The blues is such a large part of what's heard in bars-today, yesterday, and tomorrow. A significant cross-section of people made their first connection with this music when they wandered into some watering hole--or when they just wanted to check out the local scene with some buddies. So it's not an exaggeration to say that the tavern is where blues music truly lives.
The Shuffledogs are another breed that can also be found in these denizens--or more specifically The Antrim House in Port Perry Ontario where they recorded 'Shuffledoggin'. Possessing impeccable pedigrees, and bringing mountains of experience to the fold, these Dogs are experts when it comes to taking the standard blues repertoire and extrapolating it into sounding like you're hearing it all for the very first time.
The leader is Larry Goodhand: Somebody those "in-the-know" invariably hail whenever a touring blueser is searching for a hot guitarist to fill in. Larry's reputation carries a tremendous amount of weight and respect -- whether from working over a thirty-year career with legends like Carey Bell, Sonny Rhodes, and Byther Smith, or by just performing yeoman duty with supremo quality blues bands in the Southern Ontario area.
'Shuffledoggin' captures a long set, but an extremely interesting one. As might be expected, those tracks where the guys took certain liberties with the material and veered off into fascinating detours proved to be the most satisfying ones. You have to be impressed, as an example, by the way Derek Peart-lead vocalist and possessor of a creamy and intense baritone-- turned that reliable chestnut "Help Me" upside-down. He pleads, cajoles, and whips up a testifying storm that would have left Sonny Boy 2 gladdened, and this becomes the launching pad for the ensuing fireworks from Messrs Goodhand and Peacock. The Shuffledogs' inventive re-arrangement of "The Thrill Is Gone" proves that the thrill can still be there, provided you're willing to play around with the formula---and know how to do it properly.
As for the up-tempo items, the two that worked best were "Walkin' With My Baby" and "Kansas City". Goodhand's greasy licks are touched by a palpable sense of jazzy rhythms and a predilection for delightful unpredictability that makes him virtually incapable of ever hitting a wrong note. Three that probably would have benefited from the inclusion of keyboards or harmonica/horn were "Caldonia", "Baby What You Want Me to Do", and "My Babe". Certain tunes demand a wider level of instrumentation regardless of the quality of the string men.
There's some perfectly stunning slide guitar on another marathon piece "Hoochie Coochie Man", while the Shuffledogs do a more traditional but equally forceful reading of "Ain't Nobody's Business". It's one of those fascinating tunes that those sands of time have served very well.
The Dogs' second guitarist, Jeff Peacock is another 35-year vet of the blues wars (Gene Taylor, Kenny Neal, Diana Braithwaite, etc.). Two cats anchor the rhythm section, each with 30-years each under their belts: Eric Clipsham (drums) and Bill Lyons (bass). Next time you check out a blues band around your town, use 'Shuffledoggin' as the litmus test. Then you can make that all-important distinction between the mutts---and the purebreds like The Shuffledogs.
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