Andres Roots – Mississippi To Loch Lomond;
Tartu Lockdown – The House Arrest EPs
Roots Art Records – 2020
15 tracks; 47 minutes
13 tracks; 33 minutes
Estonian slide guitarist Andres Roots (his real name, by the way) was born in 1976 and has been recording under his own name since 2010. He has played across Europe and in 2019 made his first visit to the USA, playing at the The King Biscuit Festival in Helena, AR and at the Deep Blues Festival in Clarksdale, MS. These two discs reached Blues Blast together though the second was an unplanned consequence of the Covid pandemic lockdown. On both these entirely instrumental discs Andres plays solo, using a variety of guitars, some borrowed as he was unable to bring his own guitars on tour with him to the USA and Scotland!
On Mississippi To Loch Lomond the first six tracks are from the Clarksdale festival, three come from an Estonian festival and six from a gig in Scotland recorded by another acoustic bluesman of note, Dave Arcari. There is plenty of opportunity to appreciate Andres’ skillful playing on an all-original program in Clarksdale. One track comes from a show on October 19 outside Cat Head Records where he plays a G&L Strat plugged into a Roland Micro Cube, the rest from Ground Zero a day earlier where the same Strat had to be plugged into a reserve amp, a Peavey Delta Blues. Andres varies the pace well, moving from the uptempo “In The Dark” to the reflective “Build Me A Statue” which sounds like a classic Delta blues slowed down to quarter speed. Titles like “Bullfrog Medley” and “Snake Girl Blues” presumably take their titles from the inspiration of the surroundings; after all, these are ‘field recordings’, no studio fixes or overdubs, exactly as played on the day and appreciated by the audiences. “Meow Meow” interchanges thumbed riffs with slide responses that may reflect the distinctive sound of a cat. The three tracks from Estonia are all short sketches played on Andres’ regular kit, a Squier Jazzmaster played through a ZT Lunchbox amp. In Scotland Andres played unplugged, using host Dave Arcari’s National Steel. The effect is a quieter sound but the picking remains excellent. Of particular note are “Spanish Run” which brings the feel of a Western movie soundtrack to the Scottish hall and “The Sheik Of Hawaii”, a blend of Middle Eastern rhythms and Hawaiian guitar sounds. The only non-original on either of these discs comes with “Station Blues Medley” which is classed as ‘traditional’ but definitely sounds like “You Gotta Move” to these ears!
Mississippi To Loch Lomond was released in March 2020 but any possibility of supporting it with live shows was negated by the pandemic. Stuck at home and with no outlet for his creativity, Andres decided to record some impromptu material, the result being three digital download EPs which were released in March, April and May 2020. House Arrest 1 finds Andres using a 3-string cigar box made by a friend Peter Lindberg, hence the buzzing opener being entitled “Lindberg Boogie”. Across the other tunes he uses his Squier Jazzmaster (as heard on the live disc), a Walden 550 acoustic and a one-string diddley bow (on the appropriately titled “One String Racket”). “Woof Woof” may be a dog ‘answer song’ to the cat reference on the earlier disc.
There is no doubt that Andres is a talented slide player and he is to be congratulated for finding a way to keep his music going during these trying times. Overall I found the playing and tunes on the live set more attractive than the more experimental material on the House Arrest material but you can see why Andres has wanted to issue these on CD in order to maximize potential income. As has often been said in Blues Blast, the blues knows no boundaries and Andres Roots is keeping the flame alive in Estonia.