11 tracks / 49:35
With the many diverse subgenres of blues that are being recorded today, it is good to regularly touch home with where the blues came from so we do not lose track of where we came from. Oregonians David Pinsky and Phil Newton are creating just this kind of bare bones music and are doing a very good job of it, as evidenced by their first album together, Over the Moon.
PInsky and Newton have known each other for years and started playing gigs together a few years back with their brand of Delta style roots and blues, and it caught on. This dynamic duo had enough juice to win the completion that allowed them to represent the venerable Cascade Blues Association at the 2014 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Competition was stiff and they did not prevail, but the door did not close and they again won the right to represent the CBA again in 2015 at the IBC. I wish them luck!
They came back from Tennessee with none of their fire diminished, and they headed into a Central Point, Oregon studio this past summer to cut their first album together. The album was produced, engineered, and mastered by Thomas Hartkop and it features Dave and Phil on vocals and harmonica, with Dave also providing the guitar parts. That is it – no horns, drums, bass, keyboards, or trio of beautiful backing vocalists. Instead, we get 11 original tracks written with honesty from these two veterans of the Pacific Coast blues scene, and it is a good trade-off.
The set kicks off with “Memphis by Midnight,” and the blues listeners get exactly what they are looking for, which is bare bones acoustic blues. This is a raw recording with woody sounding acoustic guitar that is recorded so well you can hear the strings hitting the frets. The weathered vocals recount this year’s trip to Memphis, with plenty of their recollections, impressions and images. Rounding out the package are a few harp breaks that are muted yet still pretty.
There are other songs that throw out a little of the duo’s history. “Black Highway” is a howling Delta-esque ode to Oregon Route 238, the highway that David and Phil both live on. And “3303 Burdeck Drive” brings back memories of growing up in the cold clime of Oakland, California, this time with a country blues feel thanks to the carefully picked guitar lines and the doubled guitar/harmonica intro.
One of the standout tracks is “Mama’s in the Kitchen,” which brings a lot of Louisiana spice to the table. This is accomplished with Pinsky and Newton’s minimal instrumentation by having the harmonica mimic a squeezebox, and at times you can be fooled into thinking it actually is an accordion. The guitar lays in the background playing heavy downbeats while the lyrics take the front of the stage (as they do on most of the album), but this time in a Fats Domino style.
Looking at the album as a whole, this is the kind of music that a couple of friends would get together to play at a backyard cookout or in a slow-paced roadhouse, and these two old buddies can do it better than most anyone else around.
Things draw to a close with “Your Turn to Go” with some beautiful harmonica work and aggressively strummed acoustic guitar. The lyrics recall remorse for how things have gone so badly in life, but realizing the need to move along anyway and hope the future gets better. This is what the blues is all about!
If you like what you hear on David Pinsky and Phil Newton’s album, you should try to catch their live show, as they have gigs almost every week for the next few months, including the IBC on Beale Street in Memphis this January. But, if you cannot make it to Oregon or Tennessee, the next best thing would be to pick up a copy of Over the Moon. Taking this journey to the roots of the blues and Americana will definitely be money well spent. Plus, picking up a copy will support their trip to the IBCs, which is a cause worth standing behind!