"School For Fools" serves as my introduction to the talents of Larry Thurston, a blues singer who joined Matt "Guitar" Murphy's band in 1986, and who, in 1989, followed him when he rejoined The Blues Brothers Band, fronting the band along with Eddie Floyd or Sam Moore until 1994, when he retired from "the road".
I don't know if this is Thurston's recording debut, but the background information that came with the CD, explains that, Thurston was chosen by Jeff Alexander, who wrote all of the songs on this set (sub-titled "the songs of Jeff Alexander"), as he believed that Thurston responded (positively) to his blues. Cousin Moe Music is Alexander's own label and he has gone to great lengths to ensure, what I assume is the label's first release, that it makes an immediate and positive impression; recruiting artists like Levon Helm, Johnnie Johnson, Gus Thornton (ex Albert King, SRV and Katie Webster), Keith Doder (harmonica), Arthur Neilson (Shemekia Copeland), Jeremy Baum (Debbie Davis, Sue Foley), Arno Hecht (James Brown, J Geils, Joe Cocker, Albert Collins) and Dona Oxford (Shemekia again, and also impressive at the recent Blues Estafette), and a clutch of other talented musicians and vocalists, to provide the canvas for his songs and Thurston's vocals.
"School For Fools" is a diverse collection of deep blues, soul and R&B, that is ideally suited to Thurston's rich and soulful vocals, from the title track, a soul inflected blues riding a mesmerizing horn riff, to the soul infused, Muddy influenced "Lost Dog Blues", which features some keening slide from Jimmy Eppard. Rich McDonough's mellow slide is prominent on the slow grind of Thurston's "Gravediggin' Man", which, again, rides a Muddyesque bass riff; his vocals take on a sly and mellower feel, echoed by Oxford's piano and Neilson's guitar on the Charles Brown influenced "Blues To Go"; whilst on the jaunty 50's styled R&B of "Warning Shot", his playful vocals lie in stark contrast to the hard riffing horn charts.
The churning R&B of "Seventeen Years", with it's rolling piano and gospel inflected background vocals, the doomladen "My Woman Left Me", and the rollicking R&B of "Blues For Brooklyn", with it's hot slide and rocking piano, are further highlights of this fine set.
I can't finish this review without mentioning Alexander's fine songwriting, his penchant for insightful lyrics aptly demonstrated on the anguished soul blues, "You Know Who You Are", when Thurston sings "You don't have to be a cannibal to feed on someone's heart, lazy, careless people have it down to an art".
(Used with permission of Mick Rainsford -- Blues In Britain -- March Edition)
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