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May 2013

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Ruff Kutt Blues Band
That's When The Blues Begins
VizzTone Records

Ruff Kutt

Ruff Kutt Blues Band is a project assembled by Texas bassist James Goode, originally teaming up with guitarist Anson Funderburgh for the great CD Mill Block Blues. For the newest Ruff Kutt CD, That's When The Blues Begins, Goode and Funderburgh bring in not one, but two, fabulous vocalists in Finis Tasby and Zac Harmon. The result is a disc that will undoubtedly rank as one of the best of the year. (Actually, the date printed on the CD is 2012, but my promo copy just arrived in the mail so I'm going to call it a 2013 release).

If you're looking for blues that's going to blow your speakers out or raise your heart rate by several dozen ticks, this isn't the CD for that. But if you want basic, tasteful blues delivered by an ensemble of talented blues cats, That's When The Blues Begins deserves a spot in your regular rotation.

While Goode wrote all 14 numbers here and the same backing musicians play on all cuts, it's almost like this is two CDs in one due to the different styles of vocalists Tasby and Harmon. The former, a veteran L.A. singer, has more of a raw, old school vocal style, while the younger Harmon presents more of a contemporary approach. Both singers are very good, and compliment each other well.

Tasby handles the vocals on the first few cuts, including the opening "Deep Elam Blues," featuring nice baritone sax work from Ron Jones. Finis then gets a little funky on the next number, the mid-tempo tune "Blues In My Blood," punctuated by short but tasty guitar licks from Funderburgh.

The album really starts to cook on the mid-tempo shuffle "Oh Woman!" Tasby is credited as the vocalist, but it sure sounds like Harmon instead. Regardless of who stepped up to the mic for this number, his voice soars across the octaves as he pays tribute to his better half.

Another killer cut, "That's When The Blues Begins," comes later in the lineup, featuring spirited soulful vocals by Harmon, given a gospel feel with a very good group of background singers and a really nice guitar solo from Funderburgh. This ranked as my favorite cut on the disc, UNTIL .....

As soon as I heard the energetic shuffle "Going To Bluesville," I knew that this song was worthy of Blues Song of the Year honors. Harmon takes the listeners on a trip to the fictional Bluesville, a place that we all crave to be ... "gonna put on my walkin' shoes, I'm going to Bluesville, gotta find a place to stay, to play the blues every day ..." I hit the repeat button on my CD player at least twice the first time through the album; I couldn't get enough of the hypnotic beat of this song.

Just when we think that Tasby's done for the night, he returns on the next to last cut, the mid-tempo tune "Let's Dance" that makes a good late night blues.

Harmon brings us on home with the closing number, "When A Bluesman Goes To Heaven." Lyrics like this are classic ... " ... When a bluesman goes to heaven, he'll be in the coolest band around, he built his life at the crossroads, lord, now he's heaven bound ... " Goode lays down a solid walking bass line and Funderburgh takes the opportunity to jump in with more hot guitar work.

Assembling such a diverse group of musicians from around the country isn't always easy, but here's hoping that Goode can bring together this particular combination at least one more time. I liked That's When The Blues Begins so much that I crave more.

--- Bill Mitchell

 

 

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