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October / November 2018

Mark Wenner's Blues Warriors
Mark Wenner's Blues Warriors
EllerSoul Records

Mark WennerMark Wenner’s Blues Warriors (EllerSoul Records) is the latest side project for the front man of one of the most formidable, and longest-lasting (since 1972), blues and rock groups, the Nighthawks. The Blues Warriors include Mark Wenner (harp, vocals) and D.C. area musicians Clarence “The Bluesman” Turner (guitar/vocals), Zack Sweeney (guitar), Steve Wolf (bass), and Wenner’s fellow Nighthawk Mark Stutso (drums/vocals) and they tear through this superb set of blues classics.

Turner rolls through an energetic version of Muddy Waters’ “Diamonds At Your Feet,” handling vocals and teaming with Sweeney for some excellent guitar work, while Wenner blows chromatic. “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” may not seem like the best choice on an album of blues covers, but Wenner and company give it a really cool blues restructuring though the vocals still retain a bit of the King’s flair. Big Joe Turner’s “Rock A While” gets a funky swinging read, and “Checkin’ On My Baby” keeps the funk going, leaning more toward the Junior Wells’ rendition than Rice Miller’s.

“Just To Be With You,” another Waters side, gets a slow blues treatment, powered by a strong vocal from Turner and Wenner’s harmonica, and Slim Harpo’s “I’m A King Bee” is transformed from Louisiana swamp blues to Windy City shuffle. Stutso provides powerful lead vocals on B.B. King’s “It’s My Own Fault,” which includes a crisp solo from Turner that would make the King of the Blues smile. There’s also a quick, driving cover of Fats Domino’s “Hello Josephine” that gets a lot done in a short time, followed by a slow burning take of Miller’s “Trust My Baby.”

The disc wraps up with a pair of instrumentals – a swinging “The Hucklebuck,” and “Just Like Jimmy,” a Wenner original that pays tribute to Jimmy Reed – before closing with Elmore James’s “Dust My Broom,” driven by Wenner’s harmonica instead of the usual slide guitar.

Mark Wenner’s Blues Warriors is an excellent side project for Wenner, but it wouldn’t bother blues fans one bit if he decided to produce a sequel sometime in the near future.

--- Graham Clarke



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