Michael Hill's Blues Mob
I was having a very hard time coming up with a Pick Hit this month. While there were several very good CDs in contention, none of them jumped ahead of the pack. So I took the easy way out, and selected two CDs to be our July '98 Pick Hits.
Staying Power is Dallas bluesman Tutu Jones' second release for
Bullseye. While the first one was good, this disc far surpasses Blue
Texas Soul (1996). Jones takes good solid Texas blues and mixes it with a heavy
dose of soul for a very palatable mix.
Not only is Jones a hot guitarist and a good singer, but he's also a very talented songwriter. All 10 cuts are originals, most dealing with typical blues themes of romance, sex, love, etc. A great example is the creative slow blues, "The Milkman Game."
We hear Jones' more soulful side on "Can't Leave Your Love Alone," punctuated by the excellent horn work of The Memphis Horns. Some of Tutu's best guitar work can be heard on the mid-tempo shuffle instrumental "After Midnight" and on the straight blues number "After Loving You."
Jones' strongest vocal work can be heard on the slow blues "Good Juice." He's got a strong, yet smooth voice that fits his material extremely well.
Checking in at only 38 minutes, Staying Power is a little short by '90s standards. But there's a lot of fine music packed into that time.
I've made no secret of my appreciation for the music of Michael Hill's Blues Mob. New York State Of Blues is the band's third album for Alligator. I don't think it's quite as good as the second one, Have Mercy!, which was the Pick Hit in the very first issue of Blues Bytes. But it's still a very good CD.
Hill delves into contemporary issues better than any other blues artist on the scene today. His lyrics have always fascinated me. In "This Is My Job" he tells the story of a man who refuses to compromise his dignity and ethics, regardless of his troubles ... "You don't understand, but this is my job, I may have nothing, I refuse to steal or rob."
Hill has on past releases shown an ability to take well-known songs and mold them into his own style. This time it's Stevie Wonder's "Living For The City," which Hill plays in a country blues style, with good slide guitar.
Another excellent cover is "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone / Mama Sang The Blues." Hill sings each song with such conviction that he gives the listener the impression that many of these songs are autobiographical. Was his papa really a rolling stone?
On "Young Folks' Blues," Hill sings about the young kids who are growing up playing the blues today. But I'm never sure whether he's paying tribute to them or being a bit sarcastic about their right to sing the blues. I guess I'll have to listen to it a few more times.
The phrase "future of the blues" has been tremendously overused. But I can't argue the point if this symbolic title is bestowed upon either Tutu Jones or Michael Hill.
- Bill Mitchell
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