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April 1998

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Mighty Sam McClain
AudioQuest Music

Guy Davis
You Don't Know My Mind
Red House Records

Mighty Sam McClainWe're featuring two albums in this month's Surprise section, Mighty Sam McClain's Journey and Guy Davis' You Don't Know My Mind. The surprise here is that neither of these excellent artists haven't been signed to one of the major blues labels. That statement should not be taken as a knock on either AudioQuest Music or Red House Records, both of which have issued many fine CDs. But neither could be considered as major players in the blues world.

Mighty Sam McClain has been recorded quite often during his career, going back as far as the mid 1960s with his soul recordings for Amy Records. Journey shows McClain to be a powerful soul/blues singer, much in the same vein as Bobby "Blue" Bland. Quite frankly, I think that he sounds far better than Bland has in quite a few years.

Most of the tunes on Journey are band originals. I especially like McClain's raw, spirited vocals on "No More Tears." Another good one written by McClain is the uptempo feelgood number "Mr. So & So."

McClain is at his best doing slow blues, as you can hear on "Other Side Of The Tracks" and the excellent "Hangin' On The Cross (Between Heaven And The Blues)."

More blues fans need to know about Mighty Sam McClain, and Journey will serve as a good introduction to this underrated singer.

For my money, Guy Davis is one of the best of the new breed of young acoustic blues artists on today's scene. The son of actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee has just released what I think is his third CD for Red House Records, You Don't Know My Mind.

The disc starts off with a very catchy number, "Best I Can," on which Davis' vocals sound a little gruffer and earthier than on previous releases. He shows off his slide work on "If You Love Somebody," which has a real gospel feel to it. The most spirited number is "Georgia Flood," telling the story of a 1925 flood, and featuring a nice call and response chorus.

Davis shows his versatility as an artist by picking up the electric guitar, adding a full band, and playing mean West Side Chicago slide guitar on "Home Cooked Meal". Then he turns around on "Marlboro Blues" and fingerpicks his way through a Piedmont-style blues.

Guy Davis is one of the best young blues artists around. The big surprise is that the rest of the world doesn't know it yet.

- Bill Mitchell

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