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May 2021

Chris Cain
Raisin' Cain
Alligator Records

Chris Cain

My affection for the music of Chris Cain goes way, way back. Back to around the mid-1980s when I first heard his Late Night City Blues, an album from so long ago that it's no longer listed in the discography on his website. That album remains as a pillar of my desert island list, so if it's now out of print someone should get it back in circulation again.

But enough talk about albums from thirtysome years ago. The good news is that Cain has recorded again, and it's more of his outstanding guitar, tight accompaniment, and original songs about his frequent troubles with the opposite sex. He still brings back memories of B.B. King when he plays the guitar, and he's perhaps gotten even better with age and experience. Cain made the wise choice to record this selection of a dozen tunes at Greaseland Studios in San Jose, produced by Kid Andersen, the current star in the field who has his hand in so many recent blues albums. All songs are Cain originals.

Opening the album is "Hush Money," which is exactly what he's paying his baby to keep peace in the household. It's funky with Cain using various guitar effects, and the solid horn section of Michael Peloquin, Mike Rinta, Jeff Lewis and Doug Rowan give the song a big wall of sound. Cain's stinging guitar solos remind me why I like his playing so much. On the up-tempo blues shuffle, "You Won't Have A Problem When I'm Gone," Cain explains to his woman the consequences of her repressive behaviors in no uncertain terms. His guitar solo reminds so much of the influence he's gotten from B.B. King.

Cain has more than just woman problems on the funky "Too Many Problems," as he laments that his landlord wants money and there are way too many bills to pay. The vocals are very strong here, and Greg Rahn comes in with a nice organ break. The mood changes via the gospel-like intro to the slow ballad number, "Down On The Ground," with Rahn again starring on both piano and organ.

Back to the ongoing documentation of his history of woman problems, Cain launches into the mid-tempo blues, "I Believe I Got Off Cheap," on which he talks about how lucky he is to be out of that relationship. This was the pre-release single that appeared on Alligator's sneak preview of upcoming releases so we've been hearing this one for a while, but it's good to have it spinning again. Oh, and what a hot guitar solo he gives us. Rahn's tasteful piano playing introduces the next number, a slow blues ballad, "Can't Find A Good Reason," as he is making the right decision to leave a relationship, but this time he's not blaming the other party. But there's no holding back the blame game on the mid-tempo blues, "Found A Way To Make Me Say Goodbye," with the title telling everything one needs to know about the subject matter, although he then goes into detail about his woman being in the arms of another man.

"Born To Play" is Cain's autobiographical number, including revealing his birthday in case any of us want to send him a present (it's November 19th, by the way). It's a slow blues that identifies his parents as important influences in his early musical upbringing, as well as concerts (B.B. King, Ray Charles) that he saw as a youth. His conclusion is that he was born to play the blues. Once again, the title of the next song, "I Don't Know Exactly What's Wrong With My Baby," tells a lot about its content. It's a slow blues lament about his woman who needs time away from the relationship. Rahn's Fender Rhodes piano solo is an integral part of this number.

Cain tears it up on the intro to the up-tempo blues, "Out Of My Head," as he tries to make amends to his woman for his behavior, and later launches into another incendiary guitar solo while Rahn adds his organ to the mix. It's hard to choose just one, but this song might be the high point of the album for me. The slow blues, "As Long As You Get What You Want," stands out for the steady backbeat by drummer D'mar Martin. Backing vocalist Lisa Leuschner Andersen keeps showing up on sessions produced by her husband Kid, and that's a good thing because she's a really, really good singer.

Wrapping up the album is its only instrumental, "Space Force," with Cain going all wah-wah on us while Rahn again kills it on the Fender Rhodes and Kid Andersen tosses in an interesting solo on the melodica. It's funky and it's cool ... a nice way to wrap up the session.

I'll admit that I've never heard a Chris Cain album that I didn't completely dig. His style hasn't changed much over the years, and that's quite alright with me. Raisin' Cane is the bomb, and one that I will cherish for a long, long time, just like I've done with his earlier recordings.

--- Bill Mitchell



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