This is RJ’s twelfth album and by my count he’s appeared on twelve more. The twelve tracks here must be a lucky number because Misho’s web site claims this is his best album. It would be a hard statement to argue; Mischo has been surrounding himself with great band mates on his albums and shows and he’s done another discerning job picking his band here, too. It’s a really kick ass album with one of the finest harp players out there.
Jeremy Johnson is a staple on guitar on many of Mischo’s albums and another favorite of mine in Little Frank Krakowski also plays guitar here; what a great combo!. On piano we haves Bruce McCabe from the Lamont Cranston Band and Billy Black and Victor Span provide the backline support. Recorded at Johnson’s Barking Jack Studios in St. Paul Minnesota, the sound is clean and tight. Chicago blues done by masters of the sound!
“Got My Passport” is a swinging shuffling train song where RJ chugs and blows the whistle; maybe an overdone concept but I love it when it’s done well and Mischo is a pro. The rest of the band boogies along and Mischo delivers a suave vocal performance as he always does. McCabe’s piano is spot on and the guitar work is clean and precise. “She’s My Baby” opens to Mischo blowing some dirty notes and then giving us some tender and juicy slow blues. Slow blues done right can be savored like BBQ ribs where the meat just falls off the bone as you eat it; Mischo’s vocals and harp make me feel the same way. Beautiful stuff! “Big Walter Boogie” pays tribute to the man who played his harp on Maxwell Street. This instrumental flows as it shucks and jives along at a very nice clip. The tone is breath taking as Mischo just seems to be able to make the notes flow like honey. With “Everything I Need” we guitar and vocals and the second guitar playing off the vocals and lead guitar. Seminal Chicago blues done in a slow and delightfully succulent manner. Mischo doesn’t even need to touch his harp here.
“Sugar Baby” is a jumping blues love song where Mischo alternates on vocals and harp with equal effect. A steady groove maintains the flow as Mischo makes some dirty harp sound clean and fresh. Things slow down for “Soul Swamp,” a song that is haunting and reminds me a little of Charlie Musselwhite when he gets reflective and tells stories with his harp. Mischo gives it his all and this pretty little instrumental flows sweetly from one side of the bayou to another. Thoughtful and fun stuff and then the guitar comes in to solo in similar fashion- well done! Then it time for Mischo to work and he takes us through the second half of the song and then goes out in a sensual fade. “Leave Your Man” has guitar ringing like a bell and harp to intro and then Mischo stridently take the vocal lead. A great and tight little boogie with nice keys to boot, and that leads us to “Little Walter Shuffle.” Mischo is equally adept in the realms of Big and Little Walter. The moody jump and swinging blues of Little Walter come out here as he pays homage to the great harp player in his style of play. He squeezes everything he can get out of those little Hohners!
“Next up is “Keep On Lyin’” where Mischo comes in with the guitar on a strong and intense beat as he tells his woman to do what the title says because the truth won’t do her no good. The guitar sets the tone here with a big, driving beat that the rest of the song is built around. The second guitar comes in for some pretty licks in and out as Mischo blows cool stuff and sings to us as he adds more and more reverb to finish up. “Got My Brand on You” has the harp respond to RJ’s vocal lines. Dirty and cool stuff. Some cool guitar picking and note bending here, too. Very Muddy-like stuff. RJ returns to slow blues for “Wait On Me” and turns down the pace without turning down the heat. This is the Southside of Chicago via Minnesota I guess and I like it. There is a lot of pretty guitar offered up here along with piano. RJ finishes up with some slick harp- savory stuff! The final cut is a hot, uptempo track called “In and Out Boogie,” a slick instrumental that hits all the bases as it drives in a run and completes a fine set of tunes!
I can’t pick a favorite here because I loved them all. Chicago blues fans will eat this up as I did- wonderfully fun stuff done well and with love. This is a great album that I highly recommend!