Originally released in 1991, "My Way Or The Highway," which received a Handy award and proved to be a turning point in David "Guitar Shorty" Kearney's career, has now been reissued. Originally put together on the back of a successful blues festival appearance in the UK, it serves as a reminder of Guitar Shorty's talents as a singer and guitarist. It was on the strength of this recording that Shorty went on to sign for Black Top and release three critically acclaimed albums.
Long renowned as a dynamic live act--including somersaults, back flips, and headstands--it is Shorty's playing side that is captured on "My Way Or The Highway." It highlights Shorty's particular blend of Chicago blues guitar with Texas/West Coast influences which sometimes veers towards the realms of jazz. In this respect, his style has much in common with that of Otis Rush. Guitar Slim was Shorty's biggest inspiration, however, although he also acknowledges the influence of Etta James.
Producer Otis Grand (with his band) does a fine job backing up Shorty throughout. Grand gets to lay down a few tasty licks himself, although he never tries to eclipse the main man. The band line-up includes a three piece horn section, and Tony Ashton on Hammond organ, which provides the perfect setting for Shorty to strut his stuff. The best example here is probably "It's Too Late," which runs to a hefty ten and a half minutes, yet is never boring, and commemorates Shorty's connection with Jimi Hendrix (he married his stepsister) on one of the verses. It is followed by the rocking groove of "Kick Out" which includes Buzz Brown sounding like he is playing harp in the hall, whilst the rest of the band are in the kitchen. Then it all comes to a close with the title track.
If you missed out first time around, now is your chance to get acquainted with "My Way Or The Highway." The overall sound may be a bit raw for some ears, fitting somewhere between Luther Allison and Albert King, in the territory occupied by the likes of Otis Rush. Some people may not always agree with the Handy award selections, but in this case, even they will have to concur with the judge's decision.
Otis Grand: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/otisgrand/OtisG.htm
This review is copyright © 2000 by Gordon Baxter , and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.