As the title implies this disc is a compilation of Calvin Owens work on his Sawdust Alley label. As is not often the case with a number of "best of" CD's, this one really has most of the good stuff. This is probably due to the fact that the song selection was determined not solely by the artist or producer but by radio station DJ's. Mr. Owens solicited the advice of hundreds of DJ's before putting this CD out.
In case you were wondering who is this guy that has a "best of" CD out. Calvin Owens, like a number of under recognized musicians, played trumpet in the BB King Band. He was the musical director from 1978-1984.He also worked for Don Robey at Duke-Peacock during their heyday. He has worked as a sideman for countless other blues acts for over 55 years!
It's rare to hear the trumpet as the lead instrument in the blues. It's more rare to hear a blues orchestra. The music is about big band blues. It's a great concept because blues is a relatively simple format and orchestral music is more complex. Calvin Owens plays both styles with feeling. He does it Texas-style. This means we hear some fine Lone Star state blues belters in Trudy Lynn and Johnny Copeland, the signature sax work of David Fathead Newman, soul brother singer Archie Bell, the Spanish influence of Norma Zenteno on one track, and even traditional Texas zydeco by Chubby Carrier.
This CD reveals all the facets of this totally underrated musician. Interestingly enough of the 12 tracks on this disc, only three are instrumentals. What's even more surprising is the fact that of the 12 sides Owens only handles the vocals on one track. Of course when you've got people like Otis Clay, Johnny Clyde Copeland, and Trudy Lynn singing you're in tough company. But his gruff ,plaintive , voice is perfectly suited to the music. He does some great vocal work on the song and title of his CD "That's Your Booty" but you'll have to get that CD because it is sorely missing here.
Other than not having one of my favorite songs on this collection, Calvin Owens has all the bases covered on this CD. The Calvin Owens Blues Orchestra is totally unique. Even if Calvin Owens was the only blues orchestra, I'd still like his music. The only way I would not recommend this disc is by telling you to get his other 5 releases. That way you won't miss out on any of Mr. Owens fine playing and arranging.
Photo copyright 2001 by Tom Asp, all rights reserved.
Simply click on the CD cover at left to order this CD NOW!
This review is copyright © 2002 by Putnay Thomas, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, 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.