Blues Bytes


January 2009

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Mannish Boys
Lowdown Feelin'
Delta Groove

Mannish Boys

I try to travel to a couple of new Blues festivals each year in order to see artists in festival settings. It helps me to advise our Blues Society on acts we should bring in for our annual festival. By far the best performance I saw all summer was the Mannish Boys at Bruce Wheeler’s Heritage Music Festival in Wheeling, WV. It was my first opportunity to see the group in a festival setting and they were electric. It was also my first opportunity to see their latest vocal addition, Bobby Jones, and proper decorum keeps me from describing some of Bobby’s stage antics that evening. So it’s no surprise that their latest record, Lowdown Feelin’ (Delta Groove), is equally amazing. It’s a strong candidate for the Blues Music Award for record of the year. And rightfully so.

Flamenco guitar and mariachi horns lend a southwest flair to our first cut, “These Kind of Blues,” and Bobby’s got the lead vocal. He makes a valid point, “she wouldn’t be leaving you…if you would treat her right.” You wouldn’t have “these kind of blues” if you’d been a better man to her. Paris Slim’s slide guitar leads Bobby into our next tune, “Searchin Blues.” Bobby’s just out trying to find a good woman, one who will “lead to some satisfaction…in my life.” That’s why he continues to search for a baby who will treat him right.

Finis Tasby takes the microphone for our next song, the title cut, “Lowdown Feeling.” Finis has the blues because his baby’s left him for another man. “It’s a lowdown feeling…seeing the woman you love…with another man…I wonder…how long will I suffer….how much can I stand?” Kid Ramos has the lead guitar duties on this tune and he accentuates the anguish you know Finis is feeling now.

Randy Chortkoff’s harp introduces us next to a Howlin’ Wolf cut, “Chocolate Drop,” with Bobby telling us about his woman. “I got a brown skinned woman…they call her…the chocolate drop…the way that she love me…Oh Lord…it won’t stop.” Bobby’s planning on keeping this one and he’s not looking anywhere else…no one else will do.

The heavy bass notes from Ronnie James Weber’s electric bass provide the foundation for Finis’ vocals on our next cut, “If the Washing Don’t Get You, The Rinsing Will.” Sparks are flying from Kirk Fletcher’s guitar as Finis lets his woman know, “you know you got me hooked…you treat me any way you choose…but I got new for you…your day will come…if the washing don’t get you…the rinsing will!”

Bobby’s back with a Big Walter Horton tune, “Need My Baby.” Lynwood Slim’s harp provides our back drop as Bobby tells us just how bad he needs the woman in his life, “need my baby…to hold me in her arms…in the summer to cool me…in the winter…to keep me warm…if she can’t be my sweetheart…let her be my blushing bride!” Bobby is definitely in love with this girl.

More slide guitar from Paris Slim brings us to our first tune with Johnny Dyer at the microphone, “The Same Thing.” A classic tale of man’s pursuit of women, “why do men go crazy…when a woman wears her dress so tight…must be the same old thing…that makes a tomcat fight at night!” Johnny’s vocals are like smooth velvet and it doesn’t get any better than that. The Mannish boys tackle any and everything as evidenced by our next cut, “The Woodchuck.“ “How much wood…could a woodchuck chuck?” Besides the rhyme we learned as kids…it’s evolved into a witty repartee between Bobby and his woman.

One of the very special guests on this record is Little Sammy Davis, and he takes the microphone on our next song, “Fine Lookin’ Woman.” ‘I love my woman…I’m going to tell the world I do…so fine…so fine…I want to make her mine!” Sammy plays harp on this cut and he’s joined by long-time band partner, Fred Scribner, on the slide guitar.

The inclusion of an instrument, “You Don’t Love Me,” gives my ear a break and a chance to kick back to enjoy the guitar leads of Kirk Fletcher. The Mannish Boys collectively are all world class musicians and it’s nice to hear them let loose on an instrumental that focuses on their talents exclusively. Definitely a nice break on what is a very long recording at just over 72 minutes. The liner notes for Lowdown Feelin’ mentions the fact that one of the goals the Mannish Boys have in their work is to keep in the forefront some of the great songs that much of their listening audience has never been exposed to.

Bobby Jones does an excellent rendition of a song I’ve not heard, “Figure Head,” written by Billy “The Kid” Emerson, a writer from Florida that I’ve never been exposed to. It’s a great tune and I appreciate the band’s devotion to their craft. “My girl…the biggest figure head in town…well…she spends all of my money…but she can lay that good loving down!” Like I said, it’s a great tune. Delta Groove founder, Randy Chortkoff, puts his harp to work and takes the microphone next for his original tune, “Rude Groove.” Fred Kaplan’s on the B3 and I love the musical layers Randy built into this song, “Now my blues…is falling down like rain…play me that sweet sound…before I go insane.” “Rude Groove” is one of two original songs Randy contributes to this project.

Little Sammy Davis is back up with a really beautiful song, “When I Leave.” “When I leave Chicago…going down to LA…going down to…the House of Blues…and this is what I’m going to say…we going to ball till midnight…going to open shop at daylight…when I leave…oh yeah.” Sammy appeared years ago at one of Randy’s Little Walter tribute shows and “When I Leave” is a song Sammy wrote about his California experience. “Good times….good times…that old good times…I can’t forget…I’ve been looking for a job…I ain’t found no job…yet,” sings Johnny on our next song, “Good Times.” Johnny’s got irrepressible warmth to his voice that I would have liked to heard more of on this record. Now we go from “Good Times” to “Something’s Wrong” with Finis back in front of the band. “Now I may look stupid…that’s plain to see…loving a woman who don’t love me…something’s wrong!” This relationship sounds like it was off from the get go and at least Finis can tell that “something’s wrong!”

It’s rare that anyone else takes the microphone for the Mannish Boys so I find it’s interesting that Paris Slim is up with the cut, “Reet, Petite and Gone.” Reet is slang for the word right, meaning something good and apropos for this tune. Paris is definitely in love with girl and he’s got it figured out, “when I do things…I do them right…I won’t ever let my baby out of sight…we’ll tie the knot and tie it tight…cause she’s reet, petite and gone!” Bobby’s back at the mic with “Dead Letter Blues,” the final cut on Lowdown Feelin’. The mail has brought Bobby some very bad news, “I got a letter…and this is what the letter said…hurry back to Florida…cause the little girl you loved is dead!” It’s tough news and Bobby is taking the loss of his woman hard, especially knowing that he didn’t always treat her right.

Lowdown Feelin’ has definitely earned its stripes as one of the great recordings of 2008. It made my top ten list for the year and is one of the nominees for Blues Music Award Record of the Year. I’m looking forward to the BMA’s in May to see what everyone else thinks. Their talent is undeniable and their song choices impeccable. In this day and age we’re lucky that a band like the Mannish Boys exists and that they have the opportunity to display the collective wisdom of their ages like they do.

If you get a chance to see them live…go, there’s nothing else quite like seeing this group strut their stuff in front of an appreciative group of festival goers like those at the Heritage Music Festival. The festival finale with John Black and Ana Popovic on stage with the Mannish Boys will keep me warm through the winter and anxious for summer to come.

--- Kyle Deibler


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