12 tracks-Running Time/46:26
“My name is Bob Stroger, they can call me anythang they choose, well you can call me what you want, but my real name is the blues…”
So intones Bob Stroger (rhymes with soldier), one of the last living links to the original Chicago bluesmen. Born in Hayti Missouri, Stroger’s family moved to Chitown when he was 16. Enamored immediately of Chicago’s bright lights, big city blues scene, the self taught bassist eventually joined the Eddie King band and stayed in it 15 years. Mr. Stroger also sojourned and recorded with the great Otis Rush. He also worked with Sunnyland Slim, Jimmy Rogers, Fred Below, Pinetop Perkins and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and played on the Grammy award winning CD Joined At The Hip, featuring Pinetop and “Big Eyes.” The Blues Foundation presented Bob Stroger with its Best Bassist award in 2011 and 2013.
On Keepin’ It Together, Stroger teams with baby boomer drummer, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, the son of great Blues drummer Willie “Big Eyes Smith.” Kenny represents the new covenant of Blues drummers, whose percussive strokes have been revered by the likes of Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins, Billy Boy Arnold and countless others. He was awarded a Grammy in 2011 for his contribution to the album Joined At The Hip with the legendary duo Pinetop Perkins and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. Kenny’s licks can be heard on over 5o CD’s.
Keepin’ It Together is a formidable presentation of Chicago Blues. Stroger and Smith swap lead vocals on various tracks. Though their vocal deliveries differ, there is also a similarity woven throughout that suggests sonically, their styles are derived from the same root.
Standout tracks include ;
#5 “That’s My Name”, includes the lyrics posted in the preamble of this review in addition to Bob Stroger declaring, ” I am the blues.”
#8 “Old Woman Sweetheart”, a Willie “Big Eyes” Smith recording which samples the original , then intersperses it with “Beedy Eyes’s” vocals, famous backbeat and Bob Stroger’s steady bass playing. The transition is seamless.
#9 “He (Bob Stroger Done) Took Her,” a rollickin’ lament that states how Bob Stroger took the narrator’s woman. With lead vocal by Kenny, Barrelhouse Chuck contributes a rollin’ solo on those 88’s and Jerry Portnoy or Joe Filisko does the same on harp.
#12 “In My House”, a tune written posthumously by Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, delivered to “Beedy Eyes” in a dream.
The musicianship displayed on Keepin’ It Together is pure Chicago. In addition to the aforementioned Barrelhouse Chuck , Jerry Portnoy and Joe Filisko, also delivering the goods are Billy Flynn, Kevin Iles and Little Frank Krakowski on guitars, Brian Leach additional bass and Sam Burkhardt on saxophone.
The liner notes and album information do strive to emphasize the importance of this effort, but do not indicate the songwriters of each individual song, opting instead to list the music publisher. That minor distraction aside, Keepin’ It Together fits the mold of Chicago Blues that is rapidly passing this generation by. If you want the real deal, give this one a feel!