Mark Koenig, AKA Madison Slim, is a harp player many blues fans from the Midwest know and now Florida’s west coast are becoming familiar with. Many more fans should be aware of this fine musician and perhaps this initial album produced with him fronting a fabulous band will propel him into a larger spot light!
His experience in the blues began in the 1970’s in Chicago with blues greats like Jimmy Rogers. Big Walter Horton was a major influence on Slim as he honed his craft and became a harp great of his own accord. He’s played with Sam Lay and also as part of the Legendary Blues Band. He met up with and played with Reverend Raven and the two became based in Wisconsin and toured and recorded together before semi-retiring and moving to Bradenton, Florida where instead of retiring he now plays with a number of great bands, including Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones.
The musicians here are all masters of the Chicago blues sound. Billy Flynn and Doug Deming provide the guitar work and Barrelhouse Chuck is on piano for Slim. Terry Hanck also appears on sax. Doug Deming’s Jewel Tones backline of Andrew Gohman on bass (upright and electric) and Devin Neel on drums round out a truly sweet sound that provides a back drop for this fine harp master. Doug and his band are one of the hot acts in the blues world and Billy, Chuck and Terry add a who’s-who level of authenticity and musicality to the project.
The festivities begin with Eddie Taylor’s “Big Town Playboy.” This opening cut drips with greasy hot harmonica and guitar licks. Slim’s vocals are authentic Chicago blues, too, and he sets the table nicely for a great set of tunes. He begins the next cut with a shout out of the title, “Bread Maker Baby,” a great Slim Harpo number. It’s a “rhumba sorta numba” and Slim wails on his harp as the boys in the band lay out a slick groove. Billy Boy Arnold’s “Kissing at Midnight” follows as Slim moans out the lead vocals before laying out some more slick harp. Deming and Flynn provide a cool guitar groove as Slim adds some echo to his harp for a nice effect. “Would You Baby” is a slick Willies tune, the Willies Mabon and Dixon. Slim makes his statements and pleas to his woman and Chuck plays some altogether sick piano while Hanck lays a little cool sax. The two intertwine the piano and sax into a sweet set of solos. Nicely done! Muddy’s “I Got to Find My Baby” is next and Slim gives us another minimalistic yet cool vocal and then lays into the harp with gusto. Chuck then fills with a sweet piano solo before Slim returns with the vocals and finishes with more slick harp.
“Stockyard Blues” is a great little Floyd Jones tune that Slim is just all over. He convincingly pleads that he “needs to earn a dollar” and squeaks out some high end stuff on the harp that makes the hair on your neck stand up. Chuck again flavors the pot nicely with his piano work- killer stuff. “New Leaf” is a Jimmy Reed number that Slim also kills. They have a little more guitar up front here, but it’s Slim’s show and he steals it back with his great harp. Jimmy Roger’s “If It Ain’t Me” is more great Slim and Chuck stuff while the rest of the band fills in sweetly. Milwaukee harp master Jim Liban wrote the title cut and Slim pays homage to another great Wisconsin harp great with this cover. He’s quite sultry on the vocal delivery and then lays into some harp as the band lays out a nice groove. There is plenty of harp here in this cut to satisfy even the biggest harmonica appetites and Madison Slim is up for the delivery!
We hit New Orleans next with Fats Domino’s “Let the Four Winds Blow” as Slim sings for us and Hanck blows his horn sweetly. The boys rock out a bit as they back Slim and then Terry closes the tune out with his horn again. “Blue Coat Man” gives us some swinging guitar piano work as Slim sings on this Eddie Boyd tune. Swinging fun in just two fifty one (2:51)! “Wild Cat Tamer” is a New York sort of blues. Tarheel Slim (who wrote the tune) landed in NYC from North Carolina (Allen Bunn) as part of the band The Larks. After they broke up he used NY as a home and wrote this and other rockabilly blues stuff. Slims and the Boys do the tune justice as they rock it out together with some especially fine guitar work. Things close with “Florida Blues,” a slow instrumental blues written by Slim. He wails and cries on the harp as Chuck’s piano tears tinkle down the song’s proverbial cheeks. Thoughtful guitar tones fill in the spaces as this Sunshine State blues really sounds like something out of the Southside of Chicago. It’s a special piece and they pull it off well. It makes me want even more original Madison Slim songs!
I thoroughly enjoyed this CD. Madison Slim and his supporters all have turned in stellar performances. This is a fine CD showcasing a harp player who is deserving of recognition for his mastery of his craft. I urge you to pick up a copy of this CD- you will not be disappointed and it will leave you wanting for more! Highly recommended! Available directly from Slim at firstname.lastname@example.org.