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Blues Deluxe 2

Doug Collette By

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The cultural fragmentation of recent decades or so has resulted in such a multiplicity of niche categories that the blues community only benefits by its long-term loyalty to the genre. Yet even the oftentimes arbitrary nature of the categorization(s) can't prevent the cross-pollination of styles. And, reasonably speaking, who wants to argue the dividing lines between country, blues and folk music? Not genuinely devoted music-lovers with an inveterate appetite for the likes of Eric Bibb, Greg Wickham and Steve Krase, each of whose work exhibits an emotional realism and personal commitment. These are players with a natural aptitude for broadening stylistic boundaries of the aforementioned genres, while at the same time maintaining the respective virtues of each.

Steve Krase
Should've Seen It Coming
Connor Ray Music
2017

While there's certainly nothing groundbreaking on this album of the harmonica ace, there's nothing lacking in terms of enthusiasm either. What is missing, whether during the upbeat likes of "Let The Four Winds Blow" or the mid-tempo twelve-bar of "The World's Still In A Tangle" is any sense of self-consciousness about what he's doing. Krase has a healthy detachment from the blues that suffuses his harmonica playing as well as his choice of material (a mix of sources from Willie Dixon to Fats Domino plus his own originals and those of his brother David). And his attitude is infectious: the high spirits overflow from the two nights of live recording by the ensemble he leads here with such aplomb. The two bonus tracks don't markedly differ from their counterparts on the album proper, but they do offer the additional opportunity to hear Krase's tart harp, so it's wise to include them. Still, it's the pure instrumental "Way Back Home" that's worth the price of this thirteen- track album.

Eric Bibb
Migration Blues
Stony Plain Records
2017

Guitarist Eric Bibb has proven himself to be one of the most loyal proponents of contemporary blues over the course of his career and Migration Blues, characterized by an unusually personal, topical undercurrent, is yet another honorable entry into his canon of recordings. Yet it isn't just Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" or the title song that speak to current events either: the quietly reflective nature of such material as "Prayin' for Shore" finds accurate expression of multi-leveled sentiment through the intimate, largely acoustic arrangements; featuring guitar, banjo and harmonica, these songs and their performances impart not just a sense of history, but a haunting quality that allows this record to stand of its time without any potential of becoming dated. In that light, it is further appropriate Bibb includes Bob Dylan's "Masters of War," not just because the Nobel Laureate is a disciple of Woody, but because there's an ongoing relevance intrinsic to the author's best material reaffirmed as much by Eric Bibb's choice of the number as its execution.

Greg Wickham
If I Left This World
Thirty Days Records
2017

Though perhaps not a blues record in the strict definition of the word, Greg Wickham's first new album in over 15 years speaks directly to that sense of mortality arising from the passing of those we love. Yet Wickham, who along with his brother Fred founded the critically-acclaimed Americana/roots music band Hadacol, utilizes his music as a means to carry on. Produced with Kristie Stremel, the album boasts a long roster of players who, to Wickham's credit as much as their own, communicate empathy and support. As much as the effervescent likes of a sea shanty ("Angel of Mercy (Song for Sophie"), a Celtic stomp ("Me Oh My") somewhat belies the fatalistic tone of the album title, but that's only a measure of Wickham's forthright resolve as on display within "Small Roles" and, in truth, the better part of If I Left This World.

Tracks and Personnel

Should've Seen It Coming

Tracks: Brand New Thang; Crazy For My Baby; Let The Four Winds Blow; The World's Still In A Tangle ; Shot Of Rhythm And Blues; Should've Seen It Coming (Radio Edit); Travelin' Mood; Troubles, Troubles; Make You Love Me Baby; Repo Man (Radio Edit) ;Way Back Home. Bonus Tracks: Should've Seen It Coming; Repo Man.

Personnel: Steve Krase: vocals, harmonica; David Carter: guitar, background vocals; Randy Wall: piano, organ; Mark May: lead guitar (track one); Bob Lanza: lead guitar (track five); Alisha Parillo: saxophone; Rock Romano: bass, background vocals; Richard Cholakian: drums; James Gilmer: percussion (tracks two, six, ten & eleven) Trudy Lynn: background vocals (tracks two, five & ten).

Migration Blues

Tracks: Refugee Moan; Delta Getaway; Diego's Blues; Prayin' for Shore; Migration Blues; Four Years, No Rain; We Had To Move; Masters Of War; Brotherly Love; La Vie Est Comme Un Oignon (Life Is Like An Onion); With A Dolla' In My Pocket; This Land Is Your Land; Postcard From Booker; Blacktop; Mornin' Train.

Personnel: Eric Bibb: vocals, guitars and banjo; Michael Jerome Browne: guitars, vocals, banjos, mandolin and triangle; J. J. Milteau: harmonica; Olle Linder: drums; Big Daddy Wilson, Ulrika Bibb: back-up vocals.

If I Left This World

Tracks: Angel of Mercy (Song for Sophie); Me Oh My; Ain't No Way to Love You; Small roles; Waterfall; Dad; Clear; If I Left This World; Wake Me Up; Lou; Alost to Springfield (For Lou); I Will Comfort You; How Much I've Hurt; Elsie's Lullaby

Personnel: Greg Wickham: vocals, acoustic guitar; electric guitar, piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B-3 organ; Richard Burgess: bass; Fred Wickham: guitars, slide guitar, pedal steel; Cowboy Bart Colliver: Hammond B-3 organ; Fred Wickham Jr.: mandolin; Paul Malinowski: guitar, percussion; Brent Hood: mandolin; Matt Brahl: drums, percussion; Sam Platt: drums; Todd Etter: violin, viola; Anna Cook: cello; Chad Boydston: trumpets; Kyle Dahl Quist: harmony vocals; trombone; Joe Athan: saxophones; Ben ruth: saxophone; Kasey Rausch: vocals; Kristie Stremel: vocals; The Front Porch Choir: background vocals; The Inebriated Wickhams: vocals; Ryan McCall: string arrangments.

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