The Downchild Blues Band have done it again - another blues-packed 'greatest hits' CD, Body of Work - The Downchild Collection Vol. 2. It's jam-packed with 72 minutes worth of fine Downchild classics, culled from their immense library of fantastic blues tunes. Most of the 20 songs on Vol. 2 are Downchild originals, and are written by Downchild co-founder, Donnie "Mr. Downchild" Walsh. One's by the immortal Elmore James, and another by Fleecie Moore. Body of Work begins with 1987's high energy "Bop Til' I Drop". The late, great Tony Flaim's rousing vocals say it all, with class all the way! Donnie goes nuts on harp here, as only he can. (Being coached in his musical 'infancy' by harp great James Cotton, I'm sure had something to do with it.) A slow "Wednesday Night Blues" from 1993, follows. The bluesy conversation between Chuck Jackson's determined vocals and Donnie's impressive guitar leads, confirms their blues to each other, and to the listener. Tyler Burgess' precise drumming is a major asset on this one!
Some deep, mesmerizing grooves are laid down in "When the Morning Comes", from 1996's Lucky 13. It features more inspired Jackson vocals, scorching 'Mr. Downchild' guitar licks, along with fine backup bass lines from Gary Kendall; Pat Carey on saxes, and Jim Casson on drums. Just when we hit the bottom of this blues chasm we soar up to a bluesy sky, with some upbeat happy blues, courtesy of "Oh! Oh!", from 1980's We Deliver. The impeccable Flaim burns his energizing vocals to the soul; while Donnie's intriguing guitar licks, along with the late Ms. Jane Vasey's piano riffs and Frank Russell's drumming keep things rollin' along nicely. Kendall's funeral dirge-like bass lines intro in "I'm Alone", also from Deliver, complements Flaim's vocals, as they cry out the tune's theme. Donnie's country-style guitar leads speak well musically to Ms. Vasey's sorrowful piano riffs.
"Caldonia", from 1975's Ready To Go, is the perfect dance party blues tune. More rousing vocals from Flaim, along with Vasey's energetic piano playing, David Woodward's sax wizardry, and Donnie's harp coolness, send this one over the top! "My Aching Heart", also from Ready, throbs from a deep place where all blues comes from. Ms. Vasey's piano tinkling on "Aching" gives the feeling that there's more to life than the 'aching heart'. Donnie's harp playing rocks it up real well on "Do the Parrott". The whole band joins in on this rousing instrumental, which demonstrates why Downchild have remained popular and vital on the international blues scene since the good old days of Toronto's infamous Rochdale College in the early '70's, and their first recordings in it's underground parking garage!
"Where Have You Gone", from 1987's It's Been So Long, is energy in itself! Plug in and enjoy this one - Flaim belts out the title question with determination, while Mike McKenna's world-class slide guitar playing is well-showcased -- along with Donnie's stupendous harp playing; Dennis Pinhorn's incredible bass lines, and Sonnie Bernardi's heavy duty drumming. Ya can't beat it!
Some soft, unassuming piano riffs courtesy of Ms. Vasey, provide an appropriate intro to Donnie's vocals declaring "I've Been a Fool", from 1980's We Deliver. The unique feature on this tune is that Donnie speaks rather than sings the intermittent vocals, but musically cries some scorching lead guitar riffs that tell it all! "Old Ma Bell", from 1975, is a real rouser in every way. Flaim's vocals and Bill Bryans' drumming hold it all together, along with Jim Milne's groovin' bass lines.
If you're feelin' 'dead' and need a boost, 1974's "Madison Blues" from the Dancing lp, will do it for ya! Everyone on this tune are absolutely outstanding, from Ms. Vasey's piano riffs, Donnie's slithery slide guitar, Milne's stimulating bass lines, Nat Abraham's tenor sax and Cash Wall's go getting' drumming. "Talk With My Heart" from 1989's Gone Fishin' lp, features the late Richard "Hock" Walsh on vocals. His soulful and versatile singing style lends character to this tune, and provides trademark Downchild 'identity'! Hock along with his brother Donnie, are the original Downchild co-founders. Hock's vocals are showcased well on the Hock original, "Don't Make My Baby Mad" (It's the only Hock-written tune on this CD), and like "Talk With …", is from the great 1989 Fishin' lp. His mournful pleas about 'his baby', are believable and have depth. Jackson's vocals on "Last Chance to Dance", from 1996's Lucky 13 lp, 'blows the roof off this sucker'! Not to be outdone, Donnie's harp playing, Pat Carey's always mind-blowin' sax playing, Casson's wild drumming, and Kendall's always-in-the-groove bass lines, definitely get this 'sucka' goin'! 1980's "Try to Fall In Love Again", from Road Fever, features some scorching leads, courtesy of Mr. Downchild. Flaim's equally impressive vocals go all out, as do Kendall's bass lines, Ms. Vasey's keys, Bob Heslin's trumpet, and Rich House's sax playing.
"One More Chance" from 1975, is rousing blues in the true sense. Donnie's slide guitar playing seems to speak it's own bluesy language here, while Flaim's vocals bellow out a request for 'one more chance'. They're backed up admirably by Woodward's strong sax playing. Flaim suggests "Let's Go Strollin'", and has plenty of support on this one from 1974, courtesy of Ms. Vasey's keys 'magic', along with Mr. Dowchild's impeccable guitar leads. Wall's drumming and Abraham's sax playing, round this tune out nicely.
"Not This Time" from 1987, is knee-slappin' good all the way through. Donnie's vocals tell it all in this one, with poignant lyrics like "went out in a wool coat, came back in a mink … How much? I shudder to think! … You did the playin', 'n I ain't payin'!". Donnie then rouses the proceedings up real good with his mind-blowin' harp blowin' creativity. The band echoes back Donnie's sentiments in their background vocals, and strong rhythm section. Can't get any better, and tells it like it is … 'sometimes'!
The pace continues with another super-rouser, "I'm Finished", from 1993's Good Times Guaranteed. (Coincidentally, it's the last tune on this very fine blues CD.) Jackson belts out his vocals like any seasoned pro from the deep south, complemented by Donnie's equally masterful slide guitar playing -- that seems to speak the 'language of the blues', with all the style and class that makes all fine blues players great! Mike Fonfara's rockin' piano riffs are outta this world, as is Burgess' always in-the-pocket drumming, and Gary Latimer's groovin' bass lines.
This 72 minute long greatest hits Vol. 2 follow-up to Downchild's excellent A Matter of Time - The Downchild Collection, Vol. 1, seems to end far too early. Thank goodness it's on CD where it can be enjoyed again and again. The engendered musical 'craving' contained within this CD, is the main reason why the Downchild Blues Band has continued to be Canada's premier blues band for over 30 years. The blues legacy contained in this Vol. 2 CD, is just part of that reason. You owe it to yourself to see Downchild live, whenever they come your way. Meanwhile you can enjoy this superlative CD, to get your own Downchild 'fix' 'til then!!!
Downchild Blues Band website: www.downchild.com
Blue Wave Records website: www.bluewaverecords.com
Blue Wave Records email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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