This acoustic duo from the upstate New York area is comprised of vocalist / guitar / mandolin / harp player, John Gillespie, and Mike Herman, his partner-in-crime who contributes guitar. Both manage to craft eight strong originals to the baker's dozen on this 55-minute disc recorded at the home of Mike Herman and Levon Helm's Woodstock, NY studio with further tracking done at the Woodbine Inn in Palenville, NY, between April and June of 2001. Five covers also complement the CD from a small cast of past heroes.
Leading off with a Sleepy John Estes track, "Goin' To Brownsville," the pair exhibit fine taste and chops with Gillespie's solid mandolin work laying over the top of the relaxed feel and it's followed by the title cut, a rippling original. Laced with potent bottleneck playing and gritty vocals, they conjure up Delta images, far removed from their Northeast home. "Hellhound On My Trail" gets a good reading, yet it won't make anyone forget Robert Johnson's far more mysterious version, while the humorous "Funny Paper Blues" features Gillespie's wheezing harp chiming in between vocal passages where the singer relates a penchant for the comics. "Bootlegger's Blues" from the catalog of the Mississippi Sheiks fares quite well with the easy-going guitars and world-weary voice of Gillespie, and while "Gypsy" won't fall under the heading of blues, it is superbly played. "Lucky In Love" offers more slide work and moves aside for another Estes gem, "Black Mattie," which serves up more prime mandolin and soothing guitar. Blind Willie McTell's "Broke Down Engine" is perhaps the finest slice here with its loping groove and well-matched vocals, and the disc combines four Hellhound originals to close the set. "My Hero" contains deft guitar work and sweet slide sounds, while "Gonna Love You" bubbles along for a short three minutes making way for "Devil's Laughter," with wonderful guitar work from the pair, and the final track, "Concrete Pillow," slithers around a pumping Delta rhythm with more tasteful bottleneck work from Gillespie.
The choice of cover material here thankfully steers clear of many warhorses that get mundane readings when an artist wishes to tie himself to the legends and lore of blues' past history. Gillespie and Herman choose oft-forgotten relics instead and fare quite well, while their original titles are a seamless match to material by Sleepy John Estes, the Mississippi Sheiks, and Blind Willie McTell. Both play guitar in more of a Peidmont-style, and when necessary, they cut loose on the repetitive figures and driving rhythms so prevalent in the Mississippi Delta many decades ago. Gillespie's voice is perfectly suited to the laid-back offerings, although in some spots, it's readily apparent that he isn't a dyed-in-the-wool vocal powerhouse from Clarksdale or Greenwood. Solidly performed, the Hellhounds' latest biscuit, "Can't Take It With Ya" should be pleasing for many. Check out the other offerings from this fine team by strolling to their web address at: www.thehellhounds.com - plus you can email them using: firstname.lastname@example.org - or email@example.com
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