Howard “Guitar” Luedtke – Meet Me In Muscle Shoals | Album Review

Howard “Guitar” Luedtke – Meet Me In Muscle Shoals

False Dog Records HGL52442

12 songs – 58 minutes

Based out of northwestern Wisconsin, where he’s been a regional favorite for decades, Howard “Guitar” Luedtke is a self-described “old hippie” who plays electric blues the way most old-school fans want it to be: clean, crisp, full of tone and without the over-the-top distortion and fretwork that dominate the airwaves today.

This disc is a long awaited follow-up to his 2016 release, Goin’ Down To Alabama, which fulfilled a childhood dream in which he traded likes with Travis Wammack, whose instrumental, “Scratchy,” was charting around the time Howard received his first guitar.

Not only did Luedtke lay down slide tracks with Wammack, who’s known as “The Fastest Guitar Player In The South,” but he also did it in Muscle Shoals, Ala., the tiny town on the banks of the Tennessee River that’s been producing gold records for everyone from Bob Dylan and Lynyrd Skynyrd to Duane Allman, Paul Simon and the Rolling Stones since the ‘60s.

Wammack rejoined Luedtke for this one and serves as co-producer. Despite being an album of covers, like the first disc, the music remains fresh both because of Howard’s skills on his Gibson and because of the original arrangements he’s created.

Splitting his time between electric, resonator, lap steel and slide, Luedke’s backed by a skin-tight band that includes Eric Hughes (Barbara Blue, Mick Kolassa) on harp, sharing duties with Wammack, who also provides six-string along with Jan Gullett. Jim Whitehead delivers keys, and “Bad” Brad Guin (Sammy Kershaw, Little Boys Blue) provides sax atop a rhythm section consisting of percussionists Mike Dillon (Dicky Betts) and Wayne Chaney and bassist Donnie Gullett. Luedtke, Wammack and Hughes share lead vocals.

Ann Peebles’ classic, “Breakin’ Up Somebody’s Home,” gets a full-blues redo to kick off the action. It retains the soulful message as an extended, medium-paced shuffle as Howard reinterpreting the lyrics from a male’s point of view in an arrangement that allows plenty of space for searing guitar and horn solos. “Cheap Hotel,” a ballad penned by Austrian tunesmith Ripoff Raskolnikov, offers up a change-of-pace before things heat up with a funky take on Otis Blackwell’s “Daddy Rolling Stone.”

A stripped-down take on “Long As I Can See The Light,” a Creedence Clearwater Revival hit composed by John Fogarty, is up next before Luedtke dips into Lynyrd Skynyrd’s catalog to deliver Ronnie Van Zandt’s “Searching.” “The Jealous Kind,” a Cajun classic written by Bobby Charles comes across with the feel of the bayou before the harp-driven “Blues Magician,” which was penned by Hughes.

Dennis Walker’s “Never Felt No Blues” and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” follow before a version of Wammack’s “Cookin’ On The Front Burner,” which first appeared on an album released on Capricorn Records in 1975. Sam Cooke’s “Good Time” and Jimmy Vivino’s “Beat Up Guitar” bring the action to a close.

Don’t be misled by the fact that this CD has no new material. Luedtke is a slide master of the first order with a powerful, warm set of pipes, and this one rocks throughout. Pick it up via CDBaby. It’s as comfortable as an old pair of shoes, but totally fresh, too.

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