I first met Steve Arvey about three years ago, shortly after reviewing his recording, Best From The Vault. Since then, I have had numerous opportunities to see this talented guitarist, singer and songwriter perform at live venues in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. For over 20 years, Arvey has being spreading his musical gospel as a street musician, solo artist, leader of his own band, West Side Heat, even working a stint as the bass player for the immortal Bo Diddley. His talents have allowed him to serve as a backing guitarist or bass player for a number of Chicago blues luminaries too numerous to mention.
Steve Arvey's latest release for Only Blues Music is entitled Soul of a Man. Soul of a Man is Arvey's fifth recording and includes a range of songs, demonstrating Arvey's versatility as a musician whether performing with a band or as a solo performer. Overall, the music on the CD is upbeat and very creative, combining both instrumentals and vocal presentations. Comprised of eight Arvey originals and six unique interpretations of songs by T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters and Lonnie Johnson, among others.
Depending on the listener's personal interests in blues styles, there is probably something to please everyone on Soul of a Man. The CD opens with "Mississippi" a powerful electric blues tune featuring Arvey's unique gravely vocals and some exceptional slide guitar work by Mark Hoekstra. Other performers on the band-based tunes include Peter Kruse (drums), Greg McDaniel (electric & stand-up bass), Mike Lipsey (saxophone), Steve Cohen (harmonica) and Bill Sweeney (organ). "Mississippi" is followed by the first of a couple of instrumental tunes, "A Bridge Torn Down." This song, credited to the band, includes some great saxophone by Mike Lipsey, along with Arvey's fine guitar backed by a steady flowing rhythm. Another original by Arvey, "WRFG," follows providing a more funk laden sound and a story about a man traveling through Dixieland listening to his car radio.
On "Christmas Time Intro" and Steve Earle's "Christmas Time In Washington," Arvey slips into his solo acoustic mode (there is a light drum accompaniment on "Christmas Time In Washington" though), one that he is admittedly most comfortable in as he performs on the streets of Chicago. I can almost picture Arvey standing on Chicago subway platform, performing this song for tips during rush hour. Next up on the CD is Muddy Water's classic, "Trouble No More," offering a more "unplugged" sound with exceptional blues harp fills and solo by Steve Cohen. Soul of a Man reaches its halfway point with an excellent cover of T-Bone Walker's "Evening," with more fine harp by Cohen and Arvey's underlying guitar.
The second half of Soul of a Man starts off with "Hip Hop," a really upbeat funky blues that is filled with some more exceptional sax from Mike Lipsey. On "Ocean Boulevard," the band takes an abrupt shift back to a more acoustic based sound on a song dominated by the harp and guitar interplay behind Arvey's vocals. "Buttercup" is the second instrumental on the CD and one that features Arvey's guitar and more of Lipsey's sax. Although this is an Arvey original, it definitely has a T-Bone Walker feeling.
"Oh Lucky" is an excellent song co-written by Arvey and Mark Hoekstra. The song is very heavy on Hoekstra's slide guitar, but very well done. This is followed by the title track of the CD, "Soul of a Man," which takes Arvey back to his solo roots one more time. The more acoustic sound carries through on the final two songs on Soul of a Man. Lonnie Johnson's "Whiskey Wine & Song" and the traditional number, "Killing Floor/Die Easy." Satisfyingly, Arvey's bandmates are just as tight and entertaining on the acoustic end of the CD as they are on the electric beginning.
Soul of a Man is a very entertaining recording by Steve Arvey and one that demonstrates his musical versatility. To learn more about this fine Chicago musician and/or to pick up a copy of Soul of a Man, visit Steve's website at www.stevearvey.com.
Simply click on the CD cover at left to order this CD NOW!
This review is copyright © 2002 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
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