"Western World" is the first release from the Big Town Playboys since
frontman Mike Sanchez departed. The good news is that he has been replaced
on vocals by Big Joe Louis--one of Britain's best blues singers around--and
on keyboards (and harp) by maestro Steve "Wes" Weston. The even better
news is that "Western World" is one of the finest slices of real R&B and
blues that has been released in recent years.
From the very first moment when the horns announce Johnny Rogers' "Calling
Baby," you know that you are onto a good thing. All the required
ingredients for top drawer R&B are there: good engine room, honking horns,
classy pianist, masterful guitarist and a singer with a BIG voice. Kick
back and enjoy, because by the time you get to the second track ("You
Know-Yeah") you will be looking for your dancing shoes. "Western World" is
one of those albums that just makes you want to party.
The ensuing "Hey, Hey Now Baby" is the first of three original tunes, all
penned by Big Joe Louis. It features some terrific New Orleans style piano
from Wes Weston, who also plays harp on the ensuing "Do What You Want To
Do." The original tunes sit comfortably with the 10 mostly lesser known
gems from the repertoires of Lloyd Glenn, Jimmy T-99 Nelson, Lloyd Price
and so on. The new songs recreate the authentic 1950's sound which makes
it hard to distinguish them from the covers without first consulting the
The band maintain the very high standards of the opening tracks throughout,
even when they divert away from their mainstay of R&B. This is most
apparent on the venture into ballad territory (Percy Mayfield's "Life Is
Suicide"), where the twin saxes of Lee Badau and Nick Lunt add that extra
touch of class, and on the Chicago blues of Elmore James' "Can't Stop
Lovin'"), where Big Joe Louis doubles up on slide guitar.
The Big Town Playboys are one of the best R&B bands currently on the
go. With "Western World" they have created a mighty fine album that will
be lapped up by people who like real R&B and blues shouters. The only
minor drawback is the relatively short playing time (less than 36 minutes),
although it does retail at a bargain price, and there is no filler: just
solid entertainment all the way. You can buy "Western World" from the Big
Town Playboys site (www.bigtownplayboys.com) or from the good people at Red
Lick Records (www.redlickrecords.com).
This review is copyright © 2001 by Gordon Baxter, 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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