Mark Wenner’s Blues Warriors | Album Review

Mark Wenner’s Blues Warriors

EllerSoul Records

12 tracks/47 minutes

The Nighthawks are taking a break as the band’s personnel changes but vocalist and harp man Mark Wenner has not remained idle. Bringing Nighthawks drummer Mark Stutso along, he recruited singer and guitarist Clarence ‘The Bluesman’ Turner, upcoming guitarist Zach Sweeney and experienced double bass player Steve Wolf who has jazz and blues experience with, amongst others, the late Danny Gatton. The intention was to make a fun record of straight blues and tunes from Muddy, Sonny Boy, Slim Harpo and Elmore James figure here, all played in authoritative fashion.

The CD opens with a relatively obscure Muddy Waters tune

“Diamonds At Your Feet” which Clarence sings really well in a swinging version with Mark on chromatic harp. “Teddy Bear” will always evoke Elvis though it was also covered by Big Joe Turner and it is his version that inspired this take, a driving shuffle with Mark W on vocals and the double bass at the heart of the tune before a second Big Joe Turner tune, “Rock A While”. The band’s version of “Checkin’ Up On My Baby” leans towards the Junior Wells/Buddy Guy version rather than Sonny Boy Willaimson’s original (excellent guitar here from Zach) before a second Muddy tune, Bernard Roth’s “Just To Be With You” which Clarence sings convincingly, the slow blues allowing us to appreciate the booming bass lines underpinning the Warriors’ sound.

Mark W then pays tribute to another of his early influences with a fine take on Slim Harpo’s “King Bee”, his vocals relishing the double entendre lyrics and his energetic harp work suiting this driving version. Mark S has sung BB King’s “It’s My Own Fault” with several previous bands, notably when he was in Jimmy Thackery’s Drivers but he had never recorded the song, an omission rectified here in an extended version that gives solo space to Zach’s guitar and Mark’s harp. Mark W based this version of Fats Domino’s “Hello Josephine” on Terry Garland’s which he played on. Blending some rock and roll and country influences with Fats’ New Orleans original gives us a bright and cheerful take, clocking in at less than two minutes, as many early Rn’R records did. Pity, I would have enjoyed more of this one! Mark shows off his harp skills on an unrehearsed take of another SBW tune, “Trust My Baby”, which ends rather abruptly.

“The Hucklebuck” features Zach whose bright picking is beautifully presented against Mark S’ busy drums and Steve’s bouncing bass, Steve also getting a short solo spot. The only original on the disc, Mark W’s “Just Like Jimmy” pays tribute to Jimmy Reed, Mark giving us plenty of Jimmy’s high end harp style. The album closes on a stonking version of “Dust My Broom” which has more harp than most versions and another great vocal from Clarence whose strong rhythm work allows Zach to play some good stuff behind Mark’s echoey harp.

Overall a very satisfying album which most blues fans should enjoy.

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