Slowpoke is a guitar/bass trio with a laid back approach to roots music, which in its case means a simmering blend of blues, old-time rock 'n' roll, swing, New Orleans, plus a touch of country. If it puts a smile on your face, chances are it'll fit into Slowpoke's repertoire.
You can also add the word "generous". Their latest CD 'Rippin' is a live recording encompassing 73 minutes over its 12 selections. Eddie Baltimore takes pride in the fact that only two notes on the CD had to be taken out and overdubbed. Everything else is exactly how it sounded at Mickey's Hideaway (RIP), the 'Q' Club, or the Waring House in Picton.
Any well done live recording--such as Rippin'--has to effortlessly evoke within the mind of the listener images of a group of people grooving to the music. It simulates an added layer of pleasure, and quality groups like Slowpoke understand this.
Things start off with an up tempo triage of numbers intended to put everyone in a party mood. A "back-to-the-basics" feel is afforded to such reliables as "Hot Tamales", "Choo Choo Cha Boogie", and "I Got You". They rebut the notion that only throbbing beats and high amplification can win over a modern day audience. You'll especially enjoy Slowpoke's version of that fifties' exercise in upper limb contortion, Johnny Otis' "Hand Jive". The fluid and inventive guitar work of Mitch Wallace adds dimensions and tones that I'm sure Mr. Otis would even welcome.
The southern bayou is feted on "Amos Moses", a good-natured tale about a gator chasin' redneck originally done by Jerry Reed. Ray Charles' classic version of "Georgia" is intimately linked to his piano stylings, but the keyboard-less Slowpoke let their inventive string work more than pick up the slack.
The crux of 'Rippin', however, lies in three "medley/mini-opus" excursions, each one stretching out over 10 minutes plus. The first one is "Swamp Rap" partnered with the Neville Brothers' voodoo tale of "Yellow Moon". This double-headed paean to the pleasures of Louisiana and New Orleans delighted the room, and it'll do the same for you.
The guys' voices blend together so seamlessly, but the ability to keep an audience's attention in thrall through the effective use of the spoken word is another feather in their cap: "Beale St. Monologue" being the perfect prelude to "Walkin' In Memphis", a celebration of the First City of rhythm and blues, soul, and gospel. Steeped in tradition and filled with evocative imagery (Beale St., Graceland, Sun Records, etc.), Slowpoke could lease this recording to the city of Memphis and become financially secure.
At 13 minutes, "How Bo Got His Beat" is the longest track. The narrative thread to this mix of rap and rock 'n' roll concerns a loopy and extravagant tale of what happened when a young Ellas McDaniel (a.k.a Bo Diddley) wandered into the misty swampland edging Mississippi and Louisiana. I won't give away the weird way that Bo got his distinctive jungle groove. Let's just say that it mixes fact and fantasy in ways similar to how Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for blues immortality. Slowpoke weaves some hypnotic guitar runs throughout this demented fairy tale. You might even find your own fine selves yelling "Bo Diddley"--just as the club attendees did.
Rounding out the Slowpoke trio is bassist/vocalist Bruce Langman. Slowpoke has earned a solid reputation as one of the most musically accomplished roots acts around Toronto, and 'Rippin' is evidence of this. Check them out at the your first opportunity, or poke around for this rip roarin' CD.
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