CD: 10 Songs, 37:18 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Harmonica Blues, NOLA-Style Blues
Blizzards. Deluges. Ice storms. Mudslides. When the weather is this categorically unappealing, what better antidote than some zesty New Orleans-style blues rock? Downchild, one of Canada’s longest-running and most celebrated blues bands, provides plenty of it on Something I’ve Done, their latest in a long line of stunning releases.
If the band’s name doesn’t sound familiar, that of the Blues Brothers surely will. That comedic pair elevated Downchild’s “Shotgun Blues” and lead guitarist/harpist Donnie Walsh’s “(I Got Everything I Need) Almost” to smash hits on their 1978 Briefcase Full of Blues album. Each member of Downchild boasts a minimum of twenty years’ experience. According to their promotional information sheet, “the 2017 iteration…might be the most electrifying yet.” According to this newcomer, let’s leave it at “most electrifying.” This sextet has it all: high energy, smooth chemistry, lively presence, and superb musicianship. On nine original tracks and one cover catchier than the flu, they blaze forth like Tesla coils.
The band’s online biography delves deeper into their history and motivations: “Indeed, if Downchild didn’t exist, the blues world would have to invent them. Who else could so clearly serve as contemporary torchbearers for riveting original music firmly rooted in tradition, while acting as a thriving spiritual link to past greats like Sonny Boy Williamson II, James Cotton, and B.B. King? But don’t take our word for it. Downchild’s epic reputation has been reaffirmed time and again. Witness their 2014 Blues Album of the Year Juno Award for their last studio effort, Can You Hear the Music – their second Juno win overall. Their boatload of Maple Blues Awards. Their marquee billing on the globe’s most prestigious stages. And, of course, their inimitable 1973 reading of Big Joe Turner’s classic ‘Flip, Flop and Fly, which placed Walsh and band co-founder, late brother Richard “Hock” Walsh on the charts and in the souls of music fans worldwide.”
Downchild features Donnie “Mr. Downchild” Walsh on guitar and harmonica; Chuck Jackson on lead vocals and harmonica; Pat Carey on tenor and baritone saxophones; Michael Fonfara on piano, organ and dobro guitar; Gary Kendall on bass, and Mike Fitzpatrick on drums. Special guest star Peter Jeffrey adds his trumpet expertise to the mix, and the regular band members provide background vocals on various tracks.
Picking the best three songs on any album is Something I’ve Done quite a lot, but this was tough:
Track 02: “Worried About the World” – This stellar cover of B.C.-based bluesman David Vest’s hit couldn’t be more timely. “Everybody worried about the world; nobody worried about me,” comes the rolling refrain, ebbing and flowing like the water underneath a trireme of galley slaves. “You got the sound of one hand clapping, a sound way off in your head,” sings Chuck Jackson. “If one man fall, ain’t nobody looking, that don’t mean he ain’t dead.” Life’s a slog, whether anyone notices your personal struggle in the midst of their fears for the future.
Track 04: “Mississippi Woman, Mississauga Man” – Dance your heart out, blues fans, to this swaggering boogie featuring harmonica that’ll blister your ears and your speakers. That’s provided with panache by Mr. Jackson, and Michael Fonfara’s piano keeps perfect pace.
Track 06: “Mailbox Money” – Rock on! Any one of us who’s ever waited (and waited) for a check in the post knows the feeling. “Put your hand in your pocket, dig down deep. Don’t be a deadbeat. I’ll sign a receipt.” Peter Jeffrey’s trumpet is terrific here, as is Pat Carey’s saxwork.
Don’t let the winter blahs get you down. Let Downchild pick you right up!