Hollywood Fats Band
Rock This House
(Aim International, 2000)
by Craig Ruskey
Review date: May 2001
1999 KBA Award Winner|
Achievement for Blues on the Internet
Presented by the Blues Foundation
Hollywood Fats. Buddy Guy was responsible for giving Micahel Mann a nickname that perhaps everyone with a small amount of blues knowledge recognizes. Fats was born in 1954 and sadly passed away in 1986, long before his time. In that short period however, he managed to make a name for himself as one of the finest, young guitar slingers to blaze out of California, and that reputation lives on. Having backed J.B. Hutto, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Witherspoon, Albert King, and others, Fats was at the head of a pack of blues guitarists that include names like Jr. Watson, Kid Ramos, Zach Zunis, Rusty Zinn, and more. After touring steadily for a number of years, Fats decided to head back to the California coast and he hooked up with Al Blake to form the Hollywood Fats Band. Joined by Fred Kaplan's trusty piano, Larry Taylor's bass chops, and Richard Innes' in-the-pocket drumming, the crew of youngsters turned a new generation on by giving nightly lessons on the correct way to play blues. Throwbacks to an earlier era, Hollywood Fats and his bandmates played with finesse, taste, and respect.
This disc from Aim International, an Australian interest, is a reissue of Fats' debut recording under his own name, from 1979. The set kicks off with a rousing version of Jimmy Rogers' classic, "Rock This House," which shows quickly, that these cats were not imitators, but innovators. Sounding like seasoned veterans twice their age, they attack that classic Chicago sound with a stranglehold, proving they knew their way around a 12 bar pattern. Fats burns through a crushing take on Gatemouth Brown's "Okie Dokie Stomp" that leaves no doubt, anywhere in the two-and-a-half-minutes, that he was a force to be reckoned with. "Suitcase Blues," an original cut with credit going to the entire band, is a slow walking groove and makes way for Baby Face Leroy Foster's "Red Headed Woman," a smoldering Windy City nod with plenty of Al Blake's fat-toned harmonica. Memphis Slim's "Lonesome" is a three minute clinic of guitar and rhythm section communication, filled out with some chugging horns, while Big Walter Horton's "Have A Good Time" is another tip of the hat to the 'Chicago way.' Three bonus tracks not on the original vinyl LP show up and "Too Many Drivers" pumps along stepping aside for "I Got My Eyes," which uses the 'Help Me' theme to good effect. "Little Girl," the closer, is a gritty slow blues with more guitar and harp to satisfy.
22 years ago, Hollywood Fats and his friends walked into a studio in California and cut loose playing what they loved, Chicago blues. They added a relentless swing to the grooves and in the meantime, showed countless imitators that the way to play it right was to settle in, listen to everyone else's chops, and step forward when necessary. Al Blake's vocals are as true as men twice his age, Fats and his guitar are joined at the hip and steeped in tradition, and the rhythm section plays as tightly as any you can think of. Sound quality is excellent throughout, and the extra tracks add better value to an already smoking CD, but it should be noted that two months after this release, the label dropped another version on the market with yet three more unissued cuts. Search out the bonus set for the best hand and learn what the masters were hip to; Hollywood Fats had the gift that many others are still looking for.
www.aiminternational.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
This review is copyright © 2001 by Craig Ruskey, 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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