Buddy Shute & the Motivators – Bar-B-Que
14 songs – 67 minutes
Now based out of the Ozark Mountains in Northwest Arkansas, Buddy Shute is a guitarist, keyboard player and tunesmith who carries forward the true blues traditions he learned growing up in Memphis a block from Sun Studios in the golden era of music in the Bluff City – something that comes through loud and clear in the 14 tunes of this set.
Shute started playing in the local bar scene before an extended stay in New Orleans, where he was a founding member of the Back Door Blues Revue, a unit that included John Magnie, a future member of the Subdudes, future blues superstar John Mooney and the late Leigh “L’il Queenie” Harris, who went on to become a Bourbon Street legend.
A former burlesque house piano player, Buddy’s also teamed with keyboard player George Winston — one of the earliest and most successful proponents New Age instrumental music — in the band Abraham, served as a regular bandmate of Clarence “Frogman” Henry and recorded two albums with the Maine-based group, Roundhouse. This is the fourth disc he’s released under his own name following Outstanding in His Field, Ozark Moon and A Whole Lot Like Blues, the Ozark Blues Society’s representative in the 2018 International Blues Challenge self-produced CD competition.
Shute possesses a relaxed tenor singing voice and shares the mic with fellow Memphian and occasional songwriting partner Brenda Baskin throughout this album, the debut release for his latest band, the Motivators, a solid unit composed of harp player Mark McGee and a rhythm section composed of drummer Randy “Dobie” Reese and bassist Steve Baskin.
Adding to the mix are keyboard player Keith Hubbard – best known for his work with Kelly Richey – and backing vocals from Rachel Fields on two tracks and joined by the NWA Motivational Angel Choir – Ashtyn Barbaree, Dawn Cate-Bonner, Janna Falkner-Perry, Ashley Keylor, Kendra Kirlin and Sarah Loethen – on two others.
A pleasant set in which percussion is high in the mix throughout, the action opens with Buddy and Brenda trading vocals on the rapid-fire original, “Got Love,” as they rejoice in their romance. Hubbard provides stellar work on the 88s beneath the action before soaring during a mid-tune solo. The tempo slows, but the funk kicks in for “Every Now & Then,” which celebrates good fortune in everything from love to lottery winnings and finding your favorite beer in stock, too.
The title tune, “Bar-B-Que,” is up next. It’s a duet that’s chockful of images of Memphis and a visit to the Rendezvous for a plate of ribs that’s good for whatever ails you. The slow-blues burner “Somethin’s Goin’ On” gives Shute a chance to stretch out on the six-string as Brenda sings that she fears her man’s cheating and taking her for a ride.
Two covers — Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me to Do” and Melody Gardot’s “Your Heart Is as Black as Night” – follow before Buddy’s guitar and Reese’s harp are featured in the uptempo “Gonna Jump a Freight Train,” an interesting number that shuns backroads for bypasses and insists: “I’m gonna get myself a hurricane and blow these blues away.” Brenda’s back in charge for the ballad, “I Don’t Want to Know,” another song about impending heartbreak, before Buddy launches in on the blazing rocker, “Too Much Month (Not Enough Money).”
“I’ve Been Changed (Angels in Heaven)” – penned by Cleavant Derricks and a hit for Ivan Neville – and Magnie’s “Lovin’ You” follow before the originals “Think I’ll Give the Blues a Try” and “Can’t Take It with You” bookend Koko Taylor’s “Voodoo Woman” to bring the set to a close.
Spin Bar-B-Que and give it a good listen. It’s a trip to the roadhouse on a good night. The only thing missing will be the hangover!