The Superman analogy has been circulating on Luther Keith since he started playing guitar professionally a few years back. A mild-manner reporter for the Detroit News by day, he transmogrifies into the 'badman' blues guitarist/vocalist by night.
This first recording is an interesting one on a number of levels. Guitar playing, songwriting and vocalizing meet with varying degrees of success. Keith was past 30 before he picked up the guitar. The story is that a performance by Luther Allison so inspired him that he felt irresistibly drawn to play. While his playing is fiery at times, it doesn't compare to Allison's (whose does?). His is a thoroughly Detroit style, incorporating funky booty shakin' lines into, over and under a chunky core. Vocally, he has a style that's a few steps past blues shouter. He's a yeller most of the time. Whether that's an aggravation or a source of delight is certainly in the ear of the beholder. As a songwriter, Keith is consistently impressive. At times humorous ("I went to school/I didn't learn no Golden Rule/Somebody mess with me/Now he's sleeping with the fishes in the sea/they call me 'Bad Man'," Bad Man), and poignant ("It's time to end the conflict/it's time to end the pain/let's love our sisters and brothers/everybody sing this song 'cause it's time," Get Along), Luther tells a good tale.
Bassist Dennis Debbaudt, saxophonist James Payton and trumpeter Mark Croft, drummer Milton 'Heavy Foot' Austin, keyboardists Jim David and Billy Harris, and backing vocalists Miata Keith and Diana Balsalma are more than mere support staff here. This is an effort that impresses, and often soars, as a result of the tight team playing. The arrangements are tight and delightful, the horns brassy and the vocals sassy.
Whether the subject is another "Bluesman Gone to the Sky," a tribute to Allison ("Luther"), or an ode to the demise of a blues landmark ("Cooking In The Kitchen"), Luther Keith wears his blues on his sleeve. He writes with a twinkle in his pen of yearning for a woman to "Make A Fuss Over Me," and volunteers to be a "Personal Trainer." Whatever the subject, whatever the mood or the tone, Luther Keith is one seriously enthusiastic Detroit bluesman.
This review is copyright © 2002 by Mark E. Gallo, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
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