"Keeping the Blues Alive Award" Achievement for Blues on the Internet Presented by The Blues Foundation
North American audiences will be very familiar with singer/songwriter/guitarist Joe Louis Walker but what about Otis Grand? For starters, he has played a major role in the evolution of modern British blues. Known as the 'Gentle Giant of the Blues', Grand has absorbed a wide spectrum of blues styles over four decades. With nobility he carries the torch for the heroes of yesterday with superb blues guitar technique and originality. Otis has received a number of awards including UK Blues Guitarist of the Year for seven straight years (1990-96). My first encounter with Otis Grand took place at this year's Ottawa Bluesfest. There, his captivating guitar playing completely blew me away. My second encounter was this riveting 50 minute disc. It provides solid evidence that what I experienced was not a fluke but rather just another regular night out for Grand.
The cohesion felt on this disc comes from the long history Walker/Grand have with each other. Joe produced Otis' first 2 records and has appeared on a lot of his stuff. Together, the 2 have done tours of England as well as the San Francisco Blues Festival. Further adherence is provided by Robert Watson (bass), Clarence James Jr (drums), Cash Farrar (sax) and Steve Long (trumpet). "Snake Bit" features Walker on an old Rickenbacker lap steel and it's impressive. He makes it slither, twist and venomously hiss like a reptile. Grand's big band style is all over the bopping "Imitation Ice Cream Blues". The tune contains smooth yet sharp and icy note picking. He swings the blues again on "Regal Blues" sounding very reminiscent of B.B. King. More than a few songs feature the incredible interplay between these 2 perfectionists. Neither one is willing to compromise a note on "I Like It This Way". The 2 instrumentals "Friends" and Bliss Street Blues" feature the 6-string wizards working their magic individually. Things get blistering on the rock-edged rhythm of Walker's distinctive version of the former while the latter delivers Grand's finely-tuned and precise fretwork atop George Bisharat's strident harp. He continues with more shrill harmonica on "I'm Gonna Leave You" where the brilliance of Chris Burns' keyboard glows. He keeps his 88s boogie-ing on the swinging 50s rock sounding "Rude Women". Passion overflows on the slow and sexy "Better Off Alone".
Walker/Grand produced this stylistic disc. It's iridescent tracks share an equal distribution of originals written by them. Everything about the CD appears to be a partnership. Everything except the cover, liner and backcover. On all 3, Walker is flaunted over Grand -- perhaps in an attempt to lure American listeners. Whatever the case, fans of pure blues guitar played precisely and succulently will love this release. John Stedman's little blues label across the pond has done it again. Trying to learn how to play blues guitar then this is the disc for you. In fact, only fellow guitar players may have ears sharp enough to differentiate between the Guitar Brothers.
For CDs and information, contact: JSP Records, PO Box 1584, London N3 3NW, England, United Kingdom e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Artist website: www.otisgrand.com
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