"Keys to the Blues" is Curley Bridges' first release as a frontman since he all but gave up recording in 1961 after receiving his one and only royalty check for just $62.20. Thankfully, Bridges, who played piano and sang with the Motley Crew from 1953 to 1966, was recently persuaded to reconsider. "Keys to the Blues" will make you glad that he did. From the moment the band comes crashing in on "You Talk Too Much," right through to the closing bars of "Three O’clock Blues," this is a CD that will keep you interested and entertained throughout.
All the tracks are covers, but Bridges adds new life into some of the finest Blues, R&B and Jump Blues songs from the 1950's and '60's. He adapts his vocals to match the mood, whether it be as a Blues shouter on "Stagger Lee," or getting mellow and soulful on Johnny Otis' "Every Beat of My Heart." And if a song needs a lazy drawl, that's no problem to Bridges either. He's also more than a match for most of today's Blues pianists, as evidenced by songs like Ivory Joe Hunter's "Since I Met You, Baby." Add in a sympathetic band, complete with horns and you've got the recipe for success.
Bridges has been living in Canada since 1966, most recently in Ontario, where he frequently performs solo. He received rave reviews when he played at the 1997 Toronto Harbourfront Soul'n'Blues festival, and on the basis of "The Keys to the Blues" it's easy to see why -- the man comes across as a natural born entertainer, even in the studio.
"Keys to the Blues" is recommended fare for all those who know and love real R&B. It succeeds on two levels. First it's a good introduction to Curley Bridges, and second it provides useful pointers to some very fine R&B songs and musicians. Buy it and help to give Curley Bridges the payday he so richly deserves. Buy it anyway, just to check out his shirts on the cover.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.