Larry Thurston first came to public attention in the mid 1980's when he began singing with Matt Guitar Murphy. After a subsequent stint with the Blues Brothers Band, he gave up performing live. He now mostly divides his time between a daytime job and being an assistant pastor in his local church. He still does a bit of singing, however, and was happy to take the lead for Jeff Alexander's latest blues project, "School For Fools," mostly
in the company of Levon Helm.
The album opens with "Brokenhearted and Broke," a classy blues, which shows
Thurston as a fine singer in possession of a rich baritone voice. There is also some neat guitar work from Rich McDonough, who plays on most of the tracks here, which hints at Albert King. Jimmy Eppard takes over on guitar for the second tune, "You Know Who You Are," where a change of tone accompanies a change of tempo as things get taken down low.
Alexander's songs deal with many familiar blues topics, as epitomized by "My Woman Left Me" whose title could be applied to hundreds (if not thousands) of blues songs. This is a terrific tune and Thurston's vocals make it easy to imagine someone like Bobby Bland picking up on it. More generally, the songs cover a range of styles including the standard 12-bar of "Lost Dog Blues," with its nicely understated slide guitar, and the
shuffle of the title track which is rounded out with horns (saxes) and Hammond organ. Whatever the style and topic, however, the quality of the delivery never wavers.
The pick of the tracks are the two where Johnnie Johnson guests on piano. The first of these, "Warning Shot," is a comparatively laid back affair, featuring some classy sax from Arno Hecht. Things then shift up a few gears into more familiar Johnson territory for "Happy Hour," with its rocking groove, which neatly combines Johnson's piano with Keith Doder's harp. Things then cool down as a late night blues feeling is established for the appositely entitled "Blues To Go" which brings proceedings to a close.
"School For Fools" is a fine CD. Although ostensibly credited to Larry Thurston, who does a fine job on vocals, the defining vision is that of producer Jeff Alexander who also wrote all the songs. Even though a total of 18 musicians were used in various combinations, there is a consistently high level to the quality of the music. Apparently, Alexander has more blues stuff in the pipeline. If it is all as good as "School For Fools" it
will be worth keeping an eye (and an ear) out for.
Simply click on the CD cover at left to order this CD NOW!
This review is copyright © 2002 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
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