Lon Eldridge and Steven Troch – Cool Iron
10 tracks / 40:48
You can meet some of the nicest people at a blues gig, and this is where Lon Eldridge and Steven Troch found each other. In their case it was at the N9 club in Eeklo, Belgium, where both of these fellows were on the bill one night in 2015. The really interesting part of the story is that Steven is a local guy from Mechelen, Belgium and Lon hails from Chattanooga, Tennessee. They admired each other’s work and passion for American blues, and a few years later Lon returned to Belgium. This time they did more than talk, as the duo knocked out a 15-performance tour in 17 days and had enough spare time to put together Cool Iron, their first album.
The listener will recognize many of the tunes on this disc, as it includes a neat slice of classic blues tunes along with a couple of originals that fit in nicely. Most of the tracks were recorded by Bird Stevens at Tub Thumper Records Studio in the Netherlands, plus there are a pair of live tracks that were captured at Kafee Zapoi in Mechelen. For this release Eldridge sang the lead vocals and played the resonator guitar, and Troch picked up the backing vocals and played the harp. These guys have a killer chemistry, and their instruments and vocals complement each other well!
This 40-minute set leads off with Tampa Red’s “You Can’t Get That Stuff No More,” a jaunty tune that features clean picking, a neat slide break, and melodic accompaniment from Troch’s harp. These guys use a lot of tenor vocal harmonies, and Steve’s sweet smooth sound is an apt contrast to Lon’s slightly weathered delivery. The opener is followed up by the only new piece on the disc, “Sunday Morning Waltz,” which was written by Troch. This is also the only track where Steven brings out a chromatic harmonica, which helps give this instrumental the mysterious quality of a Gypsy tune. The other original song they recorded for this project is “Leavin’ My Blues With You,” which originally appeared on Lon’s third studio album, Long Gone.
The rest of the content is a collection of vintage blues, including three Robert Johnson tracks. As Johnson has such a small catalog of published work and everybody covers these songs, there is the risk that these songs might come off as tired. Fortunately, Eldridge and Troch give a first-rate interpretation of these classics, which is certainly helped along by the addition of the harp. The first of these songs is “Kind Hearted Woman Blues,” which is presented twice on Cool Iron. The first version is presented with modern production techniques, and the bonus track is mono with added static to give it more of the feel of the original (except for the harmonica parts, of course). There is also the duo’s version of “Traveling Riverside Blues,” which was performed live at Kafee Zapoi, and this one has a nice edge to it thanks to Troch’s aggressive harp playing and Eldridge’s tricky resonator guitar work.
The other song that was cut at the club is the traditional “Jack of Diamonds,” and this song features some wonderfully restrained slide work from Lon. Another traditional on this record is “Wished I Was in Heaven Sitting Down,” where Eldridge proves that he can go to a lower register on the vocals when he needs to. Rounding out this project are a lovely version of Bessie Smith’s “Oh Daddy Blues,” and a playful trip into the jazz world with Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”
Cool Iron is a wonderful album from Lon Eldridge and Steven Troch, and their efforts paid off with a worthy tribute to the golden age of blues. Both of these gentlemen have immense talent and a unique voice that enables them to take familiar material and make it new again. Fans of classic blues and harmonica should definitely check this one out, as they will not be disappointed with what they hear!