After listening to Big Mike Griffin's latest CD several times following a recent live performance in Florida, it seems safe to conclude that "Twin Brothers of Different Mothers" is probably the next best thing to seeing Big Mike perform live. Backed by a band consisting of Johnny Bird (drums), Steve Vines (bass) and Jim "Fish" Michie (keyboards); Big Mike Griffin burns through eleven songs. The tunes chosen for the CD are evenly split between Griffin originals and covers from Willie Dixon, Paul Butterfield and Jimmy Reed, among others.
A giant of a man at 6'10" and over 350 pounds, Big Mike is an accomplished guitarist and songwriter. The music on "Twin Brothers of Different Mothers" ranges from the swamp blues sound of "Twin Brothers," to the funky "dirty" blues of "That's My Baby (In The Miniskirt), to the country flavor of "Panhead;" a love song to a Harley Davidson motorcycle. The addition of keyboard player Jim Michie to the record helps to fill out the sound, differentiating it from the live show in Florida where Griffin was backed only by a drummer and bassist.
Griffin describes the CD as one he has always wanted to make because of the "fit" between music and motorcycles, both spiritually and physically. In fact, the album title, "Twin Brothers of Different Mothers," is a reference to the kinship between blues and bikes. Griffin also views "Twin Brothers of Different Mothers" as his best recording to date because it captures the "live" feel of his stage show (I couldn't agree more!).
The CD's highlights are numerous and far outweigh the low points, which are pretty much limited to the countryish love song, "Panhead," which just doesn't fit with the rest of the recording.
"Twin Brothers of Different Mothers" starts strong with the swampy sound of "Twin Brothers." This is followed by "All About A Woman," featuring Chicago blues riffs by Griffin and a nice piano solo by Jim Michie. The Chicago sound reappears throughout the CD with Jimmy Reed's "You Don't Have To Go;" Paul Butterfield's, "Born In Chicago;" and Willie Dixon's, "Mean Disposition."
Like an accelerating motorcycle, the band shifts into another gear with the cajun feel of "Let's Have A Party (Down In Louisiana)." This song features more fine piano by Michie and some great slide guitar by Griffin. On "Love Will Never Die," Griffin and company slow things down with a Memphis blues tune that would make B.B. King proud. "Love Will Never Die" also proves that Big Mike is not just another "slash and burn" guitarist, but one who can display a lot of soul too.
The CD closes out with two of my favorite songs; "Don't Let Him Ride" and "That's My Baby (In The Miniskirt)." "Don't Let Him Ride" is a cover a song from James Peterson's CD entitled "Don't Let The Devil Ride" (Waldoxy2809), that Griffin played guitar on when both men recorded for Waldoxy Records. Griffin's version is well done and does justice to the Peterson original. The final cut, "That's My Baby (In The Miniskirt)" is a cleaned up version of Big Mike's "dirty" blues that Buddy Guy would probably describe as "So funky you can smell it!"
If you are interested in having your own copy of "Twin Brothers of Different Mothers," you can check it out on Big Mike Griffin's website, www.bigmikegriffin.com, where you can order the CD ($15 + $3 shipping), as well as listen to song samples from this CD or other Big Mike recordings. After visiting the website, I am sure that you will agree that this is a CD that is worth adding to your collection.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.