I've got a batch of new and recent CDs here at the Florida Winter HQ (don't think that makes it easy - it only got up to about 82 today), and while I think most of them will be new to many of my readers, it's a first-rate batch that makes them easy to write about and recommend.
First up is the debut album by a relatively new group of old musical hands who call themselves the Heritage Blues Orchestra, releasing their first CD, "and still I rise" (Raisin' Music).
They've taken the "heritage" part of their name quite seriously, wading into the primal past of the blues for inspiration and music. But unlike too many "blues" groups, they take the blues part very seriously as well -- remaining faithful to the traditions without veering off into common contemporary contaminations.
The result is a joyful blend of music and song that celebrates what has always been unique about the blues -- its passionate focus and its purity of style.
It's important to note the primary ingredients and soul of the HBO: Bill Sims Jr. and Junior Mack on guitar and vocals, and Bill's daughter, Chaney Sims on her incredibly rich and soulful vocal machine. (Their resumes are much to long to list here; check those links). Additionally, on this CD, are the members of this very fine orchestra: Vincent Boucher and Matthew Skoller, harp; Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith (son of Willie ("Big Eyes"), drums; Bruno Wilheim, sax; Kenny Rampton and Steve Wiseman, trumpet; Clark Gayton, trombone, sousaphone, tuba.
They've a number of classical and traditional blues and reworked them without losing the spirit of the music. The opening "Clarksdale Moan" (Son House) is a minor gem, thumping along on a potent backbeat, with lyrical horns, and sturdy Sims vocals.
"C-Line Woman" is a percussive feast with with Chaney prowling throughout with feral vocals. "Big-Legged Woman" is done in a strong traditional style with tasty vocals by Bill Sims -- again, the horns add a new sound, but it feels just right. "Go Down Hannah" (Huddie Ledbetter) opens unconventionally but turns into a powerful a capella spiritual statement by Chaney, backed by a chunky work chant.
The album continues in that vein and ends with an eloquent reading by Chaney of the traditional and very earthy "Hard Times," backed by simple and elegant guitar work.
This is pretty much a perfect contemporary blues album that keeps the faith with the music's heritage. The musicians are talented, the arrangements are done with imagination and great care, and the music is sublime. You should enjoy it, too.
Here'a an audio/video with a medley of several songs from the CD: