12 songs – 51 minutes
Big Smooth And The Hellraisers are an uptempo outfit who have been delivering high-energy urban boogie blues at clubs and festivals from the upper Midwest as far south as Florida since 1998 make their recording debut with this hard rocking CD.
Steve “Big Smooth” Mazur founded the group in Detroit. A veteran of the Grande Ballroom, once one of the top blues venues in the Motor City, he wanted to provide younger audiences with an alternative to the chronically mellow blues and jam bands that dominated the area and were favored by the older crowd after folks like Paul Butterfield, Albert King and Peter Green had faded from the scene.
Mazur fronts the seasoned ensemble, doubling as harmonica player and lead vocalist, providing a wake-up call and kicking the party into high gear each time he hits the stage with his aggressive style of play. The lineup includes Scott Lewis on guitar along with drummer Terry Lynch and keyboard player Mark Heckert, who also engineered the CD. Traci Garneau and Mark Miller share bass duties.
The Lou Rawls soul-blues classic, “Drink Muddy Water,” kicks off the set, played like you’ve heard it before. Introduced with a brief harp line, it literally races out of the starting gate with guitar and harmonica each taking rapid-fire breaks mid-tune and concludes with call-and-response vocals. The disc mellows somewhat and kicks off with a Memphis feel for “10 Toe Dance,” a guitar-driven paean to a night of romance. After the first number, which is delivered almost in spoken word, this tune gives Big Smooth a chance to stretch his vocal cords.
The subject changes to a woman’s seduction prowess in “That Girl Could Shimmy” before the band launches into an updated version of The Clovers’ 1959 hit, “Love Potion #9.” Another uptempo cover, “Walk Right In,” follows before yielding to “If Mama Ain’t Happy,” a straightforward shuffle that warns about treating your mama right. The band delivers “Leroi’s Tin Roof,” a speedy piano-driven blues-rock tribute to a Louisiana roadhouse, before the funky “What It Is,” an extended complaint about mistreatment from a woman who’s cheated after receiving everything she desires from the man who loves her.
The pace heats up again for another blues-rocker, “Why Why Me,” a tale of regret after falling in lust with a woman on the dance floor and ending the night broke and alone. The similarly themed “Smokin’ Hot” follows. This time, however, the song ends with a “happy ending.” Another song of ill-fated romance, “Make Arrangements,” follows before the Hellraisers end the set with “Be My Baby.” It’s a bluesy love song, not the classic by The Ronettes.
Available through the band website, this CD is in your face from beginning to end, and will appeal to folks with a taste for a power-based bar band sound.