Kurt Crandall – Take It Off
YesterYear Records – 2016
10 tracks; 44 minutes
Kurt Crandall is a much-travelled harmonica player, having lived and played in Seattle, Georgia and Chicago before his present sojourn in Richmond, Virginia, where this CD was recorded. On his first two releases Kurt showed a good command of the swinging styles associated with Kansas City, Chicago and the West Coast, as well as a wicked sense of humour, but it has been seven years since his last CD. On his third release Kurt wrote eight of the ten tracks and handles all harmonica and vocal duties, supported by Bill Heid (Big Joe & The Dynaflows) on keys, Karl Angerer (Lee Mc Bee, RJ Mischo) on guitar, Rusty Farmer or Steve Riggs on upright bass and Aaron Binder or Johnny Hott on drums; Brad Kinder (rhythm guitar) guests on one track and Lester Warner and Jaisson Taylor add backing vocals.
Bill’s cool organ and Karl’s rockabilly guitar feature on the opening tune in which Kurt is attracted by a lovely heptathlete and decides that he has to be her “8th Event”! A mambo rhythm and Kurt’s harp open the title cut in which Kurt challenges all males with incipient baldness to “Take It Off”: “Comb over – big mistake, spreading your hair like a garden rake; what happens, a mighty wind makes it stick up like a dorsal fin”. Karl adds some nice Albert Collins style guitar to complete an impressive track. Kurt bemoans a girl who “Can’t Dance” in a swinging number with terrific harp, guitar and piano before Bill again provides some cool jazz organ on “Loser”, Kurt explaining that losing can become a habit but he “ain’t lost my love for you”. Another comic song is the swinging shuffle “Dirty Pete”, about a guy who still attracts the girls despite obvious personal hygiene issues. Some tougher harp playing introduces “Why You Do”, another swinger about getting the silent treatment.
There are three instrumentals: “Taquito Under My Seat” has Kurt blowing chromatic harp over some sparkling piano and guitar, all supported by a great latin rhythm section; “Figgy Bag” is a fast swing tune with Kurt’s harp featured throughout, the sort of piece that we associate with players like Rod Piazza; Thelonius Monk’s “Bolivar Blues” closes the album in jazzy mood with Bill’s piano playing appropriately up front and bassist Rusty taking a short solo. The other cover is Big Joe Turner’s “TV Mamma” (here spelt with double m) which returns the song to its origins rather than some of the more aggressive versions that have been recorded.
With a clear vocal style, good harmonica skills and an ability to pen amusing songs, Kurt Crandall is a genuine triple threat. Recorded with a solid band of musicians “Take It Off” is definitely worthy of consideration by blues fans.