Joe and the Dynaflows
You Can't Keep A Big Man Down
Like the title track that opens the disc, you can’t
keep a big man down. Big Joe Maher suffered a fall
in 2001 that severely injured his back and nearly
ended his career. However, the big man and his band, the Dynaflows, have returned for their third swinging
release on Severn Records, You Can’t Keep A Big Man
Maher is joined by Texas guitarist Bill Campbell,
who plays bass here, along with a few members of
Delbert McClinton’s band this time around, including
keyboard player Kevin McKendree, who also
co-produced the disc, guitarist Rob McNelley, and
the late saxman, Dennis Taylor.
Maher wrote or co-wrote half of the 12 tracks,
including the cool title track, “Evangeline,” which
steers sharply toward New Orleans R&B, the humorous
“Property Line,” which sounds like a long-lost
Albert Collins track, and the incredibly funky “Face
The Facts.” A pair of Maher-penned tunes showcases
the guitar work of McNelley. The instrumental,
“Supercharger,” burns from start to finish, and the
after-hours “Nothin’ But Trouble” allows him to
The six covers include a strong remake of B.B.
King’s “Bad Case of Love,” an irresistible take on
Jay McShann’s “Confessin’ The Blues,” and a raucous
version of Billy Wright’s jumping “Whatcha Gonna
Do?” Johnny Green’s “Someday” is another slow blues
that features McNelley’s sublime guitar and Jimmy
McCracklin’s “I’m To Blame” is another highlight.
The disc closes with the rowdy barrelhouse boogie of
“What The Hell Were You Thinkin’?”
It’s good to have Big Joe and the Dynaflows back on
the recording scene after a long absence. Hopefully,
we won’t have to wait another decade for more of
these great jumping blues.
--- Graham Clarke
I've been a big, big Big Joe Maher fan going back to
his days with the D.C.-based Uptown Rhythm Kings.
After a stint with Tom Principato following the
demise of the URKs, Maher started his own group,
Big Joe and the Dynaflows, in the mid '90s. Other
than an injury-related absence in the early part of
the last decade, Big Joe has been going strong since
then as witnessed by the aptly-named You Can't
Keep A Big Man Down (Severn Records).
Maher is living proof that a powerful vocalist
doesn't always have to be at the front of the
bandstand, as he doubles as a fine steady drummer
with all of the various swing, blues and jazz
ensembles he leads. He still sounds like Wynonie
Harris when he sings --- and that's a good thing.
Maher's vocal style harkens back to the days when
big-voiced blues shouters were the boss, backed by
tight bands with hot guitarists and "in your face"
horn sections. He's backed by four very good
musicians (Kevin McKendree - keyboards, Bill
Campbell - bass, Rob McNelley - guitar, Dennis
Taylor - sax) who combine to make the band sound
much bigger than it really is.
The disc kicks off on a strong note, with the title
cut being an up-tempo shuffle written by Maher but
sounding like it could have come from B.B. King's
repertoire. Coincidentally, the next cut is a B.B.
original, "Bad Case Of Love." No second string
status here --- Maher acquits himself well here on
vocals, while guitarist McNelley contributes the
requisite Lucille-sounding guitar licks.
Maher then takes us down to Louisiana for the swampy
ballad, "Evangeline," that is punctuated by a great
New Orleans-style piano solo from McKendree while
McNelley sounds a lot like vintage Guitar Slim on
guitar. McKendree switches over to organ on the
funky original, "Property Line."
McNelley starts off the Billy Wright cover, "Whatcha
Gonna Do!," with some hot blues guitar licks; it's
some of his best work on the album. This is one of
the hotter numbers on the disc!
The band finally slows the pace with the Johnny
Green ballad, "Someday." Maher uses brushes on his
drums here to accentuate the more laidback mood of
this number. The jazzy vibe remains on the next cut,
Jay McShann's classic "Confessin' The Blues," which
has McKendree and McNelley both shining on their
Skipping ahead, the band does one instrumental,
"Supercharger," whose title describes the tempo and
energy quite well. It's actually a showcase for
McNelley's stinging guitar work from start to finish
backed by Maher's steady shuffle beat.
McNelley again plays an awful lot like B.B. on the
slow blues "Nothin' But Trouble," another Maher
original. This one covers some contemporary issues,
too, like when Maher sings, "... they're talkin'
about a bailout plan, for whom I'd like to know,
sure ain't me and my friends, 'cause we're broker
than before ..."
Wrapping up this wonderful CD is the uptempo
shuffle, "What The Hell Were You Thinkin'?," with
the whole band joining in on background vocals.
McKendree rips off a red hot piano solo right in the
middle of the song; he was one of the co-writers of
this song, along with Delbert McClinton and Tom
Quite frankly, I'll be surprised if I hear a better
blues CD in 2011 than You Can't
Keep A Big Man Down. Everything comes together
here in one nice package --- a powerful singer, an
excellent band, and a great mix of originals and
well-chosen covers. Get it today!
One important note if you go surfing for more info
on Big Joe Maher --- the web address given on the CD
jacket is incorrect --- it's
bigjoem.com, and not bigjoe.com --- go to
the latter and you'll quickly realize you're in the
--- Bill Mitchell