Howard “Guitar” Luedtke – Goin’ Down to Alabama – The Muscle Shoals Sessions | Album Review

howardluedtkecdHoward “Guitar” Luedtke – Goin’ Down to Alabama – The Muscle Shoals Sessions

False Dogs Records

12 tracks

Rarely do I get very excited over an album of mostly covers.  11 of the 12 tracks here are covers; one, lonely original song.  But the cover songs have lives of their own here.  Howard Luedtke is an old hippie sort of guy.  He plays a mean guitar with some wicked slide work.  He is able to transform these into his own, relying on his interpretation rather than the originals for inspiration.  So here we go…

The premise for this album is a childhood dream of Luedtke’s.  In 1964 he got his first guitar and his first copy of Travis Wammack’s 45 RPM record of  his instrumental “Scratchy.” Wammack is known as “The Fastest Guitar Player in the South.”  Howard knew little of him until his wife discovered Travis had 13 CDs and a book in 2013 and offered some or all of them up to Luedtke for his birthday.  He was floored.  Until then, a few copies of the 45 came in and out of Luedke’s life.  A borrowed and lost copy refound. An ebay purchased copy.  When the CDs came he finally figured out who Wammack was (and that he was white; he was living under the misconception Wammack was a “big, black man” as described by a friend of a friend with the 45 back in 1965).

Luedtke contacts Wammack, they arrange a meeting and recording session at the legendary Muscle Shoals with Wammack as a session man.  The story is fully described in the CD booklet.  Suffice it to say the two hit it off and create some amazing music together.  The players are Donnie Gullett on bass, Jan Gullett guitar, Roger Clark drums, Jim Whitehead on keys, Wayne Chaney on percussion, and “Bad Brad” Guin on sax.  Luedtke  does guitar, slide, lap steel and lead vocals while Wammack does guitar, slide, harp and backing vocals.

The session recording begins with “Born Under a Bad Sign” with sax and lap steel sliding as introduction to this in a new way.  Countrified and country fried blues and it tastes good.  Great solos on the sax and lap steel, clean and good vocals and a vocal cacophony behind Luedtke make for a great start.Ripoff Raskolnikov’s “Blues won’t Quit Me” follows, a song Howard discovered touring in Austria and Germany with his wife Deb and Clyde Stubblefield.  A great, rocking rendition!  The Gospel song “That’s How Strong My Love Is” is next.  Recorded in one take, Luedtke was moved and does a fantastic and soulful job on thie Gospel tune he did not know was a Gospel tune until he recorded it.  “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” is a swinging rendition with mega sax work that carries things along with Luedtke’s vocals.  And his ever-present guitar helps a bit, too. Smiley Lewis’ “I’m Comin’ Down With the Blues” has a tick of an up tempo to it and a cool piano tinkle as back beat that makes this different.  The sax work also shines with the guitar solos.  “Mean Old Lonesome Train” is an old Otis Hicks and J. West tune recorded on Excello by Lightnin’ Slim in 1957.  Clean harp work, a lazy slide guitar sound and western approach make this one new and different.  Well done!

“My Generation” does not sound like the Who; this rendition is laid back and has a long instrumental intro with sweet guitar work and slide.  Another different and cool cover!  Luedtke reworks “King Creole” into Wammacks’ “Fire Fly” beat with lots of guitar solos trading back and forth.  When “The Last Time” came on the first time I listened I knew the song but was confused; then I said, “Hell, this is a Stones song.  Totally reworked and Luedtkefied.  “That’s How Strong My Love Is,” “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and this all were on the Stones’ 1965 album Out Of Our Heads and Luedtke rearranges and makes them his own after a 50 year love affair with them.

Travis Wammack’s “Keep On Running” is the lone Wammack cover.  This is typical southern rock a la the Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker or the like.  Two guitars wailing and country like lyrics about running down the road.  But it’s cool.  And he harp in there is also well placed.  The title track is also a romping southern rocker with three guitar players going at it.  The sax blows hard to good effect; this is a really fun rocker with Chuck Berry styled licks and more licks and more licks.  Johnny Winter’s “Mean Town Blues” closes the session.  Texas blues rock at it’s best.  Guitars, slides, lots of strings vibrating and bent.  A nice tribute to Mr. Winter.

Is it blues?  Partly.  Is it good?  Definitely.  The guys and gals sound like they are having fun playing and they are doing ti up their way.  Familiar songs?  Sure, but they really put a great spin on things. Gear headed guitar lovers will cherish this.  Pedal to the metal fun!


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