Past Life Blues
Severn (2003) 0002
17 tracks, 62 minutes.
by Craig Ruskey
Review date: May 2003
"Keeping the Blues Alive Award"|
Achievement for Blues on the Internet
Presented by The Blues Foundation
It's entirely possible that Steve Guyger is the world's best, yet least recognized, blues harp player but hopefully the reissue of Past Life Blues will begin to correct that problem. Anyone who's had the pleasure of listening to Guyger through his own recordings or those with Paul Oscher and others know that his tone and style recall the glory years of Chicago Blues when Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Big Walter Horton, James Cotton, and more were blowing the doors off taverns throughout the city. While Guyger has certainly taken pages from each of the previous giants, he's been able to blend past influence perfectly with own ideas, and in turn, he's become a world-class
talent. Originally recorded to 16-bit DAT in 1997 and issued in 1999, the first major surprise is the new and improved sound since being remixed to analog tape, and that's enough of a blessing to make this a necessity even if you have the original CD, but there are three new bonus tracks which make it even better. Of the few covers included, there are two Robert Nighthawk gems, Bricks In My Pillow and Kansas City Blues, Little Mack Simmons' rustling Come Back (the first bonus
track), and George "Harmonica" Smith's Monkey On A Limb, with gobs of incredible chromatic, but the true genius of Guyger shows best in how he crafts original tracks that seem to have been written in the 1950s, yet never out of place in a new millennium. From the rollicking Let's Rock Tonight with harmonica tone as thick as wheel grease, to the bellowing notes in a lowdown I Tried So Hard, or the Windy City boogie of I Thought I Heard and the crushing Blue Mambo, Guyger delivers exceptional taste and a genuine and heartfelt knowledge of the form that's sadly lacking in many of today's younger harp players. There's a searing push and pull effect in Somethin's Smellin' Good (At My Baby's House) that draws the listener in and doesn't let go until the final fade, and the riveting Snake Oil calls back Little Walter's best years in the Chess studios. Of the two remaining previously unreleased tracks, there's the relaxed and relentless swing of This Is The First Time and the sizzling Rib Shack Boogie, working off a familiar John
Lee Hooker groove that finds Guyger embroiled in a barbecue conversation with drummer, Big Joe Maher. Brian Bisesi and Rich Yescalis hand in the excellent guitar work throughout the length of the disc and both show great chops and restraint when called upon to step forward, while the bass duties are handled easily by longtime veteran Steve Gomes. For anyone unfamiliar with what Steve Guyger has been doing for most of his years, at least when he wasn't touring with legends like Louisiana Red, Jimmy Rogers, and others, the proof is right here in Past Life Blues, and hopefully, he'll continue on his charted course and put forth more brilliance like this in not-too-distant
www.severnrecords.com or www.steveguyger.com for tour dates, other recordings, and additional information.
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