Fred Hostetler – Fred’s Blue Chair Blues
9 songs – 42 minutes
Singer-songwriter-guitarist Fred Hostetler has a storied history that includes releasing his debut single in 1966, working in the 1970s, 80s and 90s with a variety of rock artists including Jeff Beck, Billy Squier, The Knack and Johnny Winter, and spending 15 years undertaking voluntary service in an ashram in Tamil Nadu, India. The blues has always been one of Hostetler’s primary loves and Fred’s Blue Chair Blues sees him focus on acoustic blues with a heavy Delta influence.
Fred’s Blue Chair Blues is what Hostetler calls “living room blues” and that’s as fine a description as any. This is the sound of one man singing the blues in his living room and accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. And it was recorded in Hostetler’s living room. Featuring eight original songs (all by Hostetler except for Karen Lawrence’s “Salt Tears” and “Rain On My Window Pane”), the album sounds like someone playing an intimate set for his friends and family. It actually opens with the lazy shuffle of Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights Big City” before nicely moving into “Hey Corporate Vandals”, a biting indictment of large corporations that acts as an updated, modern version of Reed’s “Big Boss Man”.
Hostetler pulls out the slide for the Delta Blues of “Deep Deep Well” while the autobiographical “Taming The Wolf” builds powerfully over its near eight minute length as Hostetler’s spoken lyrics recall his life in the blues, from listening to the radio as a child to being tied to a chair on stage in Las Vegas.
Hostetler is a fine guitar player and there is a rawness to both his playing and his singing that is both endearing and enticing. He sings in a fragile falsetto that has hints of the great Skip James although his overall tone is probably more upbeat than James’s otherworldly despondency. “Rain On My Window Pane” has a neat descending single note riff that James himself would have appreciated, while “What’s Ahead And What’s Behind” is based on Muddy’s “Can’t Be Satisfied”.
The pace picks up with “I’m A New Man” with its captivating opening line: “I didn’t believe in prayers, until they were said for me.” Hostetler sounds like he is playing with a pick on this track as he introduces a neat breakdown in the middle of the song before encouraging the listener to put down their smartphone and get out and enjoy life.
“There I Go Again” moves into acoustic rock ballad territory but fits nicely in the broader resonance of the album before “Salt Tears” ends the album on a positive note and a nod towards the cheery finger-picking of Lonnie Johnson.
As one might expect from any informal home recording session, there are occasional rough moments, but they only add to the general ambiance. Fred’s Blue Chair Blues is very enjoyable and warmly recommended for all fans of acoustic Delta blues.