"By The Water" is the first recorded results of a collaboration between Dave Ray and Tony Glover (of Koerner, Ray and Glover fame), and Camile Baudoin and Reggie Scanlon (of New Orleans' Radiators). Recorded at two live appearances in April 1998, it is very impressive stuff, and shows off some of the more subtle nuances of the blues. The band still rocks, however, but use light and shade rather than cranking the amps up to maximum power.
On the opening track (Lightnin' Slim's "Lightnin's Troubles") the band rock up a storm, with Glover attaining an eerily echoey sound on harp. It is almost as if he is in the hall whilst the rest of the band are playing in the living room. Ray handles most of the vocals, and does so with considerable aplomb. He has a terrific, rich voice with sufficient range to handle the diverse range of covers tackled here. Each one is stamped with the Back Porch Rockers hallmark, which is instantly recognisable, but harder to define. It is a sort of amalgam of country/folk blues, with New Orleans jazz/rhythm 'n' blues and a dash of funk (as it used to be in the Lee Dorsey era).
The diverse choice of songs is probably a reflection of the band's make up. For the most part they steer clear of the usual suspects, the main exception being Howlin' Wolf ("Howlin' For My Darlin'"), and they include excellent bluesy reworkings of "Cry To Me" and "Mississippi Kid." The former features some sparkling interplay between Ray and Baudoin on guitar which makes it rank as best track just ahead of a mellow reading of "By The Water" and the closing "Mother Earth."
The first ten tracks were recorded at a private party, whilst the other three were recorded at The Turf Club in St Paul. They blend together seamlessly, however, which is testament to the band's cohesion. Scanlan does a sterling job on bass, allowing Ray and Baudoin to mix and match solos throughout, whilst Glover always picks the perfect tone and runs to add the icing to the cake.
"By The Water" rates as a recommended purchase from a very fine, albeit somewhat impromptu, band. Individually, the Back Porch Rockers have been around a while, so everyone knows what to do, and more importantly, when to do it. This provides them with the freedom to arrange the songs in their own unique style. The end result is a sound which has a laid back feel to it (the New Orleans influence at work?), without ever getting too relaxed. At the very end of the album Dave Ray announces, "We'll be back in a flash." Let us hope so.
Dave Ray: www.jdray.com
Tony Glover: www.island.net/~blues/tglover.htm
Camile Baudoin: personal.msy.bellsouth.net/msy/r/a/radi8
The Radiators: www.radiators.org
This review is copyright © 2000 by Gordon Baxter , and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.