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Each summer seems to offer one song that you just crank up and bust out at the top of your stereo while you cruise in your car... sort of your summertime theme. That song, this summer, was for me the title track from We the People.
One of Texas' most venerated blues guitarists, Guitar Shorty and his guitar "Red have stoked the engine room for Ray Charles, B.B. King, Guitar Slim, T-Bone Walker and countless other stars of rhythm and blues. Next year, he'll celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of his debut single. In the meantime, on his second release for one of Chicago's premier blues labels, he and Red burn white-hot and blue.
"We the People opens with a reference to the preamble of the US Constitution, then stomps through a scalding electric blues about how tough it can be to just keep on keepin' on that stops just short of an open call to class warfare. Its lyrics might be funny if they didn't hit so sadly close to home, though it's almost impossible to resist smiling at words like these: "I grab my guitar, try to bend a note / I look up at my neck and even my string's broke! But there's nothing funny at all about this raging electric blues, matched by the roughhouse intensity of his lead vocal, which sounds spat out of his mouth like the hot and bitter thick taste of his own blood.
"Cost of Livin' continues the theme of current economic and political times but reaches back into blues history, a solo electric blues where his foot stomps out the rhythm and his guitar and vocal sound metallic and dark and anguished, resurrecting the ghost of Howlin' Wolf.
We the People also shows the influence of Shorty's Texas guitar style on such well-known rockers as ZZ Top and the Rolling Stones. The jagged riff churning within "What Good is Life? splits the difference between the hooks to "Jumpin' Jack Flash and "It's Only Rock and Roll, and every Stones guitarist from Jones to Richards to Wood has loved to play in the style of Shorty's mid-song solo, which drags rock and roll through heavy Mississippi blues mud.
The thick meaty chords and ripping hot leads of the explosive "Sonic Boom and "Can't Get Enough continue the tradition of such fine Texas roadhouse blues as "La Grange, ZZ Top's famous whorehouse song.
Track Listing: We the People; What Good is Life?; I Got Your Number; Runaway Train; Down that Road Again; Fine Cadillac; Can't Get Enough; A Hurt So Old; Who Needs It?; Blues in My Blood; Cost of Livin'; Sonic Boom.
Personnel: Guitar Shorty: lead guitar, lead vocals; Jake Andrews: rhythm guitar; Wyzard: bass, acoustic guitar; John "JT" Thomas: keyboards; Alvino Bennett: drums.
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me. If we don't run a review, Alligator Records is going to stop servicing us.
Night Flight opened up a whole new world for me--the blues led me, inevitably, to Basie, who led to Duke, who led to Mingus, who led to Miles, who led to ...