Blues pianist Barrelhouse Chuck (Goering) is a new name to me, although he does have a strong pedigree. Chuck learned his trade from the likes of Sunnyland Slim, Jimmy Walker, and Little Brother Montgomery, earning their friendship and respect as a musician. Anyone who can call on the services of S.P. Leary (who passed away last year), and regular Handy nominees Calvin Jones, and Willie Smith, must be worthy of note.
Chuck, who penned five of the tunes, plays in a range of styles from the rolling piano of "Church St. Blues" through the swinging groove of "On the House" up to boogie woogie ("Floral Park Boogie"). Although he only sings on five tracks, including two Sunnyland Slim compositions, Chuck's also got a good voice. Vocals on the other three songs are handled by Todd Levine, who also contributes harp to several tracks. Levine's vocals sound uncannily like Sonny Boy Williamson II on a cover of the great man's "Cool Disposition."
Most of the tracks are instrumentals, including "On the House" which gets things off to a promising start. This is immediately followed by "Any Old Lonesome Day" which opens with a message left on Chuck's answerphone by the song's composer, Floyd Jones, a pioneer of postwar Chicago Blues. The tune is reminiscent of Jimmy Rogers' "That's All Right," and Chuck's singing sounds like Dr. John at his best.
After "Floral Park Boogie," there's a brief respite with a great low-down and dirty version of Sunnyland Slim's "Depression Blues." The pace then starts to pick up again on the title track, an instrumental tribute to Chuck's friend and mentor. Although it starts with a fairly low key jazzy feel, once the horns arrive it just swings right through to the end.
The choice of covers is fairly eclectic, representing a broad spectrum of Chicago Blues. It reflects the influences of Chuck (four tunes by pianists), and Levine (three by different harp players), with the remaining four being written by guitarists. Irrespective of who wrote the tunes, however, the band tackles them all with equal gusto, and carries them all off with some style.
"Salute to Sunnyland Slim" is a good, solid debut, giving Barrelhouse Chuck an auspicious start to his recording career as a bandleader. On this evidence he could go far.
Blue Loon Records - PO Box 581364
Minneapolis, MN 55458 USA
FAX (612) 504-9238 - voice mail (612) 822-5712
This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.