Blues Bytes

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August 2019

The Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling
Lucky Guy!
Alligator Records

Nick Moss

One of the more enjoyable live blues shows I've witnessed over the last year or so was when The Nick Moss Band came to town with harmonica ace Dennis Gruenling in tow. These cats laid it all out for a couple of hours, entertaining a decent-sized crowd for a weeknight gig. With at least a dozen recordings to their credit, this band is becoming a mainstay in the Windy City AND on the international blues scene.

Moss pays tribute to his home city of Chicago on the opening cut, "312 Blood," an up-tempo shuffle that is anchored by the solid rhythm section of Rodrigo Mantovani (bass) and Patrick Seals (drums) while Moss (guitar), Gruenling (harp) and Taylor Streiff (keyboards) all come in with hot instrumental breaks. It's a solid introduction to the music that we're about to hear throughout the disc.

On the album's only cover, Johnny O'Neal Johnson's jump blues classic "Ugly Woman," originally recorded in 1953 for Sun Records, Moss pays tribute to the love of his life by singing "...With a woman like this, I don't need nobody else ..." while also laying down some torrid rockabilly guitar licks. Streiff contributes a tasty piano solo, pounding away on the upper end of the keyboard. Keeping the tempo going is the blues shuffle "Lucky Guy," on which Moss counts his blessings for moving away from a relationship.

The first cut to slow down the tempo is "Sanctified, Holy And Hateful," a slow blues highlighted by Gruenling's heavier harmonica sound and solid blues guitar from Moss. Gruenling then takes the lead on vocals and harmonica on his fast-paced original, "Movin' On My Way," a call-and-response number that gives Streiff another chance to show off his piano dexterity while Moss moves all around his fretboard on several guitar solos. Later in the album Gruenling gets a second chance to front the band with his own composition, "Wait And See."

Moss is searching for some assurances from his woman on the mid-tempo shuffle, "Tell Me There's Nothing Wrong," featuring some very nice harmonica breaks from Gruenling, while celebrating the good times with his friends on the mid-tempo blues, "Me And My Friends."

The band takes it to Memphis on the greasy and funky instrumental "Hot Zucchini," with Streiff switching over to the more-appropriate B3 to give the song that true Bluff City sound. The other instrumental number here is the jazzy "Cutting The Monkey's Tail," with Moss and Gruenling both showing their versatility on their respective instruments in giving this number a smoother feel.

"Simple Minded" gets a different vibe when producer Kid Andersen jumps in on this mid-tempo blues with some tasty mandolin picking, and Gruenling tears it up on harmonica. Moss pays tribute to the woman he loves on "As Good As It Gets," comparing her love to other favorites of his, like honey on a biscuit, bacon on a plate, and sleepin' in late.

Closing the album is a simple acoustic number, "The Comet," with Moss accompanying guest guitarist Monster Mike Welch. It's a nice wrap-up to a very fine album.

Lucky Guy! was recorded at what is now one of the best studios on the blues scene, Andersen's Greaseland Studios in San Jose, California. All of the components come together to make still another solid album by Moss and company.

--- Bill Mitchell



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