Rhythm Bomb Records – 2017
13 tracks; 41 minutes
German duo Black Patti consists of Peter ‘Crow C’ Krause, an experienced musician who plays guitar and some harmonica, with younger mandolin and guitar player Ferdinand ‘Jelly Roll’ Kraemer. Both musicians sing, often in harmony, and wrote all the material themselves on this sophomore release. The only other musicians involved are double bassists Ryan Donohue and Uli Lehmann who add a bottom line pulse to several songs. The material is traditional in terms of styles with ragtime and Piedmont well represented.
The mandolin is not often heard in modern blues though there are exceptions such as Rich Del Grosso and specialist guitarists who play occasionally, such as Billy Flynn. As such this disc is a real change and the jingling tone of the mandolin on opener “Ask Your Mama” sounds great. The two voices combine well and there is no issue with accents as both sing well in an adopted language. Lyrically “Evil Queen Of Diamonds” harks back to earlier traditions of the good man being done down by an evil girl (and the gambling allusion does no harm either!). Peter had a hand in writing all songs bar one here, the exception being Ferdinand’s’s “Good Bye Little Baby” which borrows the riff (and some of the lyrical theme) of SBW’s “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” with the two vocalists singing in a call and response style. The album title comes from “Red Tape Blues” which brings age-old concerns about money up to date with reference to ‘plastic card’ with a chorus that reprises the ‘Glory Hallelujah’ refrain in a deceptively jaunty presentation of some tough facts about debt.
“I Shouldn’t Have Done It” is an attractive tune with another good chorus as the pair confess to a number of misdemeanors involving alcohol and an unlikely partner: “She was six feet four had no front teeth, she took off her wig and there was nothing beneath”. Peter’s harmonica is featured on the hillbilly tune “Wooten Stomp” and the fast-paced “I’ll Never Come Back Home”. “Frenchmen Street Rag” takes us on a trip to New Orleans while “A Stroll With Mr Roll” is an autobiographical piece about mandolin player Ferdinand of whom it is said (perhaps tongue in cheek) “when he is on tour he buzzes like a bumble bee”. The album closes with “Nagging Blues” that could quite easily pass as a vintage song but is another of Peter’s tunes.
This is a well recorded disc that will be of definite interest to acoustic blues fans, especially those who appreciate the mandolin.