The long-anticipated release by the tandem of Pete Schmidt and Shane Scott, two bedrock musicians on the Toronto-area blues scene, has finally met the light of day. A groove-laden journey, 'Blues Approved' consists of 15 blues-drenched collaborations featuring front tier players who have jammed, played, and recorded with guitarist Pete and bassist Shane.
The array of guests is truly impressive: Six featured vocalists (including Shane on three tracks); three major domo drummers (Bob Vespaziani, Greg Cooper, and Tony Ajo); two superb piano players, including W.C. Handy award winner Mel Brown and the impeccable Julian Fauth; plus saxophonist Larry Bodner, and a handful of other fine contributors, such as the legendary Jack De Keyzer and Downchild bassist Gary Kendall.
Pete and Shane collectively stepped up to the plate as designated hitters on this project. Not content merely to add rhythmic flavor and exquisite guitar, they also harnessed and drove the entire venture, in terms of writing the music, producing the tracks, and managing the entire recording process at Shane's own Bass Line Studios.
Pete Schmidt's graceful fingers glued 'Blues Approved' into a coherent whole, the electricity generated from his multi-faceted fretwork embroidering the tapestry of disparate voices together. A student of practically every major blues and jazz player out there, Pete's managed to distil a wide array of influences into a uniquely seamless and highly rhythmic heads-up style. As far as tone is concerned, other players would kill for what Schmidt has.
"Back Flip" kicks things off, and it's an instrumental tribute to T-Bone Walker in all but name. A couple of other instrumentals grace the recording, including. "P.T. Shuffle," a reverb-drenched B.B King-style swing number. "Harpin' is dreamily nostalgic, evoking fond memories of Little Walter, Big Walter, and Harmonica George Smith, thanks to outstanding harp work from Dave Rotundo and Doctor Nick (Ouroumov), two mainstays on the robust Toronto blues circuit.
Chuck Jackson of the Downchild Blues Band has town elder status, and he's probably the most well known of the featured artists. Chuck's grumpy yet relaxed vocals are quintessentially bluesy--and impossible to resist. Either "How Long" or "Blue Moon Blues" could fit into a Downchild best-of collection like bread on butter.
The shiniest pearl in the blue oyster is "Back On Top," featuring Ricky Day, a highly respected and polished veteran who can trace his career as far back as even Mel Brown, while laying claim to a resume that's equally diverse, including stints in such legendary rhythm and blues groups as the Ink Spots and Platters as well as an extended stay as trumpeter with the Count Basie band. A soulful stylist in the Robert Cray/Al Green mode, Day epitomizes style and taste, and he's also keenly attuned to the irony at the heart of a great blues song. Here's the evidence: "You're a mean and evil woman. I'm crazy when I'm with you--I'm crazy when I'm not. A vacation without you, baby, will put me back on top". Attention blues labels everywhere: Sign this cat!
You'll understand where harmonica hero Mark Stafford got the moniker "Bird" from, as he gets to the stratosphere via a cool swinging breeze from the West Coast, while abetted by some soaring boogie piano from Brown and the authoritatively crisp, assertive guitar work of Schmidt. Dave Rotundo (whom Pete also backs up as part of the Blue Canadians) has a kicking good time on the boogie shaker "Get Lucky".
The only track that never ignites is "Two Women", but harmonica maestro Jerome Godboo redeems himself on the poignant "Jessie". Just to make sure that all bets are covered, Chicago blues gets the royal treatment courtesy of Little Bobby (Chorney). A fine up-and-comer who's earned rave reviews with his 'Tickets In the Glove Box' debut, Little Bobby holds court like a seasoned pro on "No Need To Be Alone", with Pete's axe glistening on the cutting edge, while calling up the best of Otis Rush, Magic Sam, and Buddy Guy. Little Bobby also gets to blow sweet harp on a greasy guitar-drenched romp, "If It Ain't One Thing".
Shane, who alternates between electric and upright bass, more than hold his own vocally, such as on "Gimme All Your Money"-easily the most raw and gritty track-on which he conveys a nice touch of menace on a lowdown dirty blues. Scott gets to sink his teeth into the devilishly clever "Vampire Woman, with lots of weird string bending from Schmidt adding to the tension. "Every Morning" features Shane as well, except this outing has an urbane, almost jazzy polish to it, featuring in-the-pocket saxophone solos by way of Larry Bodner, plus mucho retro-cool keyboard stylings from Mel Brown.
If 'Blues Approved' were a baseball team, it would possess a batting average of .933-- with lots of doubles, triples, and home runs along the way. So line up and get your ticket right away!
Ordering Details: www.peteschmidt.com
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