Self Recorded at Casa de Milagros
12 songs/52.21 minutes
This album is one you will either embrace for the exclusive use of dulcimers in this collection of blues songs, or you will not quite follow the dulcimer sound down the blues highway. Bing Futch is known as one of the foremost dulcimer players in music today. He has been playing professionally since the mid 1980’s in various bands as well as hosting workshops across the country and authoring instructional books including, Blues Method for Mountain Dulcimer 101. He has been a featured performer at many blues and folk festivals and opened for the likes of Molly Hatchett, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and bluesman Scott Ainslie. In 2016, at the prestigious International Blues Challenge, Bing won the “Best Guitarist” award. He was the first dulcimer player to ever win the award. Bing travels extensively, performing and promoting the dulcimer as a blues instrument. Unresolved Blues provides a good overview as he includes covers of blues standards such as the Robert Johnson classic “Sweet Home Chicago” as well as blues songs he has written. On the album he plays the mountain dulcimer, a resonator dulcimer and is backed on a few songs by Band-in-a-Box Real Tracks. The sound is unique and his mastery of the dulcimer is nothing short of sheer artistry.
Overall, Bing Futch has done a remarkable job expanding blues music to include the dulcimer. I’m not convinced it works with all the songs, such as “Sweet Home Chicago” where it seems a bit too pretty or sweet for this classic song. However on the cover of “It’s Tight Like That” by Tampa Red and Georgia Tom, the resonator dulcimer slide work by Bing is excellent and gives this song a lively and classic feel. Bing included two old traditional songs on the album, “John Henry” and “Juke Joint Hen” ( aka “Cluck Old Hen”). The dulcimer brings a warm, old feel to these songs and a beautiful texture. While not quite blues songs, they were precursors to the blues as work songs. Bing gives them both a bluesy feel on this CD.
The songs penned by Bing for this CD, such as “Drinkin and Driven Blues” are well written classic blues songs. it is quite obvious that Bing is well versed in blues music and very comfortable writing in Delta Blues, shuffle and boogie-woogie styles. “Drinkin and Drivin’ Blues” tells the story of a man who drank a bit too much whiskey and gin and sets off by car to visit his woman and instead visits the police. Bing’s vocals are excellent, he sings the blues very well and the dulcimer easily replaces the guitar and adds depth to the song with well-placed solos. I think the song (and the others using back tracks ) would be better without the Band-in-a-box Real Tracks, Bing’s talent is strong enough to carry the song solo without the backing track. I’d really like to hear him front a live drummer and bass player instead, although he is quite capable of providing both rhythm and a bass line on the dulcimer.
The two strongest songs on the album are “That’s What You Done to Me” and “The Flip Side”. Both were written by Bing and feature him on the dulcimer without backing tracks. They are both a bit swampy and his vocals have a great gritty tone. “That’s What You Done to Me” has a very catchy riff as he describes in graphic lyrics how his woman has hurt him, “have you ever seen a bird shot down from a tree”. “The a Flip Side” describes running with the devil then deciding not to run with him no more, ” I’ve got a mojo in my pocket and a cross inside my case and I will use them on that rascal if he shows his ugly face”. These songs are catchy, well written and feature the dulcimer as a worthy companion to Bing’s strong vocal delivery. “Red Headed Lover” a shuffle-like track and the title song, “Unresolved Blues” a rocking blues song with a full sound are also excellent tracks on this album.
With Unresolved Blues, Bing Fitch has proven that the dulcimer is an instrument well suited for the blues. Through my research into the dulcimer and Bing’s career, I have come to really appreciate the skill he has utilized in both adapting the cover songs for the dulcimer as well as writing blues songs for the dulcimer. The album is at first play a very curious and interesting listen. Subsequent plays are very enjoyable. Bing has excellent vocal skills and has proven on this album that he can pen very well written blues songs. Unresolved Blues will be a permanent addition to my collection and I plan to make a point to see Bing Futch perform live. As indicated by his win at the International Blues Challenge, he is making a place for himself in the blues world, where for a time, he will be the only one with a dulcimer on his lap. Unresolved Blues can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon.com, cdbaby, or on his website at www.bingfutch.com.