There aren’t many guitar players with a resume that includes stints as the lead guitarist in bands backing Elvin Bishop and Marcia Ball. Even fewer have five previous releases full of imaginative original material, including the award-winning “My Big Sister’s Radio,” which was covered by Tommy Castro. On his latest release, Mighty Mike Schermer continues to offer listeners a varied program that ventures beyond the usual blues progressions.
“World Gone Crazy” finds the guitarist expounding on the woes of the modern age with Nancy Wright using her saxophone to accentuate the weariness in Schermer’s vocal. The song ends with a cacophony of news reports while the band switches to a Latin rhythm. Another fine sax player, Terry Hanck, blows a rugged solo on the opener, “Baby Don’t Stop,” a vigorous rocker that includes Schermer’s taut guitar solo. Another former employer, Angela Strehli, adds backing vocals with Vicki Randle on “Barkin’ Up The Wrong Tree”. Marcia Ball is featured on piano, trading solos with Schermer’s slide guitar as he issues a humorous warning to a woman looking to make trouble.
The rhythm section of Paul Revelli on drums and Steve Ehrmann on bass appear on many of the tracks. While Schermer offers a sense of optimism in the face of life’s unfortunate conditions, the duo establishes a thickly-layered foundation with assistance from Tony Stead on organ and clavinet throughout “Heaven’s On The Other Side”. Greg Izor blows some meaty harp on two driving shuffles, “Take My Hand” and “Wait-On-Me-Woman,” while Castro joins Schermer for a guitar workout on the slow blues, “Stop Crying”. The Texas-styled shuffle “Baby Be Kind” has John Nemeth wrapping full-bodied harp licks around Schermer’s voice as he pleads for love and understanding.
One original, “Most People,” bears a passing resemblance to “Why Are People Like That”. Austin de Lone shows off his skills on the piano, one of six tracks he appears on. The title track is a tribute to the musicians that inspired Schermer, including Albert Collins, Junior Walker and Hubert Sumlin. His soaring guitar parts hit home while his thin vocal struggles a bit on the chorus. Snead plays a variety of keyboards with additional contributions from Hanck plus Carolyn Wonderland and Shelley King on backing vocals. “One Tear At A Time” is a bouncy, reggae-infused tune while Schermer works his guitar magic one more time with de Lone’s piano setting up a barrel-house feel on “Hear You Call Him Baby”.
It all adds up to another engaging release from Mr. Schermer. He resists the temptation to fill the disc with lengthy guitar solos, keeping the focus on the songs and the ensemble playing that maintains a cohesive sound even with the revolving core of musicians. But there are enough of his six string excursions to satisfy admirers of his playing – and put this project a cut above much of what is marketed as “blues” these days.