Blues Bytes


June 2012

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Mannish Boys
Double Dynamite
Delta Groove Music

Mannish Boys

What could be better than a new Mannish Boys CD? How about TWO new Mannish Boys CDs? Delta Groove Music has completely outdone itself this time around with a double dose of this stellar group of West Coast blues all-stars. Double Dynamite continues the group’s tradition of updating traditional classics by legendary players of the past while mixing in solid selections of their own that hold true with blues traditions, but still have an eye (and ear) on the present and future blues.

Missing from the roster this time around are vocalists Bobby Jones and Johnny Dyer, but in their place is a marvelous gospel-influenced vocalist from Texas named Sugaray Rayford, who more than ably fills their shoes from the opening cut (Son House’s “Death Letter”). Rayford shares vocal duties with returning Mannish Boys Finis Tasby, vocalist/harmonica player/producer Randy Chortkoff, and guitarists Kirk “Eli” Fletcher and Frank Goldwasser, along with a few guest stars of note. Like most Mannish Boy albums, this one is loaded to the brim with guest stars.

For Disc One (subtitled “Atomic Blues”), the focus is squarely on ’50s era traditional blues, and it features guest vocalists James Harman (who doubles on harmonica for his own “Bad Detective” ), Mud Morganfield (who handles two of his Dad’s old tunes, “Elevate Me Mama” and the appropriate “Mannish Boy”), and Jackie Payne (who rips through a Waters medley of his own, “She’s 19 Years Old/Streamline Woman”).

Other guests on the first disc include harmonica masters Bob Corritore (who appears on the two Morganfield tracks), Rod Piazza (“Mean Old World” and the Waters medley), and Jason Ricci (on the Little Walter track, “Everybody Needs Somebody”). Elvin Bishop adds slide guitar on “Mean Old World”), and boogie woogie piano master Rob Rio plays on most of the tracks.

Most of the tunes will be familiar to blues fans, but there are a few rarely done gems in the mix, such as a lively reworking of Robert Nighthawk’s “Bricks In My Pillow,” Frank Frost’s “Never Leave Me At Home,” Otis Spann’s “The Hard Way,” and Willie Dixon’s “Bloody Tears.” Chortkoff adds a couple of originals (“Please Forgive Me” and the Jimmy Reed-styled “You Dogged Me”) that blend easily with the standards.

Disc Two (subtitled “Rhythm & Blues Explosion”) leans more toward the R&B/Soul tunes of the same era. Most of the same guests on Disc One show up on Disc Two as well, plus keyboardist Mike Finnigan, who also sings on Ray Charles’ “Mr. Charles’ Blues,” singer Cynthia Manley (who does a gorgeous duet with Rayford on James Brown’s “You’ve Got the Power,” one of four JB-associated songs present), guitarists Junior Watson, Nathan James, and Kid Ramos. The band, pushed by a powerful horn section, really gets into the groove on tracks like “Drowning on Dry Land,” “Cold Sweat,” T-Bone Walker’s “You Don’t Love Me,” and “I Woke Up Screaming.”

As for the Mannish Boys themselves, Tasby, Chortkoff, and Rayford do an excellent job on vocals. Guitarists Goldwasser and Fletcher are top notch, and the rhythm section of Willie J. Campbell on bass and Jimi Bott on drums provide rock solid support. You can’t go wrong with a Mannish Boys release. They can play it all and play it as well as anybody out there.

--- Graham Clarke


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