"Blues Across America: The Helena Scene"
by Dick Houff
Review date: July 2000
1999 KBA Award Winner|
Achievement for Blues on the Internet
Presented by the Blues Foundation
I can’t stress enough; the importance of Cannonball Records "Blues Across America Series." Going into part six of the series, we get to travel to Helena, Arkansas. Having played and attended the King Biscuit Festivals, places this disc as a special one for me. So many of our great bluesmen came up out of Arkansas, including Luther Allison. In fact, a good share of my early heroes called Helena, home: Sonny Boy Williamson, Pinetop Perkins, and the elusive Robert Nighthawk come to mind. The ‘Hawk was one of my favorites. On this outing, Robert’s son Sam Carr shares the spotlight with Frank Frost (These are Frank’s final recordings, he passed away in October, ‘99. The world not only lost a damn fine ‘harp in Frost, but an intensely passionate bluesman. His spirit lives on...) a.k.a. "The Jelly Roll Kings." As would be expected, they don’t pull any punches on their four offerings—check out the totally uptempo track #3: Keep Things
Right! Their raw energy hits you like a ton of furnace bricks. They do a playful number on your head with track #4: Come Here Baby—think Slim Harpo! But, remember, these guys are "The Jelly Roll Kings"—and anything can happen when you least expect it! The second section is pure John Weston. I’ve been digging his harp and song basket for quite some time. He nails you from the start with "She’s Too Mean," and pulls you into some deep grooves with "Blue Party." John’s vocals are crystal clear and his harp style has a double reed feel throughout. Going into the final four songs, we find Dave Riley making his first recordings as a frontman—and what a find! However, he isn’t a stranger to the business. Check his guitar out on "Automobile" and it becomes
quite obvious that he’s been around the block on more than one occasion. His rendition of "Heat Up The Oven," the final track; pretty much sums up the potency of this fine record—place this baby in your stack!
This review is copyright © 2000 by Dick Houff, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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