Blues Bytes

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April 2016

Mark Hummel, Anson Funderburgh & Little Charlie Baty
Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue
Electro-Fi Records

Mark Hummel et al

Just the names associated with this CD grabbed my attention right away --- harmonica ace Mark Hummel, guitarists extraordinaire Anson Funderburgh and Little Charlie Baty, longtime Robert Cray sideman Jim Pugh, and a solid rhythm section of R.W. Grigsby on bass and Wes Starr on drums. The name of this blues supergroup encapsulated in the CD title --- Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue --- also gave me a good idea what I was going to hear on this disc.

As expected, the music here lives up to my lofty expectations. While Funderburgh and Baty get equal billing with Hummel, it's really the latter's show from start to finish. They grabbed me right away with the opening cut, a cover of Gatemouth Brown's classic blues shuffle, "Midnight Hour," featuring Hummel's booming vocals as well as explosive guitar licks from both Baty and Funderburgh. Hummel then gets his first chance to shine on his instrument, blowing away on the blues harp on the Billy Boy Arnold number "Here's My Picture."

Hummel wrote most of the original songs on the album, with the next two cuts being his compositions --- the rollicking "Prove It To You," featuring good organ accompaniment from Pugh and a tasteful guitar solo by Baty, and "Cool To Be Your Fool," a late night jazzy tune with nice piano work from Pugh. The latter is one of my faves from this album.

The Lowell Fulson tune "Check Yourself" gives the horn section of Eric Spaulding and Jack Sanford the chance to blow their respective saxes while Pugh comes in with still more top-notch piano playing. We're also treated to a fine guitar solo from Funderburgh. "Stop This World" is as quirky and jazzy as one would expect from a Mose Allison composition, with Hummel switching over to the chromatic harmonica to get into a back-and-forth exchange with Baty's guitar.

Next up is the Jimmy McCracklin blues shuffle, "Take A Chance," with Hummel taking an extended chromatic harmonica solo before giving way to a Funderburgh Texas-style guitar break and later to a Pugh organ jam. The band then takes a trip down to New Orleans for a Hummel original, "Lucky Kewpie Doll," with Pugh pounding out amazingly good Crescent City-style piano and Starr keeping the beat with the appropriate rhythmic drumming.

Funderburgh kicks off the traditional blues shuffle "Pepper Mama" with a nice guitar intro before Hummel comes in with his best tortured vocals about how bad his woman is treating him --- " .... she don't know how to treat no one man right .... " Hummel then takes the lead on his version of Lee Allen's classic instrumental, " Walking With Mr. Lee," replacing Allen's sax with his own solid harmonica wailing. Very nice!

The R.W. Grigsby original "Detroit Blues" comes next ... it's a mid-tempo blues shuffle interspersed with a Hummel harp solo from the higher end of the scale. Another Jimmy McCracklin number, "Georgia Slop," is an up-tempo stomper that could easily have been done by the Blasters at some point. "Dim Lights" is a good Chicago blues tune done by J.B. Hutto in 1954, with the band taking this shuffle into the back alley where it belongs. Hummel's harmonica work here would certainly make Muddy smile and we're also treated to a great slide guitar solo from Funderburgh.

Wrapping up this wonderful disc is a Hummel original, "End Of The World." It's a slow. mournful blues with street noise and sirens added to the background for effect. For my tastes, I'd prefer to end with something more up-tempo and upbeat, but that's just me. It doesn't detract at all from a fine, fine album.

This supergroup is currently out on the road, so be sure to catch them if they come to your town. In the meantime, add Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue to your collection ... you won't regret it!

--- Bill Mitchell


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