Malkum Gibson (harp and vocals) and Chris Kleeman (guitar and vocals) have an association that stretches back over thirty years. The duo's first album ("Just The Blues") was produced by B.B. King in 1970, but the pair subsequently went their separate ways. "Walk On" sees them back together again, and sounding in top form.
The album opens with the title track, and it becomes immediately obvious where Malkum and Chris' leanings are. They play heartfelt blues in the Piedmont tradition, with Malkum playing unamplified harp here whilst Chris does the fingerpicking and the singing. For the second track ("I Love The Way You Everything"), however, Malkum does the singing, on the only original tune here. Throughout the rest of the album, the vocals are split slightly in Chris' favor.
Judging from the track listing, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee are the pair's biggest influence. Four of the songs were written by Sonny and Brownie--including the closing "Stranger Here" which is the best track along with Blind Willie McTell's "Warm It Up To Me". The latter features some very fine slide work on the steel guitar by Chris, while Malkum sings and "warms it up" on harp. Of the remaining tracks, one is by McGhee ("Sportin' Life"), and Sonny & Brownie definitely recorded "Key To The Highway".
Whilst the duo focus largely on Piedmont material, they also include songs by Muddy Waters ("Rollin' and Tumblin'"), Willie Dixon ("That Same Thing"), and Elmore James ("It Hurts Me Too"). Rather then simply regurgitate the original songs note for note, however, Malkum and Chris have rearranged (at least) half of the songs to fit their instrumental line-up. Having said that, it would still have been nice to see more original songs included.
The way that Malkum & Chris gel throughout "Walk On" makes it hard to believe that they have been apart for so long. Naturally, the album will have greatest appeal to fans of acoustic blues, especially those who have a penchant for the Piedmont style. They can track "Walk On" down via the duo's own website (www.malkumandchris.com) in the first instance.
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.
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