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June 1998

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Big Joe and the Dynaflows
I'm Still Swingin'

Big Joe Maher - I'm Still Swingin'I was a tad late in posting the June edition of Blues Bytes for two reasons. Number one was my vacation at the end of May, which put me a week behind schedule. But then, just as I was ready to wrap up this issue, along comes one of the best CDs of the year. I just had to make I'm Still Swingin' from Big Joe and the Dynaflows this month's Pick Hit!

Big Joe Maher previously released excellent CDs for Black Top and Powerhouse. But with his latest he's gone the independent route by issuing it on Maryland-based Severn Records. I'm Still Swingin' is Big Joe's best yet; I've already reserved a spot for the album on my 1998 Top Ten list.

After listening to I'm Still Swingin', I firmly believe that the late New Orleans blues shouter Smiley Lewis was somehow reincarnated in the portly body of this young man from the Washington, D.C. area. Four of the first five cuts are tunes made famous by Lewis: "Playgirl," "Bad Luck Blues" (wow!), "Gumbo Blues," and a version of Smiley's biggest hit, "One Night of Sin." The latter number features excellent sax accompaniment by Kaz Kazanoff.

There's also a very nice cover of B.B. King's "Early Every Morning," with tasty instrumental work from former Mighty Flyer guitarist Alex Schultz and pianist Kevin McKendree.

While most of this CD swings and jumps with vigor, Maher is also adept at singing a slow blues, as we hear on Ray Charles' "On The Other Hand." Clyde Hunt contributes effective muted trumpet. Big Joe also sounds smooth on the slow original ballad "I'll Always Love You," featuring good gospel-style piano from McKendree and real soulful horn arrangements.

If you like the sound of the vibraphones, then you'll enjoy hearing John Cocuzzi's work on several of the cuts, most notably the jump blues "My Baby Pleases Me."

I'm Still Swingin' closes with an excellent version of Louis Jordan's fun song "Lemonade."

I should add that Big Joe Maher provides more than just the vocals for this disc, as he also keeps the beat going from behind his drum kit. If you were into swing and jump blues before it became fashionable with the young hip crowd, then this CD is for you. Big Joe's one of the best at this genre. I'm Still Swingin' will be released on June 16th. If you can't find it at your favorite music store, then call Severn Records at (410) 923-0593 or e-mail them.

- Bill Mitchell

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