Label honcho Andrew Galloway of Toronto's Electro-Fi records has established an enviable reputation for superb outings by oft-overlooked yet seminal figures in blues history. Working exclusively at Alec Fraser's Liquid Sound Studios, Electro-Fi's output is characterized by a big, fat bottom and enough dirt to start a farm. In short, exactly the way blues should sound.
One of Andrew's most exciting discoveries has to be Curley Bridges. "Mr. Rock 'N' Soul" is Curley's second outing for the label; given it took twenty-six years for his feature-length debut to see the light, we should be glad this follow-up comes only two years later.
Once again Curley's backed by local luminaries Chris Whitely on harp, trumpet, and guitar, his brother Dan (talented family, eh?) on guitar, with Bucky Berger on drums, Downchild's Pat Carey on sax, and Victor Bateman on acoustic bass. All are excellent, in particular Mr. Whitely's squalling harmonica work; he proves that after all this time there's still much to be made of that li'l old 'Mississippi saxophone.' (Harp-o-holics in particular will be amazed at his tonal pallette - how does he get that sound?)
But make no mistake, this is clearly Curley's show, as he leads the band through a romping, rollicking set driven by his piano work and sly, gruff vocals.
With a declamatory shout on the opener - "Rock 'n' Soul, gotta make it, baby!" Curley wastes no time in getting the party going. "Nobody Seems To Want Me" rides a New Orleans style groove that Fats Domino would've felt right at home in; Curley reinvents "Little Red Rooster" as an easy-going shuffle, Mr. Whitely's honking harp again a highlight. "You're The One (That I Adore) is a heartfelt and straightforward love song, utterly devoid of posture or pose; many a pop start wannabee could learn a lesson about presentation from this one, and the world would be a better place for it.
Herbie Hancock's "Suite: Watermelon" gets the Curley treatment next, with the result an agreeably funky romp. Curley's "Caledonia" is pretty straightforward, as are "What Am I Living For" and Lee Dorsey's classic "Ya Ya." Given that all possess irresistible riffs from the git-go, who'd want to change 'em anyway? Yet such is the sheer force of Curley's personality that no matter how many covers you've heard before, there's never a doubt these songs are his and his alone.
"Ain't That Just like A Woman" gets an unusual rumba workout, while "My Girl Josephine" is a short, sweet slice of shuffle heaven. "Outskirts Of Town" is positively bouncy - again an unexpected approach - before Curley wraps things up with one of the more unusual takes on "Mojo" you're likely to hear; so much so he's renamed it "Mo-jo Re:Worked.
With so much to like here - Curley's spry vocals, top-notch instrumental performances, and production that puts a raucous party right in your living room - it's hard to say just what's best about "Mr. Rock 'n' Soul." Perhaps it's just that the guys are clearly having so much fun, and it's a pleasure just to spend time with 'em.
Get this one!
Canada: Unit 6-21 Goodrich Rd.
Toronto Ontario M8Z 6A3
USA: P.O. Box 191, LaSalle Station, Niagara Falls, NY 14304
Website : www.electrofi.com
This review is copyright © 2001 by John Taylor, 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.