. You may find that you need the other tribute discs as well. All three are highly recommended. Rory Block is a musical treasure.

This cd is on Stony Plain Records. You can buy it at

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Burton Gaar "Fried Grits & Greens"

On this wonderful cd Burton Gaar is singing and playing exactly what I needed--a Louisiana-flavored blues fest. The first time I heard this cd it reminded me of David Egan's great disc "You Don't Know Your Mind" from 2008. If you love that David Egan cd you know what I mean, and how good this Burton Gaar cd must be. I have been listening to it in the car the last week or so, and I even came the long way home from the BBQ contest this afternoon just to hear it some more. There are 15 songs, all originals, written by Burton and George Hollinshead (13) and Burton and Floyd Saizon (1) and Burton and Robert Felsonthal (1). The band is made of folks who have all worked with Burton before, and includes Tom Coerver, Robert Felsenthal, Larry Turner and Sean Brouillette on keyboards, Burton's brother John Gaar, George Hollinshead and O'dell Wilson on guitars, and Floyd Saizen on drums. They all sound great together--tight and loose, sweet and clean. I can only guess that hearing these guys play live in Louisiana must be a great treat. Burton's vocals are the key--perfectly spiced, emotive, solid. He sounds like Tommy Castro, in the best way.

I'm listening to this cd again now, and I like it even more. The best songs this time are "Sugarfied," "Strung Out On The Blues," and "That's All She Wrote." Part may be what it DOESN'T sound like--it doesn't have an ace guitar slinger that wants to slash every second of every song to ribbons to show off. It doesn't sound like they have a big budget. It doesn't sound like these guys are all 20 years old, trying to make a name for themselves. Nothing wrong with any of those things, but if you buy this cd looking for pyrotechnics or flash you'll be disappointed. It's a good cd precisely because Burton sings these 15 songs with taste and everybody plays with economy. You might find this cd on your player or in your car 5 years from now and you'll welcome it like an old friend.

You can buy this cd at