Inside Straight Blues Band
Straight Up... Down and Dirty
by Gordon Baxter
Review date: December 2003
"Keeping the Blues Alive Award"|
Achievement for Blues on the Internet
Presented by The Blues Foundation
The individual members of Inside Straight Blues Band have a long blues history. Led by Twin Cities Blues News editor, Kurt Koehler, the band concentrate on playing music that they enjoy, and that keeps the punters happy too. You can now enjoy it at home too, with the release of "Straight Up.. Down and Dirty," recorded live at Willie's Hidden Harbor Marina.
The opener, "Never Make My Move Too Soon," helps to explain the popularity of Inside Straight in the Twin Cities area. There is nothing excessively flashy, just a neat combination of good guitar licks, gritty vocals (both from Koehler), pumping keyboards (Bill Swanson), and some very polished sax (Paul Strickland), all anchored by the engine room of bass and drums (Mark Zmuda and Curly Martin). For most of the material--all of which is covers--guitar, keyboards and sax all get a chance in the spotlight, but it is never formulaic, and they never outstay their welcome.
The choice of material is somewhat dictated by the band line-up, but it still allows a pretty wide range encompassing Louisiana, Memphis soul/funk, Chicago and Texas to name but four. Swanson takes vocals on four of the cuts, including a fine rendition of "Put The Shoe On The Other Foot," one of several not-so-well known covers. There are a couple of the old chestnuts here too, though, in the shape of "The Thrill Is Gone" and "Let The Good Times Roll."
Although the album is dominated by uptempo danceable songs, Inside Straight are equally comfortable with slower material. In addition to "The Thrill Is Gone," they also serve up a fine reading of Fenton Robinson's "You Don't Know What Love Is," which features some nicely understated solos from Koehler, Swanson, and Strickland. The band then up the tempo once more as they take things home with rousing renditions of "Stagger Lee," "Born In Chicago," and rounding off with "I'm Tore Down."
"Straight Up... Down and Dirty" offers an hour of no-nonsense, good time blues. Inside Straight are one of those bands whose main purpose it to entertain. You are left with an overriding sense that they are doing it as much for their own enjoyment as for the crowd. We should all be thankful that bands like Inside Straight exist, because they help to keep the spirit of the blues alive when times get tough.
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