Electro-Fi Records – 2016
14 tracks; 58 minutes
The term ‘super-group’ is perhaps tainted by some of the excesses of such concepts in the 70’s, mostly short-lived and over-hyped. This one though may have legs as it combines the talents of two guitarists who have been absent from the scene for health reasons, Little Charlie Baty and Anson Funderburgh. Both these fine (and very different) players made their reputations in bands fronted by vocalist/harmonica players (Rick Estrin and Sam Myers respectively) and here Mark Hummel takes that role. The band is rounded out by the rhythm section of RW Grigsby on bass and Wes Starr on drums who have played together since high school. Mark and Anson produced the album which was recorded (like a lot of fine albums these days) at Kid Anderson’s Greaseland studio.
Additional support comes from Jim Pugh’s keyboards and a two man saxophone section of Eric Spaulding (tenor) and Jack Sanford (baritone). The material consists of a selection of songs from great artists of the past like Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown, Lowell Fulson and Jimmy McCracklin, Mark adding four of his tunes and RW offering one composition.
The album sets off in superb style with Gatemouth’s “Midnight Hour” which sets out the band’s stall really well, Anson’s typical Texan sound over a great horn and piano arrangement. Billy Boy Arnold is the source for “Here’s My Picture” with excellent piano from Jim before two of Mark’s tunes: “Prove It To You” proves to be a great toe-tapping shuffle with Jim’s old-fashioned sounding organ underneath Charlie’s jazz-tinged playing and Mark’s driving harp; “Cool To Be Your Fool” is a ballad with Mark’s relaxed vocal and Jim’s twinkling piano giving a late-night jazz lounge feel.
The horns return on Lowell Fulson’s “Check Yourself” on which Mark’s full-throttle harp and Anson’s swinging guitar are featured. “Stop This World” is a typical Mose Allison tune with its stop-start jazz rhythm and Jimmy McCracklin’s “Take A Chance” finds the horns playing in unison with the guitarists to set up the rhythm. Mark’s “Lucky Kewpie Doll” opens with Wes’ marching drums and then develops into a driving rock and roll tune which allows Jim to play some rolling piano and Charlie and Anson to play some great stuff between them. Mark’s adaptation of the traditional “Pepper Mama” pays homage to BB King with Anson sounding great on guitar.
Mark’s harp is featured on “Walking With Mr Lee” featured frequently on American Bandstand and a minor hit in 1958 for sax player Lee Allen. RW’s “Detroit Blues” is a bitter indictment of the mortgage scandals a few years ago with Mark’s Jimmy Reed-style harp. “Georgia Slop” is one of Jimmy McCracklin’s better known tunes and the band does a solid version, the guitarists both at it from the start and Jim rocking hard on the ivories, the horns beefing up the bottom end of the mix. JB Hutto’s “Dim Lights” has a classic guitar riff and Mark’s Chicago harp at its heart before Mark’s final tune “End Of The World” closes the album on a dark and sombre note.
It is absolutely no surprise to find this album among the nominations for this year’s Blues Blast Awards – a great addition for lovers of traditional blues.