Guitarist Ramos, a veteran of James Harman's band and long time member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, has a couple of previous solo albums, both solidly set in the West Coast jump-blues genre. This time around he planned a "back-to-the-roots" move. He called seven harp playing buddies and told them to bring along their favorite low-down Chicago styled blues numbers--but it seems they had different ideas.
The result is this album which ranges through a gamut of styles, from pop-rock to hard core blues, with ten original numbers out of the seventeen. Ramos provides a four piece basic backup band (guitars and piano) for the guests. His old boss, James Harman, contributes mostly vocals on his three numbers, though he does blow harp on "Low Down Woman", about a cleaning fluid drinking chick. His "Gratitude Is Riches" is set in an Elmore James vibe. Charlie Musselwhite has a couple of old-school Chicago styled tunes; his own "Charlies Old Highway 51 Blues" and the nicely Muddy Waters flavored
(Ramos funky slide guitar has a natural touch) "Rich Man's Woman On A Poor Mans Pay." Paul deLay wrote a couple for the project; "Say What You Mean Baby" in the West Coast jump style, and the funkier "Ain't Gonna Holler." Lynwood Slim does one in his Louis Prima-hipster persona; Willie Dixons "I Don't Care Who Knows." Rick Estrin (from Little Charlie & The Night Cats) brings a couple tunes in traditional styles; "Its Hot In Here" ("when the Kid throws a party its hot in here") an acoustic harp piece with a good aural evocation of Sonny Boy Williamson's Trumpet sides, also a tribute to
Little Walter, "Marions Mood", with a good emulation of Walters slow and atmospheric instrumental numbers in the fifties.
By way of contrast, Rod Piazza's instrumental "Devils Foot" is an uptempo jazz riff with some hot eighth note riffing on both harp and Ramos guitar. Piazza also wrote "That's What She Hollered," with an almost pop-rock vocal feel. Ramos, a bashful singer, takes the lead on two; Bobby Bland's "Hold Me Tenderly" (with a Bo Diddley feel and Slims harp backup) and the full horn-band workout, "Country Woman." The set closes with a Lightning Slim tune "Mean Ol' Lonesome Train" done by Johnny Dyer, followed by a
Musselwhite-Estrin duet, "Harmonica Hangover." It's a jokey dialogue about the aftermath of the group recording session, with "what's that smell?!?" being a recurring motif. The blowing is funky/nasty and its an apt closer for a highly enjoyable set.
The variety and diversity of styles assayed throughout the album keep things interesting and Ramos adds on-the-money guitar backup. All in all, a real good way to spend an hour of your listening life.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Tony Glover, 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.