Blues Bytes

Pick Hit

February 2006

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Dan Treanor

Dan Treanor

Once in a very great while you receive a disc that is so unique by its own merits that it makes you sit up and take notice of the artist, his or her music and its place in the fabric of this music we all love so much. Dan Treanor is one of those artists.

His follow-up to the highly acclaimed African Wind is a new album, Mercy, that defies categorization or more importantly, begs for the creation of a new one that he proudly calls “Afrosippi Blues.” Afrosippi blues is part African, part Delta, part field hollerin' with just a touch of Rhythm & Blues. To call it unique would understate the qualities that make this a great record.

Opening with “From African Soul,” you experience the subtle beauty of African chanting with a steady drum under beat that celebrates the rise of the African influence in the development of blues. Moving on to “Burden of Blues” finds Treanor and African Wind combining the prominent use of Celtic fiddle with Delta influences to tell the tale of an evil hearted woman who “drove me to drink.” Calling it Deltic blues in the liner notes it definitely perks your ears up and begs for attention.

In “Mississippi Fred’s Dream,” an ode to Mississippi Fred McDowell, Treanor combines the recorded word of Mississippi Fred, “I do not play no rock and roll, y’all. I just play straight and natchel blue,” with his amazing harp playing to proudly proclaim his allegiance to the blues. “I do not play no rock and roll, y’all, Mississippi Fred he had a dream!” The song also features some great slide work by Randy Mrugala and is just a great, great homage to Mississippi Fred McDowell.

Sounds of New Orleans swing make its appearance next in “What You Gonna Do?” Dan finds himself feeling like a fool by a woman he obviously loves, she just can’t make up her mind and girl you need to figure out…what you gonna do.

“You Shot the Gun” features great keyboard work by Jim Beckstein and, according to Treanor, “is just a blues thing.” “Girl, you shot the gun and I’m the one who dead” pretty well lets you know that things did not turn out well this time. There are no second chances for this romance. Country blues makes an appearance in the song, “The Goat and the Chicken” featuring vocals by DJ Mrugala and Christine Webb. Just a classic country blues tune, very expressive and simplistic in its presentation.

Treanor incorporates the use of African string instruments that he’s hand made into his musical presentation to give the music its “Afrosippi” feel. “Tumblin Blues” incorporates what I’m guessing is the diddley bow to give the song a strong bass presence that bemoan bemoaning the path of a man who has lost his way since his woman’s left him. “I drank my way to the bottom and drank my way back up” gives you the sense of desperation he’s feeling at losing the love in his life.

“The 13th Amendment” takes you in a completely different direction. Discussing the abolition of slavery and commenting on the measures Southern states still took to repress their newly freed black citizens, the song incorporates the recording Alan Lomax made over 70 years ago of a black chain gang prisoner. Just a brilliant use of historical material to underscore the legacy of black repression.

The title song, “Mercy,” has all the feel of a church revival meeting and incorporates the give and take of a preacher and his membership in song. Upbeat and lifting, “Mercy” asks for mercy and peace for all mankind.

“Standing in the Shadows” is a song written by drummer DJ Mrugala in appreciation of all her father has done for her. She gives an impassioned vocal performance that tells you just how much her parents really loved her. Beautiful song, very well done. That kind of love is rare indeed.

“Tonight’s the Night” is described as part John Lee meets Muddy, meets Bob Seger. I can hear all of the influences described and Treanor’s harp playing ties it all together noting that, “Tonight’s the night we’re going to bring blues to your town.”

“Queen of the Dance Hall Girls” brings a western flair to the table. Part swing, part traveling show, it’s all good fun. “Field Hollar #1” takes you back to the earliest forms of the blues, hollering in the cotton fields of the South. David Booker contributes the wah guitar to this song and gives it a traditionalist feel. “Whose that standin' in the cotton field? Ain’t nobody but me, Lord.”

“Rock Me Baby” is one of two covers on the album, the other being “Tumblin Blues.” African Wind incorporates the “Afrosippi” rhythms to give the song a unique twist. Say what you will, Dan Treanor is definitely an innovator in the presentation of his music.

“African Tale” is a story song in the Griot tradition of West Africa that discusses the origins of the blues. The album has a bonus track, “Fire & Ice,” presented for all of those fans who purchased the album; it closes the album out beautifully.

Mercy is a brilliant record, one that I hope stays on the minds of the BMA nominators as the year goes on. It’s innovative, substantial and unique in its presentation of Dan Treanor & African Wind’s concept of the blues. Mercy can be ordered from Dan at and I’m sure you’ll appreciate the uniqueness of this record.

--- Kyle Deibler


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