Fishtail Records 2013
14 tracks; 56 minutes
Catfish Keith is a throwback to a different era, a wandering troubadour who travels the globe playing solo acoustic country blues. He is a frequent visitor to Europe and the UK in particular; indeed he toured this album (his fifteenth!) extensively October to November 2013 when it was released in the UK (the US release date was early 2014). The core of his repertoire is songs from the pre-war period and here we find versions of songs from Blind Boy Fuller, Mississippi Sheiks and Sister Rosetta Tharpe amongst others. These tracks were all recorded live in one take apart from two where Keith has overdubbed a harmony vocal and second guitar. Keith plays both acoustic and National guitars and often uses a stomp board for rhythm as well as providing all vocals in a deep and expressive tone.
The album opens with Blind Boy Fuller’s “Sweet Honey Hole”, one of several songs with suggestive lyrics and Keith sings this one with relish in his voice and some twanging chords on guitar. He follows that with his own “Best Jelly In The Neighborhood” which zips along at quite a fast pace. On the Mississippi Sheiks’ “Jailbird Love Song” Keith plays two guitar parts and harmonises with himself on a song that shows that it is not only in recent times that we hear of false arrests and unfair treatment of minority groups.
Keith blends The Harlem Hamfats’ “Weed Smoker’s Dream” with Lil Green’s “Why Don’t You Do Right”, a hit for Peggy Lee with Benny Goodman. Keith uses a single rhythm for both songs and creates quite a downbeat feel. Some Hawaiian style guitar lightens the mood as Keith tackles “Tomi Tomi”, originally by Kanui and Lula, before returning to the vagaries of relationships in “Who’s Been Here?”, Bo Carter’s comic handling of his girl’s infidelities, apparently with several unknown guys! “Someday Baby” was inspired by Mississippi Fred McDowell though many of us will recognise the song as Big Maceo’s “Worried Life Blues”. Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “God Don’t Like It” is a highlight, an amusing song about the evils of drink played on a National baritone guitar.
Elsewhere Keith tackles songs from Frank Stokes, Julia Lee, Memphis Minnie, Kid Bailey, Lil Son Jackson and a pairing of two Leadbelly pieces to close the CD. If acoustic country blues is your interest, Catfish Keith is well worth investigating.