Guitar Shorty – Trying To Find My Way Back
S.D.E.G. – 2019
CD1. 8 tracks; 42 minutes
CD2. 8 tracks; 44 minutes
Guitar Shorty (real name David Kearney) is probably best known for having married Jimi Hendrix’s half sister and inspiring a young Hendrix with his flamboyant stage show and use of wah-wah pedals. However, Shorty’s CV also includes stints with Ray Charles, Guitar Slim and Sam Cooke and he has been playing since the 1950’s. Now aged 84 this is his first release since 2010’s Bare Knuckle, his third and final release on Alligator. Shorty was indeed born in Houston but started playing in Florida before moves to New Orleans, California and Texas. In recent years he has again been based in California where this two CD set was recorded with two well-known names from outside the blues world: Jerry Williams (AKA Swamp Dogg) who produced the album and Larry Clemons (AKA MoogStar) from Cameo who plays everything except guitar. The three men wrote all the material, with a contribution from Stoney Dixon on one track, except for the cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”, written by Stephen Stills.
The CD sleeve puts the split of material as 7 tracks on CD1 and 9 on CD2 but this review reflects what is actually on the discs. There is certainly a lot of material here but, unfortunately, much of it is pretty tough going. The drums are plodding and the sound effects of vocalizer, synthesized horns and strings do the music few favors. Behind the array of sounds Shorty plays some characteristically soaring guitar but both guitar and vocals are rather low in the mix. Where Shorty is more up front, as on “Smokie The Ghost” on CD1 his vocals are treated through the vocalizer though his guitar on this track sounds good. The addition of Lil’ Larry Hulk Drummer Clemon and co-writer Stoney Dixon on bass on “Nothing But A Thang” has no audible effect on the overall sound.
CD2 opens with “New Girlfriend Blues” on which Ninette Torres adds some background vocals and Shorty’s vocals are more up front, making this one of the better tracks for this reviewer. More treated vocals on “It’s Hard To Live In Two Worlds” make you think of Herbie Hancock’s crossover hits in the 70’s like “I Thought It Was You”. It is interesting to hear how the approach works on the familiar “For What It’s Worth”: again, the vocalizer is used on some of Shorty’s vocals though the vocal is up in the mix and the drums sound livelier. “Big Old Small World” ends CD2 on something of a high with some very good guitar work and a better groove to the tune. Lyrically the songs are quite repetitive and mostly about the usual topics of love and sex. One exception on CD1 is “No More War” with Shorty’s semi-spoken plea for peace and love rather than hate and violence backed up by some of his trademark guitar and lots of sound effects.
It is regrettable that this review is generally negative as Guitar Shorty has made some fine albums in the past but this one will not return to this reviewer’s player often.