Arsen Shomakhov – Rain City Blues | Album Review

Arsen Shomakhov – Rain City Blues


CD: 10 Songs, 34 Minutes   

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Guitar Monster Blues, All Original Songs

According to Wikipedia, “Rain City” refers to several places on the map: Rasht, India; Seattle, Washington; Keelung, Taiwan; Bogor, Indonesia; and Taiping and Perak in Malaysia. Arsen Shomakhov, a native Russian, is now based in the sixth item on the list: Vancouver, Canada. He presents Rain City Blues, a crisp collection of ten original tracks that’ll drive wet-weather woes away in no time flat. Even on slower numbers such as “Sunset Beach,” he ignites his guitar. His style’s a bit SRV, a dash of Too Slim and the Taildraggers, and all-explosive. Steve Miller would be proud of his laconic, sardonic vocals. Witness them on “Full-Time Lover,” where dry humor runs deep. Where Arsen really shines, though, is on instrumentals. More on those later. For now, no wonder he has been a semifinalist at the International Blues Challenge twice (’14 and ’16).

Although the album was only released in September, it’s garnered a lot of prestige. Living Blues awarded it with a spot in its Top 25 radio report for last month. It also reached #1 in Canada and #12 worldwide on the RMR blues charts for the week of September 21st, and #17 in the list of Top 40 most-played albums in the UK for the whole month. In addition to the IBC, he has also performed at blues festivals in Canada and worldwide, including the King Biscuit Blues Festival, Waterfront Blues Festival, Edmonton International Blues Festival, Montreal International Blues Festival, and the Calgary International Blues Festival. Shomakhov works tirelessly to make his way and name in the global blues arena, and mightily succeeding.

Accompanying Arsen (guitar and vocals) are Kid Andersen on electric and upright bass, Hammond B3 organ, piano, vibraphone and background vox; Alexander Pettersen on drums for tracks one through five; June Core on drums for tracks six through ten; and Aki Kumar on harp.

“Full Time Lover” starts things off, with our narrator ticking off an extensive list of part-time paramours. Each one covers a different sphere of his life, from laundry (Rosie) to chauffeur duty (Betsy) to alcohol purchases (Linda). One has to wonder: do all these women know each other? Next up is a ‘50s-style boogie and a promise not to party, broken several times over: “No More!” Of the ten, it’s the funniest. “I feel so nauseous. Someone help me, please. I looked in the mirror and I screamed, ‘OH, JEEZ!’ Who is the stranger with his eyes glowing red? I want a cold drink of water and to go back to bed.” Ironically, you’ll want to break this vow just like our hero does and dance till you drop. Funky “Sunset Beach” lowers your tempo afterward, with terrific Hammond organ by Kid Andersen. Fourth comes a wry warning about “Women and Whiskey,” the most traditional of the five tunes. When your hangover’s done, go “Strolling in San Jose,” an instrumental meant for powerwalking due to its energizing tempo. Santana fans will love it.

The title track showcases Shomakhov’s rip-roaring riffs, “Boogaloo” his 1970’s sensibilities, “Three Arrows” his band’s mastery of trance-inducing bass, and “Sitting on a Fence” their good-natured sense of letting the good times roll. Here’s a little word about “Hello, Little Bird,” the album’s closer: phenomenal. It brings such a creature to mind, the instrumentation exquisitely balanced between the chaotic fluttering of its wings (Arsen’s shredder work) and the steady thumping of its heart (June Core’s drums).

Rain City Blues is short, sweet, and impossible to beat!

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