15 tracks / 47:13
Argentinian bluesman Daniel De Vita has a firm grasp of Chicago blues history and draws inspiration from the late Chess Records, the label that pumped out hits from 1950 through 1975. You will get the drift after you see the artwork he chose for his debut CD, Southside Blues, which features a disc that looks like an old Chess 45 record label, and the campy “MONO/STEREO Compatible” tag emblazoned on the album cover. And then when you listen to the record you will find 15 classic blues tunes within, all of them recorded with the same technology as they used in the 1950s at Chess.
With this kind of build-up Daniel had better deliver the goods and he certainly takes care of business here; he is a pretty darned good singer and guitarist even though he has only been in the blues scene for ten years. This 27-year-old from Buenos Aires has a voice beyond his years, and for extra help in the studio he recruited Mariano D’Andrea on bass, Gabriel Cabiaglia on drums, and ace Nicolas Smoljan on harp.
Things get rolling with “You Got Me Where You Want Me” by John Brim, the first of many Chess artists that are featured on this disc. De Vita got the 50s sound he was looking for, as there is a definite low-fidelity to the proceedings, and everything is a bit muted (it is in stereo, though). The band sticks fairly close to the original arrangement with D’Andrea’s woody-sounding double bass kicking it off along with lightly honking harmonica from Smoljan. Daniel’s voice is a thin and aged tenor with a decidedly American accent, and the group totally nails the vintage vibe. The group also takes on Brim’s “Be Careful What You Do,” which has a little more of a modern electric blues sound to the guitar, though the authentically disjointed style of the solo is definitely a throwback to a different time.
Little Walter made the cut for Southside Blues, too, and he is well represented by “One of These Mornings,” a rolling 12-bar blues song with a tasteful guitar solo, and but no harp solo, which is a bit surprising for a Little Walter song. The other Little Walter tune was written “Baby Face” Leroy Foster, and “Red Headed Woman” gives Smoljan a little more room to step out on his harmonica.
You will also find a pair of songs from the famed Chicago pianist, Sunnyland Slim: “Farewell Little Girl” and “Be Mine Alone.” The latter is a rocking good time, with the electric guitar more forward in the mix, and a groovy harp solo that is so distorted at times that it is hard to tell if it is a harmonica or a muted trumpet. It does seem odd to hear this song with no piano, though. This song is the closer, and it is surely a fun way to end the set.
Interspersed among the eleven electric blues tunes are four rootsy acoustic tracks. One of these is Willie Dixon’s “Good Advice,” which brings in guitar and backing vocal harmonies courtesy of Gabriel Gratzer. This tune is catchy with a cool jangly guitar outro, and at only three minutes it is just not long enough! Also from Willie Dixon is “Violent Love” with Mauro Diana on guitar and vocals. There is a real distant quality to the way the vocals are recorded on this one, giving it an old-time radio feel.
Daniel also has a run at Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues” with only his resonator guitar and guest artist Damian M. Duflos providing the harp and vocals. The standout of these bare-bones tracks is “Poor Black Mattie” by R.L. Burnside, because it is a great song and Daniel also does a stand-up job of making the complicated guitar parts work while not taking the tune out of its original context.
With its unique recording style, Daniel De Vita’s Southside Blues is a niche recording, but it is very appealing. Fans of old Chicago blues should be pleased with what they hear on this disc, as besides the aforementioned artists it also includes cuts that were originally done by Muddy Waters and Little Johnny Jones. A big question is, “What is next for Daniel De Vita?” Hopefully the answer is that he is writing some original music to record, as he has the blues running through his blood, and his youth and work ethic can provide a new voice and sound for a timeless music genre.