In 1996, at the Chicago Blues Festival, Phil Guy put on the performance of his life thanks to a trombone-drenched support band called Big James and the Chicago Playboys. The Chicago-based singer/songwriter/producer/horn player is a former member of the Little Milton and Albert King bands but it was the late Johnny Christian who had the biggest influence on him. In 1998, Big James Montgomery released a superb debut CD and received great reviews in numerous publications. Now he has done it again with his second release on his own independent label. Like its predecessor, the music was recorded over 2 days. Only saxophonist Charlie Kimble remains from the first CD but these Playboys still know how to funk around. They have been playing together since 1998 and pour their hearts, sweat and power into 11 tracks including 6 originals.
Within hearing the first few seconds of the title track, you know this is an experienced band rich in the rough, funky, soul/blues sound of Chicago's non-tourist blues clubs. The autobiographical tune sheds insight into the Big man and his love for the blues. Check out lyrics like: 'I'm not well off, I'm not well to do, if it wasn't 4 da' blues, I don't know what I'd do'. Guitarist Mike Wheeler plays a sweet solo with the smoothness of Buddy Guy and the heaviness of Albert King. The brass section of Big James, Kimble and guest Kenny Anderson (trumpet) harmonizes creating a pulsating rhythm on "Da' Coldest Man I Ever Knew". Then they create a full, joyful sound on "Never Loved Any 1 Like U". Big James throws some depth and rasp into his voice on "Low Down Dirty Blues" in order to keep up with the incredibly heavy sounding horns. On this track, Joe Blocker performs an excellent solo on the keys.
"I Like Your Style" is a shaking your booty tune that is guaranteed to have the dance floor packed. The lyrics contain classic lines such as: 'You're like Juicy Fruit, you sweet, sticky thing'. Vocally, "8 Men, 4 Women", is the highlight of the CD. Here, Montgomery sings with so much conviction, you'll swear he is singing about his own trial. "A Happy Fool" features a catchy beat with solid drumming from Cleo Cole. However, the attractive and invitingly infectious rhythm comes from CC's bass. "Da' Best Love I Never Had" is a beautiful ballad which gives the band a chance to energize for the horn onslaught that follows on the closing track. Before the traditional gospel song, "I'm Goin' Home (2 Live With God)", concludes you will find yourself: turning up the volume, shouting out the chorus and organizing a Pentecostal revival.
It may be James' disc but you get far more than the trombone master's solos. Throughout the 60 minute disc, he gives the Playboys ample opportunity to deliver their goods. If you don't know now you know that these guys have the freshest sound in the blues today. In his liner notes, Michael Wojcik states, 'they are so tight that even dynamite couldn't blow their groove apart'. This one is simply funkin' excellent.
For CDs and information, visit www.bigjames.com or contact Jamot Music, PO Box 375, Island Lake, IL 60042-0375 USA (815) 344-5855 firstname.lastname@example.org
This review is copyright © 2001 by Tim Holek, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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