"Live from Bluesville" -- new life for old blues

Sunday, 06 July 2008 09:00 PM Written by 

 Well, the Fourth of July is over, and here in the Northeast that can only mean one thing -- winter is not far behind.

But there will probably be a few sunny days yet, and there are still some fine summer blues festivals just a little farther on down the long and winding blues road. And there's always good music to write about and, best of all, listen to.

Which is what I've been doing. I mentioned in our last visit that I was listening to a CD fresh off the mail truck -- "Live from Bluesville" (Blue Empress Records, Vizztone), and from start to finish, it's the way the blues should be. An unassuming set, knocked off live in the studio in a few hours  by a few musicians with little more preparation than lives of commitment to music they love.

The artists here are finger-picking guitarist Fiona Boyes, bassist Tom "Mookie" Brill and mandolin player Rich DelGrosso -- all fine musicians who gathered their talents after appearing at the 2007 Blues Music Awards and decided to record a few songs together. This wonderfully fresh and vital album of traditional blues is the result..

In addition to paying tribute to some of their blues idols in tracks like Sonny Boy Williamson's "Early in the Morning" and Arthur Crudup's "My Baby Left Me," they've created their own music that mirrors the spirit and flavor of great old blues.

Examples, you ask? You gottem. Boyes first track, her own "Homegrown Sin" is a sweet and sexy invitation, with all the right suggestive and sultry undertones and overtones. DelGrosso's "Hard to Live With" is  a little bluesy self-examination and plea for love: "I know I'm hard to live with, but I'm easy to love."  There are also fine old tunes by Magic Sam, Lightnin' Hopkins, Howlin' Wolf and others, all lovingly caressed in acoustic versions by these fine players.

It's not often that you hear the fierce and evil-laced "Smokestack Lightning" done as a duet, let alone with a blueswoman who sounds up to the fierceness. But Boyes and Brill pull it off. The Wolf should be howling in his grave. And listening to Brill chug along on upright bass with his righteous vocal on "My Baby Left Me" is a real treat.

I said this was a live studio album, which may sound like a contradiction, but i these days of dubbing and artists who mail in their parts, an album like this reminds us of music like this was meant to sound. You can hear the players encourage each other, and sense the interaction. Shoot, if you can't put music together in person, why bother? All three are excellent musicians, and the combination here just ratchets it all up a notch. I really like this album. It's one of those little gems that slips in under the radar, but whose pleasures are well worth seeking out.

They've put together a one web site for this album, but check out their personal sites for more -- Boyes, Brill, DelGrosso.

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