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August 2012

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Scottyboy Daniel Blues Band
Mercy! A Tribute to William Clarke
Blue Edge Records

Scottyboy

Kansas City's Scottyboy Daniel Blues Band went in a different direction with their second CD, Mercy!, for Blue Edge Records. The concept behind this disc was to pay tribute to one of the band's musical mentors, the late Southern California bluesman William Clarke. The project had the blessing of Clarke's late wife, Jeannette, who provided vintage photos for the CD sleeve. Former Clarke guitarist John Marx was brought in to play guitar and to help oversee the recording sessions. Bandleader Scott Daniel even strikes a similar pose as was often used on the cover of Clarke's Alligator Records CDs.

Mercy! includes a dozen of Clarke's better known recordings, plus one additional instrumental cut, "Tribute To William Clarke," a slow blues that closes out this fine collection.

The risk with this type of project is that it invites comparison to the original versions. Daniel's versions of Clarke's compositions don't stray far from the original arrangements, I'm guessing by design. To his credit, Daniel doesn't try to be just like William Clarke on this collection. I don't particularly care for tribute albums in which the artist recording the CD tries, usually unsuccessfully, to sound exactly like the artist they are attempting to emulate. That would have been extremely difficult for Daniel, because Clarke had the unique ability to make his harmonica sound like an entire horn section, while his powerful voice could easily fill a concert hall.

Mercy! opens appropriately with "Blowin' Like Hell," which was the title cut to Clarke's first Alligator album, the disc that brought this semi-obscure Southern California musician into the blues mainstream in a hurry. It's a smokin' instrumental that shows Daniel to be a pretty darn good harmonica player in his own right.

Up next is another excellent cut from Blowin' Like Hell, the slow blues "Lonesome Bedroom Blues." We get our first chance to hear Daniels sing. His voice doesn't possess the same power and timbre as Clarke's, but remember I said he isn't try to sound like Clarke. But he's got a decent singing voice and aptly handles the material here.

Other highlights include the boogie woogie piano work done by Shinetop Jr. on "Love You, Yes I Do" and the jump blues of "Educated Fool," featuring excellent guitar work from Marx. This was one of my favorite Clarke numbers and I'm glad Daniel chose to include it on his tribute CD.

"Feel Like Jumpin'" is another really good number, with Daniel bringing forth his strongest vocals on the disc.

The closing number, "Tribute To William Clarke," wraps up this CD very nicely, with Daniel playing chromatic harp on a extended slow blues.

If, like me, you were a big fan of William Clarke's music, you'll thoroughly enjoy this CD --- as long as you don't get hung up on comparing Daniel's covers to the originals. Mercy! is a fine CD in its own right, and I look forward to hearing more from Daniel as his career proceeds.

--- Bill Mitchell

 

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