Hard Workin' Man
I recently received an email from one of the
honchos at EllerSoul Records asking
for my mailing address so that they could send me
the new album by Andrew Alli. I had never
heard of the dude, but I trust EllerSoul to
never steer me wrong. And, oh man, am I ever glad they
sent me this copy of Hard Workin' Man, the
first CD in Alli's name after he shared a
self-titled album two years earlier with guitarist Josh Small.
this fine young musician to you, Alli is a very good
harmonica player and singer, originally from
Richmond, Virginia. He learned the harp by listening
to the masters like Big Walter Horton, Little
Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and Junior Wells,
developing his own brand of straight-ahead blues.
Alli is joined on Hard Workin' Man by a crack
ensemble of musicians, including Jon Atkinson
(guitar & bass), Carl Sonny Leyland (piano), Danny
Michel (guitar), Devin Neel (drums) and Buddy
The title cut opens the album in
fine fashion, a standard Chicago-style 12-bar blues
that introduces us to Alli's harmonica virtuosity
and raw Southside vocals, and then he further
cements his reputation on the harp with the
fast-moving instrumental, "AA Boogie."
Every single one of the album's
dozen cuts are quite fine, but my favorite is the
Alli original, "Going Down South," with a rumba
rhythm, effective muffled vocals from Alli and
killer slide guitar from either Atkinson or Michel.
While George Smith isn't listed in Alli's bio as one of
his inspirations, I have to think he listened to a
lot of Harmonica George's music; the version of
Smith's "Good Things" is outstanding, a
mid-tempo blues shuffle that includes some of his
best harmonica work. Alli pays tribute to both of
the Walters for his other two covers, a pleasant
lilting blues, "Walter's Sun," from the pen of Mr.
Horton, and a jazzier version of Little Walter's
"One More Chance." Some really nice guitar work on
Another smokin' instrumental is "Chrom-A-Thick,"
with Alli showing that he's just as capable of
handling the more complex chromatic harmonica, and
he just keeps blowing away for nearly two and a half
minutes while the band puts down a solid blues beat. Alli also flexes his harmonica chops on the up-tempo
blues, "Easy Going Man," confidently announcing that he's dressed
up right and ready for the night.
This sounds like something that would have come out
of Chicago back in the 1950s, but is instead an Alli
original. We get to hear one of
the best guitar solos of the album midway through
the song. This one will be running through your head
for quite some time after just a few repeated
listenings --- I guarantee it!
Closing the album is the very nice
up-tempo blues, "So Long," with more strong guitar
from one of our players and equally fine piano
accompaniment from Leyland.
I'm hooked, folks. I've taken my
seat on the Andrew Alli bandwagon, and can't wait to
hear what's next from this young bluesman. Be sure
to score your own copy of Hard Workin' Man
--- Bill Mitchell
Note: In researching Andrew
Alli's background, I noticed that Ivan Appelrouth
was the guitarist in one of his previous bands. Ivan
was a good friend of mine during my time living in North
Carolina in the 1980s, and I was heartbroken when I got the news
that Ivan passed away last fall. He was an
incredibly talented musician and an even better
person. I dedicate this review to the memory of Ivan Appelrouth. RIP, my friend.