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September 2001

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Rico McFarland
Tired Of Being Alone

Rico McFarlandTo those of you who are avid readers of liner notes such as myself, then the name and work of Rico McFarland is sure to be one that is familiar. To those of you who never bother with the liners, McFarland is a stunning guitarist with a list of credits and sessions about as long as your arm. Those credits include stints in the bands of Albert King, Otis Clay, Syl Johnson, The Kinsey Report and Sugar Blue. He has also held the guitar chair simultaneously in James Cotton's and Lucky Peterson's bands for the last five years. As if that isn't enough, he has also played countless sessions with such prestigious artists as Al Green, The Temptations, Van Morrison and David Sanborn, to name just a few.

Tired Of Being Alone (Evidence) is his first release as a leader, and it's a funky blues workout with heavyweight soul overtones that could probably be best described as a blend of Stax and Motown with a huge dose of Chicago blues stirred in. Not being one to keep the spotlight all to himself Rico is joined on this rookie effort by an all star cast of players and singers that reads like a registry of the state of the blues today. 

Syl Johnson's biting 'I'm in charge' vocals are heard on a very funky cover of Al Green's "It Ain't No Fun To Me," and teams up with Rico for "Giving Me The Blues," one of two McFarland originals. Joan Osborne's "What If God Was One Of Us" is expertly reworked as a duet between McFarland and the soulful voice of Otis Clay, with guitarist Chico Banks adding some completely vicious distorted slide riffs. 

Peppered throughout this completely fun recording are the brassy sounds of Bill McFarland (any relation?) on trombone, Hank Ford on tenor sax and Kenny Anderson on trumpet. They collectively go by the title of The Chicago Fire Horns and shine like a super nova on every number they are involved with, especially the title track, which also happens to be the other original penned by McFarland. 

Sugar Blue is responsible for the fine harp work heard on a very moving instrumental cover of Zora Young's "Johnny B" and "The Other One." Billy Branch brings his exquisite harp talents to "Little By Little" and "Made Up My Mind," on which he also handles vocals. A collection of label mates comprised of Dan Bellini on harp and guitarists Chico Banks, Melvin Taylor and Carl Weathersby are on hand billing themselves as The Evidence All Stars, with each contributing their expertise to a tune. 

On numbers where there isn't a guest vocalist you'll find McFarland stepping up to the mic, offering forth a very surprising yet impressive set of pipes that wrap especially smoothly around the album's closer, a cover of Gwen McCrae's "Rocking Chair." Tired Of Being Alone is a terrific first effort from a guy who has more than paid his share of blues dues. 

Whether it's his guitar or vocals at the forefront, McFarland delivers a powerful performance throughout that will raise his status far and above being just a session player. This is without a doubt a four star effort to say the least.

--- Steve Hinrichsen

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