Kerry Kearney – Tales From The Psychedelta
Highlander Records – 2020
12 tracks; 45 minutes
Kerry Kearney is an experienced guitar player from New York state. He has produced a string of CDs over the years, several bearing the word ‘Psychedelta’ which is the term Kerry has coined for his mixture of blues and roots music. Kerry is a strong slide player and most of these tracks feature that aspect of his playing, in electric and acoustic styles. The material comes from Kerry’s previous releases, some remastered, making this effectively a ‘Best Of’ package. There is consequently a long list of collaborators supporting Kerry’s guitar and vocal: drummers Eileen (Evan) Murphy, Mario Staiano and Louie Appel; bassists Frank Calenza, Peter Bennett and Pete Kiernan; percussionist Jeff Naimoli; keyboard players Jack Licitra, Tony Campo and Mark Mancini; harmonica players Charlie Wolfe and Ken ‘The Rocket’ Korb; Elizabeth Seton is credited with ‘ambiance’ on all tracks. In addition mandolin player ‘Papa Jim’ Fleming and vocalist Sam ‘Bluzman’ Taylor contribute to one track each. It should be noted that Sam Taylor passed in 2009 and drummer Louie Appel (Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes) in 2010, poignantly underlining the fact that these are archival recordings.
Last year Steve Jones reviewed Kerry’s Smokehouse Serenade which seems to have been more of a blues-rock album but here it is only really opening track “Five Time Man” that fits that description with some intense shredding from Kerry which at times overpowers his vocals. “Fatherless Boy” is a far gentler affair with outstanding dobro playing on a song that builds on the old “Motherless Child” gospel tune with a chorus of “the time has come to put away those toys; you’re a motherless child, I’m a fatherless boy”. Kerry further underlines his slide credentials on “Mississippi River Stomp” with some exciting playing that recalls Sonny Landreth and then plays “Trouble In Mind” at a jaunty pace, making it into more of an uptempo country blues than the usual versions.
Sam ‘Bluzman’ Taylor was a stalwart of the NYC blues scene (see the review of Legacy, a tribute to him by his former band members, in the October 25 issue) and here duets on vocals with Kerry on “Thank You, Jesus”, a gospel-tinged lyric sitting over a classic twelve-bar blues tune. Searing, fast-paced electric slide features on “Memphis High” which has a funkier edge courtesy of the keyboards while “Mean Old Frisco” is reprised from Kerry’s Ghosts Of The Psychedelta, reviewed by yours truly in October 2012. Perhaps it’s the gentle country blues feel of this track or the fact that Clapton covered the song in the 70’s but Kerry’s vocals certainly brought Slowhand to mind here! The pace increases on “V-oodoo Down The River” where the keyboards and guitar interchanges provide a melodic rock feel as Kerry solos intensely. The third non-original is the traditional “Lawdy Mama” (another tune covered by Mr Clapton back in the day); Kerry’s fast-paced version is great and provides a splendid vehicle for his expert slide playing, plus swirling keys and tough harp work.
The longest track here is “Runnin’, Weepin’, Tremblin’” which has plenty of guitar across its six minutes. “World Train” returns to Kerry’s acoustic side with fast-picked dobro set against minimal bass/drums, the song following a train journey through the Delta, also accompanied by Papa Jim’s mandolin and Charlie’s mournful harp. The final track “Schaefer Time/Duck House” is just Kerry on dobro, foot-stomps and gentle bass on a combination of a delicate tune which segues into a piece of Delta blues.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable album of slide-driven music that runs the gamut from acoustic to full-on electric blues. The siren call of blues-rock is mainly avoided and throughout the album Kerry demonstrates that he is a master of the slide guitar.