John Blues Boyd
What My Eyes Have Seen ...
Gulf Coast Records
Just when I think that I've
heard of every significant older blues artist
around, along comes a surprise like 70-something
Blues Boyd, an incredible singer from
California. Don't be fooled by
Boyd's age, because his rich and powerful voice
belies his years.
Boyd isn't exactly a newbie when it
comes to recording, as a quick scan through Amazon
finds five previous releases, only one of which is
still available. Why this wonderful blues vocalist
has eluded me to date is a mystery, but I'm sure
glad that What My Eyes Have Seen... recently
showed up in my mailbox.
It's good. Like really good. Not
surprising since Boyd went to Kid Andersen's
Greaseland studio to record the nine cuts plus nine
brief interludes that share details of his life.
(Andersen is very quickly turning his digs in San
Jose, California into this decade's version of
Muscle Shoals, with soooo many great recordings
coming out of the place!). Andersen and Gulf Coast
head Guy Hale collaborated with Boyd to write all of
the material here, making it a thorough biography of
our star's life. Andersen also plays either guitar
or organ on every cut. Other featured guests include
noted players, at least names that were familiar to
me, like Jim Pugh (piano), Nancy Wright (sax) and
June Core (drums).
My favorite part of the album is
when Boyd explains in "California" how when Howlin'
Wolf sang about the "California Blues" that it
inspired him to pick up his Mississippi roots to
move himself and wife Donna Mae to the Golden State.
It's a feelgood mid-tempo shuffle with a nice sax
solo from Wright and good guitar work from Andersen.
That leads into the wonderful and rollicking "That
Singing Roofer," sounding very much like Howlin'
Wolf's music from his earlier Sun Records days,
especially with Andersen getting the proper Willie
Johnson vibe on guitar. Best song here, without a
Another very emotional gem is Boyd's
tribute to his beloved Donna Mae, "49 Years," a
slow, late night T-Bone Walker-ish blues on which he
sings about the time had with his wife before she
passed away. In addition to Andersen's usually
exemplary guitar playing, Pugh comes in with
tasteful piano work and we get solid sax
accompaniment from Eric Spaulding.
Boyd sings about his time in
Mississippi during the civil rights struggles of the
1960s on the very topical blues shuffle, "Ran Me Out
Of Town," with Wright really killing it on her sax
and Andersen showing his typical versatility with a
well-placed organ solo. Speaking of the organ, I
love when musicians work in the Farfisa combo organ,
which Andersen does on a mid-tempo blues with a
heavier back beat, "I Heard The Blues Somewhere."
Ryan Walker joins in here with some tasty harmonica
While his voice is strong throughout
the album, Boyd really shows off his power and range
on an up-tempo blues shuffle, "In My Blood," on
which he's got a Morgan Freeman-type authoritative
he sings "...The blues was in my DNA ...", followed
by the eerie slow blues "What My Eyes Have Seen,"
with Andersen adding some spooky effects to his
Another song that delves into our
nation's history is the jazzy slow blues, "Why Did
You Take That Shot," with Boyd asking why Martin
Luther King had to die and questioning the
motivation of the shooter. He wonders, "...Why would
you hate a man just for the color of his skin ...,"
before stating "...The power of your hatred tied
your soul into a knot ..." There's a four-piece horn
section on this number, but they present a more
subdued, tasteful vibe instead of blasting out a
wall of sound.
Boyd and the band get a little
greasy, a little funky and a little jazzy on the
closing number, "I Got To Leave My Mark." The horns
get to unleash a little more here while Andersen
does some of his best guitar work.
What My Eyes Have Seen... is
one of the best surprises that I've had in a while.
It's a great album by a singer who needs to be
getting more recognition in the blues world. Let's
hope this album earns Mr. Boyd the kudos that he
--- Bill Mitchell