Billy Garrett – Everybody Eats When They Come to My House
17 songs – 45 minutes
A veteran performer who’s split his life between the stage and working as a restaurant line cook, Billy Garrett delivers an easy, breezy and pleasant mixed bag of blues, swamp, ragtime, New Orleans and more in this lighthearted, wall-to-wall banquet of tunes dealing with food.
Based out of Fort Walton, Fla., grew up in a musical family and called the Crescent City and Colorado home, too. He’s been a fixture on the musical landscape of the Florida panhandle for decades, but this self-produced effort appears to be his recording debut.
The idea for the CD came about in 2015, when a chef friend suggested that Garrett rework country-blues legend Doc Watson’s “Coal Mining Blues” into an original set in a restaurant kitchen. The song “Line Cook Blues,” which appears here, was the result. Billy had so much fun doing that, however, the idea for a full-length blue-plate special of blues related songs was born.
Garrett serves up a savory treat for the earbuds. He’s a relaxed, enjoyable vocalist as well as a polished multi-instrumentalist who splits his time among acoustic, resonator and electric guitars, ukulele, banjo and various percussion instruments, too.
But this isn’t a solo effort. It’s a multi-textured release that incorporates contributions from several friends from the talent-rich Fort Walton area. Joining in on the action are Ronnie Levine (guitar), Bob Maksymkow (sax and clarinet), Tim Jackson (tuba and trombone) George Petropoulos (trumpet), Tim Coale (drums), Steve Ferry (congas) and Franke “Washboard” Jackson with Curt Bol adding background vocals on a single cut.
The material here is a mix of tasty covers and a couple of originals. One criticism: You have to do your homework in order to decipher one from the other because there are no songwriting credits in the packaging, all of which was created by the singer, who’s also an artist, too.
The disc kicks off in style with Cab Calloway’s “Everybody Eats When They Come to My House,” which, like everything else here, comes across with a throwback feel. Snooks Eaglin’s “Country Boy Down in New Orleans” precedes Jimmy Rogers’ familiar “My Last Meal” before George Symonette’s obscure “Don’t Touch Me Tomato.”
The next block includes the cleverly phrased “If I Canned Ham You,” a take on The Ink Spots’ “Java Jive,” an acoustic instrumental cover of the American standard “Shortenin’ Bread” and The “5” Royales’ “Monkey Hips and Rice” before Garrett serves up the afore mentioned “Line Cook Blues” and “Breakfast Blues.”
“Ain’t Nobody’s Business,” a jug band number first recorded in 1920 by Anna Myers and the Original Memphis Five, is up next before Billy moves into the modern era for a taste of James Taylor’s “Sweet Potato Pie.” The instrumental “Kitchen Rag” is served up before Nat King Cole’s “Frim Fram Sauce” spices things up.
“Red Beans Cooking” stews a while before Little Jimmy Dickens’ “Just a Bowl of Butter Beans,” which borrows its melody from the hymn “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” and “Hors d’ouvres,” a jazzy number with a Latin beat first recorded in 1935 by Ambrose & His Orchestra, bring the meal to a close.
Eclectic and fun throughout, serve yourself a copy via Amazon, iTunes or Spotify. You’ll be satisfied if you give it a listen.