Henry Gray seems to be making up for lost time in his recording
career. "Watch Yourself" is his third CD in two years, following hot on
the heels of the acclaimed "Plays Chicago Blues" and its well received
predecessor "Blues Won't Let Me Take My Rest." This latest CD sees the man
who has played with most of the blues greats keep things ticking over.
The album was recorded live in the studio over two days, and band drop
right into the groove on the opening title track. It is a classic example
of the Chicago sound from a bygone era, and all the better for it. Gray is
omnipresent without ever being overpowering, and there are some fine solos
from Napolean Martin (sax), top Louisianian guitarist Paul "Buck" Sinegal
(ex Clifton Chenier, Rockin' Dopsie and Buckwheat Zydeco) and Brian Bruce
(harp). Stir in a tight rhythm section, and Gray's laid back vocals and
the table is set for a feast.
The band stay locked in Chicago mode for the most part, but venture south
into Louisiana to great effect on tracks such as "Shake A Hand" and "Cold
Chills." These songs show that there is a more subtle side to Gray's piano
playing which is often overlooked. Perhaps the best showpiece for Gray,
however, is the solo piece "How Could You Do It," where he just rolls along
on his own, accompanied by rhythm clapping from the band, which turns into
well deserved spontaneous applause at the end.
By the time the album gets round to the instrumental "Scratch the Cat" the
band are obviously fully warmed up, and having a ball. On this track, all
the frontmen get a chance at taking their turn in the spotlight, which they
gleefully accept. The only downside is that the track fades out too soon.
The penultimate track, "Keepin' the Blues Alive," is a homage to Gray. It
was written by bass player and manager Andy Cornett, who also features on
spirited vocals. Martin and Bruce, both turn in fine performances once
again on sax and harp respectively. The album then closes out on another
high with "Showers Of Rain."
"Watch Yourself" is a thoroughly enjoyable album, which does not break any
new ground, but is none the worse for it. What you do get, however, is
good, honest, hard working blues, played with a smile, by a tight,
entertaining band. We should all tip our hat to celebrate the fact that
Henry Gray shows no signs of letting up. Pick up a copy via Gray's web
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.