Catfish Keith – Still I Long To Roam
Fish Tail Records
13 songs time- 59:17
Here it is the acoustic singer-guitarist’s twenty first album, and somehow he has pretty much flew under my blues radar. Of course over the years I have seen his name in ads for his CDs and appearances, but I only have a vague recollection of any of his music. So, that ends with this review. He is an accomplished acoustic guitarist in finger-picking and slide styles, as well as an engaging gruff voiced singer-songwriter and interpreter of the blues canon. Like most of his recordings, it is just his voice and various acoustic guitar, as he is one of the few carrying on with the acoustic blues tradition.
On the first of his two original songs here, “I’m A Wanderer, Fare Thee Well” he accompanies himself bottleneck style on his National Reso-Phonic “Exploding Palm” Baritone Tricone with his appropriately gruff voice in sync with his playing. It is a ponderance on the vagabond life style. The other original composition “Cherry Red” was inspired by songster Mance Lipscomb and Skip James. Catfish goes in and out of a Skip James falsetto vocal. “She burnt my biscuits and she bakes my bread”.
Going back close to a century, Frank Stokes’ “Stomp That Thing” is reminiscent of Roy Book Binder’s rhythmic and thumping guitar style. Not sure what it is about, but here is a repeated lyric-“Gettin’ sick and tired of hearing them ding dongs ring”. You tell me. He does a version of pianist Cecil Grant’s “I’m A Good Man”. he does Jimmie Rodgers'(The Blue Yodeler) “Daddy & Home” and even manages some yodeling. The album’s title is taken from this song.
He imparts a powerful rhythmic sense to legendary gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “He’ll Understand And Say Well Done”. He does a call and response vocal with himself on Blind Willie Johnson’s “When The War Was On”, about World War II. He does a nice reading of Mississippi John Hurt’s “Louis Collins”, but of course the vocal not as gentle as John’s. A first for me, an acoustic guitar version of New Orleans piano master Professor Longhair’s “Go To The Mardi Gras”. Once again an off and on falsetto. He adds the line-“I’m gonna break every lovin’ law”.
He does Tommy Johnson’s “Cool Drink Of Water”, where Howlin’ Wolf got “I asked for water, she brought me gasoline”. I’m not familiar with The Mississippi Sheiks’ “Bed Spring Poker”, but I’m guessing it is double entendre.
It does the ole Bluesdog’s heart good to know there are folks like Catfish Keith striving to keep the acoustic blues alive and breathing. Music like this is always a breath of fresh air in the face of the onslaught of electric blues and blues-rock. At times it is a needed relaxation. It has taken me a long time to discover him. Don’t make the same mistake.