Barrelhouse Chuck – Remembering The Masters | Album Review

barrelhousechuckcdBarrelhouse Chuck – Remembering The Masters

The Sirens Records – 2016

14 tracks; 43 minutes

Chicago pianist ‘Barrelhouse’ Chuck Goering studied the masters of post-war Chicago blues piano, in particular Sunnyland Slim and Little Brother Montgomery.  Some 40 years on this disc commemorates what Chuck learned and reminds us all of that great tradition of piano/guitar duets of yesteryear.  There are no drums, bass or harp here, just Chuck’s superb piano playing and Billy Flynn (a long-time collaborator) on guitar and mandolin.  Two other pianists also contribute, Spain’s Lluis Coloma and fellow Chicago player Scott Grube.  The material is drawn from the piano masters themselves: Sunnyland Slim, Little Brother Montgomery, Leroy Carr amongst others and Chuck contributes four original tunes.

What better way to kick off such a tribute to the piano masters of the past than a “Homage To Pinetop Perkins”?  Chuck’s twinkling right and rolling left hand excellently complemented by Billy’s deft fretwork.  JB Lenoir’s “How Much More” gives us the first of Chuck’s vocals and while he is definitely not the world’s greatest vocalist his serviceable vocals deliver the lyrics clearly.  On Johnny Young’s “Keep On Drinking” Billy switches to mandolin and he and Chuck weave some great patterns round the core tune; another of Johnny’s well-known compositions (with Floyd Jones), “Stockyard Blues”, appears later in the disc.

Leroy Carr is the source for two tunes: “How Long, How Long Blues” again features Billy’s mandolin work while the less well-known “Straight Alky Blues” is the longest tune here, performed by Chuck solo and although Billy’s work is great throughout the disc Chuck is more than capable of filling all the space on his own, as he does here!  Little Brother Montgomery is also the source for two tunes, “I Just Keep On Drinking” adding yet another alcohol-related song to the disc, Chuck using electric piano for the only time on the disc and “Vicksburg Blues” for which Chuck passes the piano stool to Lluis Coloma while he concentrates on the vocals, Billy sitting this one out.  Little Johnny Jones is the source for “Chicago Blues”, a slow blues with Billy on slide while Sunnyland Slim’s “She’s Got  A Thing Going On” is another solo piano/vocal performance which Chuck performs superbly, the tune having a definite rock and roll feel.

Irving Berlin’s “How About Me” sounds an odd choice but with Chuck concentrating on vocals, Scott Grube on the piano and Billy playing acoustic slide the tune takes on a real blues feel. Chuck collaborated with Mary-Anne Moss on the uptempo “I Forgot To Remember” which works great as Chuck sees his ex and “forgot to remember I’m not in love with you anymore”.  Chuck’s “Double D Boogie” clocks in at 1.40 and acts as something of a half-way interlude on the CD, Billy again using slide, and the album closes with the aptly named collaboration “Chuckabilly Boogie” which leaves us with some amazingly fast piano/mandolin duelling.

Chuck has been in ill-health in recent times but this disc was recorded in early 2016 and he sounds great here so let us hope that he will make a full recovery and provide many more piano highlights in the future.  Beautifully presented in a case with lots of photographs of these old masters of the piano, lovers of Chicago piano will lap this one up and it makes a fitting tribute to the masters of the past by one of the present masters of blues piano in the Chicago style.

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