Just how good is the long-awaited debut from guitarist Peter Schmidt and bassist Shane Scott? If someone with little knowledge of blues were to ask me what kind of music I like, I could do no better than to hand ‘em this disc as a sampler. And what’s more, I’ve little doubt they, too, would become a rabid blues fan at first listen.
Peter Schmidt has established a reputation in Toronto as the consummate sideman, possessed of the rare ability and the requisite humility to make others look good, yet equally capable of stepping up to deliver solos of unerring taste and intelligence. Shane, who recorded the disc at his own Bassline Studios, is blessed with an intangible fluidity that elevates his bass work from mere foundation to an integral piece of the musical puzzle. Over the years both have backed a veritable who’s who of the city’s blues elite; as a result, the guest list for this project is simply staggering, representing the cream of Toronto’s crop.
The playlist, all originals, sticks primarily to tough Texas shuffles, Chicago-style grinders, and T-Bone influenced west-coast swing. Pete and Shane wrote all the music, with various vocalists contributing their own lyrics. (Shane, a surprisingly effective singer within a range he’s wise enough not to push, handles three tunes, with composition credits going to both). The process must have been collaborative, as there’s nothing whatsoever that would indicate a forced fit; every song is fully realized, and despite the number of singers and contributors, there’s a remarkably cohesive feel to the project.
Shane and Peter are serious students of the blues; both know their history inside and out. So it should come as no surprise that what they’ve gone for here is the classic fifties sound characterized by seamless ensemble playing, with every note considered as part of something greater. As a result it’s not really supposed to be a collection of highlights, the idea being that everyone contributes to the whole; yet the highlights here are simply too numerous to mention, from Jerome Goodboo’s mind-boggling harmonica solo on “Two Women” to Ricky Day’s soulful pleading on “Back On Top,” from the stellar keyboard work of both veteran Mel Brown and newcomer Julian Fauth to the sheer exuberance David Rotundo brings to “Get Lucky.” Peter provides impeccable support throughout, his own solos informed with a storyteller’s logic and a novelist’s sense of tension and resolution.
That’s not to say the disc’s perfect; perfect would ruin everything. The sheer joy here comes from real musicians making real music, and if there are any minor flaws they merely add to the immediacy, the palpable urgency of musicians playing as though their lives depended on it.
An absolutely stellar outing, this one gets my very highest recommendation – and repeated, and repeated, listening!
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