Bobby Blackhat – Accidental Blues
Self-Release – 2015
15 tracks; 67 minutes
Bobby Blackhat Walters is originally from Ohio and spent nearly 30 years in the US Coastguard service. Since retirement he has expanded his interest in performing the blues and this is his fifth CD release, he was a finalist in the 2016 IBC’s and gigs regularly around the Norfolk, VA area. On this album Bobby wrote all the material with some help on four tracks from band members. Bobby handles lead vocals and harp and all members of the band add backing vocals: Tom Euler, guitar, Brian Eubanks, bass and Michael Behlmar, drums. A lot of other musicians contribute to the CD with keyboard duties shared between Cal Hamlin and Lucy Lawrence Kilpatrick.
Bobby has a clear voice and plays some good harp throughout but the first three tracks probably offer the best snapshot of what the band has to offer. “Two By Four” is a straightforward shuffle with amusing lyrics about the effect of a new love in Bobby’s life: “the first time I laid eyes on you I was struck by a two by four. I was caught off-guard, never been struck like that before”; “Blues Story” is a rolling blues with excellent piano and harp in which Bobby states that “everyone has a blues story, from the day you were born till the day you go to Glory”; the title track “Accidental Blues” rockets along, a harp and guitar driven shuffle. “Happy Go Lucky Man” appears in two versions, a shorter acoustic take and a longer ‘Remix’ which gives the story of taking a relaxed approach to life more of a Caribbean groove. Bobby again shows his humour in “It’s Not A Good Idea Till It’s Her Idea” as he half-speaks the lyrics over a late-night lounge jazz band performance and on the down-home acoustic “My Cookin’” in which Bobby’s talents in the kitchen win over an attractive lady. The moody “Come Home Blues” is the classic tale of the girl having walked out and Bobby’s harp and vocals convey his sadness well. In lyrical contrast “My World Did Not End” finds Bobby quietly pleased to be out of this particular relationship on an upbeat shuffle with Cal’s piano work to the fore.
Guest vocalist Shonya Carlock sings the slow blues “Please Mr Blackhat” leaving Bobby to “play some blues for me” which Bobby is happy to do, providing an impressive harp solo. Just to demonstrate that he can also sing a slow song effectively “Feathers And Nails” is an introspective number with Bobby backed only by Tom’s quiet guitar and his own harp – very different to most of the album. “There Is No Sin In The Voice Of God” takes us to church as Lucy’s gospel-tinged piano is the sole accompaniment to Bobby’s heartfelt plea for a more tolerant society. From the sacred and serious to the fun and frivolous – the fast-paced “Broke My Body Down” gets the toes tapping as Bobby complains that his latest lover was a bit much for him physically!
With such a generously filled CD there is always the risk of some material that might have better been left off and, as the title suggests, “Nursery Rhyme Shuffle” works in all the old nursery rhymes and is entirely dispensable; the bonus track “HRBT Blues” does not add a lot and, despite repeated listens, I was unable to catch exactly what the initials stand for. However, putting aside those quibbles, there is some good material here and plenty solid harp playing from Bobby who deserves support for an entirely original program of songs.