Catfish Keith – Reefer Hound
Fish Tail Records
16 tracks/63 minutes
Catfish Keith is Iowa’s top dog when it comes to roots and acoustic blues. Here with his 17th album he presents old school viper music with a few of his own tunes mixed in. He takes blues and swing tunes from the 20’s and 30’s (or in that style) about weed and turns them into solo acoustic tunes in a spectacular manner. His precision with his various guitars is impeccable and authentic. His vocals are strong and equally authentic. Here is a quick summation for each tune…
“Walk Across The Ocean” aka “Reefer Man” opens the weed set. Cab Calloway and Hos Orchestra did this in 1930 as a jump blues. Keith dials the pacing down and turns it into more of a Delta Blues. The bass adds a nice backing and Keith delivers a good slide performance on his National Duolian. “Blotted Out My Mind” is banjo player Doc Boggs inspired country blues and Keith lays out a great groove and picks sweetly on his National Radio Tone Bendaway as he sings with aplomb. The title cut to Keith’s 2011 “Put On A Buzz” is a cool original Keith brings to this CD. His finger picking is amazing and his gritty vocals are so cool; from the album of the same title. “Lotus Blossum” is done with a 12 string guitar and the sound is big and dramatic. The mood and feel is dark and it’s just very cool stuff!
“Texas Tea Party” is a Jack Teagarden song and it’s quite fun as Keith sings with gusto as he strums some wickedly interesting stuff. Trixie Smith’s “Jack, I’m Mellow” is bouncy and fun, far from mellow but well done. Catfish is such a greater picker. Bea Foote’s “Weed” is next, dark and intense enough to get a contact high from it. “Willie The Chimney Sweep” is up, a cut from Ernest Rogers. Keith tells the story well.
“Cool Can Of Beer” is from his “Pepper In His Shoe!” sessions. There is some fancy finger picking here. “Weed Smoker’s Dream/Why Don’t You Do Right?” blends two versions of the same song in a cool manner. The former is Kansas Joe McCoy and the Harlem Hamfats and the latter a re-arrangement for Lil Green; Peggy Lee later recorded it and it was a hit with her and the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Django Rinehart and Stephane Grappelli’s “Back In Nagasaki” is a jumping and fun number. The title cut follows, a Curtis Jones tune. Catfish is back on 12 string and the big sound emanating from it is again amazing. The vocals are hot and quite cool.
“Getting Away With Something” is a bouncy and sweet original, inspired by the great Blind Blake. Keith whispers and sings out as he blazes on the acoustic guitar. Jazz Gillum’s “Reefer Head” is some pretty blues about a guy’s woman who sleeps all the time due to her reefer use. “Mr. Crump Don’t Like It” follows with Catfish singing with authority. He plays with similar authority and gives another fine performance. Keith concludes with “Knockin’ Myself Out,” another Lil Green song. He starts out with some elegant finger picking and then gets into delivering some well done lyrics about knocking himself out gradually with weed.
I must say I was impressed. When I saw 16 reefer tunes I thought, “Really?” but he pulls it off and then some! He plays a variety of guitars and I daresay few could make them sound as he does. He does some stuff I was trying to figure out how it was humanly possible to do. He’s amazing. This will be one of the top acoustic albums for this past year. Most highly recommended!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Catfish Keith’s Refer Hound is nominated for a 2019 Blues Music Award in the Acoustic Blues Album Category