Dave Keyes – Rhythm Blues & Boogie | Album Review

Dave Keyes – Rhythm Blues & Boogie

Blue Heart Records BHR 037


10 songs – 49 minutes

One of the busiest pianists in the world since winning the International Blues Challenge in 2000, Dave Keyes has been touring giants for the past 30 years but shines like a diamond every time he puts out an album of his own. And that’s the case with this disc – the sixth in his catalog, which delivers a big tip of the hat to his musical influences across the music spectrum.

Most visible across the past decade because of his partnership with Popa Chubby, Keyes – his highly appropriate birth name – has worked regularly with ‘60s folk-blues giant/Civil Rights icon Odetta, Bo Diddley, rockabilly firebrand Sleepy LaBeef, gospel great Marie Knight and Ronnie Spector in addition to handling sideman duties with Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, Big Jay McNeely, Ruth Brown, Lou Rawls and a host of others. He also spent years on Broadway, including six years in the Grammy-winning Smokey Joe’s Café at the height of its lengthy run.

Dave’s heroes include Dr. John, Professor Longhair, Dr. John and Johnnie Johnson, and their influence comes through loud and clear in this  set. Recorded at Teaneck Sound in New Jersey, Chubbyland Laboratories in Hudson Valley, N.Y., Memphis Magnetic Recording in Tennessee and House of Putnam in New York City, it includes nine originals with old-school appeal and a single cover.

Alternating between piano, B-3 and Wurlitzer organ and accordion and providing vocals throughout, he’s aided by guitarist John Putnam, bassist Jeff Anderson and the late David J. Keyes (no relation) and drummers Bernard “Pretty” Purdie and Frank Pagano. Chubby, Doug MacLeod and Early Times all make guest appearances on six-string along with Chris Eminizer and Tim Quimette who sit in on sax and trumpet.

“Shake Shake Shake” kicks things off in style. It’s Memphis blues that preaches moving your feet and clapping your hands when troubles haunt you. It’s propelled by a steady shuffle from Purdie, who’s the most recorded percussionist of all time, and steady horn runs from Eminizer, both of which provide perfect accents to Keyes’ double-fisted attack on the ivories. The feel continues in “That’s What the Blues Are For,” a complaint about a lady who’s forced the singer to walk out the door.

“Blues and Boogie,” a stop-time pleaser that swings from the hip, features Early on six-string a shout-out chorus and steady horn flourishes before yielding to a cover of Willie Nelson’s familiar “Funny How Time Slips Away.” Delivered solo as a ballad and with plenty of passion, Keyes shines on the mic and 88s. But the mood brightens quickly as Purdie kicks off “Ain’t Doing That No More” with a Big Easy second-line beat and Dave announces he’s done with romantic blunders. The chorus is guaranteed to have you singing along.

Keyes’ determination continues in the soulful “Ain’t Going Down” despite pain and disillusion before  another solo effort, “WBGO Boogie,” delivers a tip of the fedora to a jazz/blues station based in Newark, N.J. Romantic problems resurface in “Not Fighting Anymore,” which is delivered with a Latin beat, before MacLeod joins in “Invisible Man,” a lament about aging. The disc closes with “7 O’Clock Somewhere,” a tribute to the doctors, nurses and emergency workers who’ve toiled so tirelessly in the face of the COVID epidemic.

Rollicking fun from beginning to end, and sure to strike a positive chord with anyone who likes keyboard with good-time appeal.

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