Tam White is often described as Scotland's best blues singer, and justifiably so. "The Celtic Groove Connection" sees him teaming up with bass player Boz Burrell (of Bad Company) as part of a big band which delivers music that straddles the borders between blues, R&B and jazz, over the top of lyrics dealing with contemporary topics.
On the opener "Mad Sam" the band limbers up, while White delivers a monologue over a walking bass line. You have to wait until the second track (the James Brown-like "Man Dancin'") before you really get to hear Tam White. Blessed with a voice that brings to mind Howlin' Wolf more than anyone else, White has a much better dynamic range which alleviates any need for howlin'.
The stop/start shuffle of "King Cobra" is the pick of the tracks. It deals with the men who behave like the deadly snake, drawing you in by their outwardly impressive performance before striking. The darker mood continues on Gil Scott-Heron's "Home is Where the Hatred is" which relates the problems in a failing domestic relationship. The CD then closes out with the late night bar room feel of the classy "Three Time Loser's Shoes" where White croons over Brian Kellock's piano, and some very laconic horns.
It may not be straight blues, but "The Celtic Groove Connection"--which is really a mini album at 26 minutes, and priced accordingly--is well worth investigation, and will appeal to those with slightly broader taste. There is the possibility of a full album next year, which is at least one good reason for looking forward to 2000. Rather than wait until then, however, buy "The Celtic Groove Connection" to be going on with.
The Celtic Groove Connection: www.bozburrell.com
This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.