Chris English – At Groove City | Album Review

Chris English – At Groove City

Self-Release – 2021

10 tracks; 46 minutes

This is Chris English’s fifth CD. The previous one that this reviewer heard was a band effort, Howlin’ So Long, back in 2017 but here Chris plays in an acoustic duo with his son Grayson on bass and backing vocals as Chris handles vocals, guitar, harp and foot stomps. There are three covers and seven of Chris’ well written and often amusing originals. The duo played live over several nights at Groove City studios in Cambridge, Maryland, opening the doors to an audience on the final night, most of these tracks coming from that final session.

The set opens with Charley Patton’s “Moon Going Down” which has a great groove as Chris sings in a very rough-hewn style and plays some good slide. “Cape Charles Distillery Blues” uses the tune from “St James Infirmary” to recount a tale of over-indulgence after an initial order of “one bourbon, one rye, one beer” cannot be completed as the distillery does not serve beer; never mind, Chris contents himself with the spirits and ends up totally drunk! The audience is clearly enjoying the story and the fun way that it is presented.

“My Little Baby” is a lively tune and “Send You To The Moon” a comic song about literally packaging up someone to dispatch them far away: “I’d like to send you to the moon, put a stamp on your ass and go ‘Boom’”. A longer length tune gives space for Chris to display his finger-picking skills before he sings tenderly of “Irene” and “Everybody In The Pool” is an emotional tribute to Chris’ late father who used to shout that phrase to his grandchildren, a fine song with delicate slide work. Humour returns on “Going Down To The Tater Shed”, an off the grid place where people gather to have a good time, if you can find it “way down in the woods”.

Little Walter’s “Tell Me Mama” is an appropriate song for Chris to play harp and he then does a second Patton song, “Banty Rooster Blues” (with plenty of slide work) before closing the set with “Cigarette Blues” in which Chris equates his relationship with smoking: “You’re a bad, nasty habit, I can’t seem to put you down, but one of these days, darling, I’m going to grind you on the ground”. This is another fun song into which Chris cleverly weaves lots of smoking references and is greeted with generous applause at the end.

Fans of acoustic blues with a comic twist will definitely enjoy this release.

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