Les Copeland – One More Foot in the Quicksand
Earwig Music Company CD 4973
18 songs – 72 minutes
One of the most respected blues artists in Western Canada and based out of Vernon, B.C., Les Copeland proves once again that he’s a skilled guitarist across multiple platforms with this release, his third under the auspices of Chicago’s Earwig Music.
A lifelong musician who cut his teeth on pre-War Piedmont blues as a child, his stylings on the six-string are deeply influenced by Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Blake, Barbecue Bob and Furry Lewis. He also had a close relationship with the legendary David “Honeyboy” Edwards, frequently serving as the first-generation acoustic blues superstar’s opening act and later traveling across Europe in his trio, which also included Michael Frank, Edwards’ longtime harmonica player and manager as well as the founder of his current label.
Copeland’s also served as front man for pop, jazz and mainstream blues bands, too, something that comes across loud and clear on this lengthy, diverse album. Les switches off on electric, acoustic and slide guitars here, accompanied by Cameron Ward on bass and Scott Grant on drums. Frank makes the only guest appearance, sitting in on harp for a single cut.
A collection of seven originals and 10 covers, the disc opens with a funky, modern uptempo take on Albert King’s “Change of Pace.” Copeland’s stylish single-note solos breathe new life into it. His attack is solo and the six-string’s electric for a powerful take on Big Bill Broonzy’s warhorse, “When I Been Drinking,” before exhibiting his acoustic picking skills on Sleepy John Estes’ “Drop Down Mama,” reworking it with a sprightly dance groove.
Copeland’s picking skills on Freddie King’s ‘70s powerhouse, “Woman Across the Water,” are prodigious, but his vocals are somewhat wanting prior to a run of four originals, which follow. “Gone” is a top-notch acoustic pleaser that’s a bittersweet announcement that someone dear is departing, while the walking blues, “Perfect Man Like You,” features Les solo on both electric and slide. “Uncle to Aunt,” an electrified instrumental in trio format, is up next before “This Fool Will Never Know” is a sentimental, melodic ballad on which the guitarist trades licks with himself as he sings about lost love.
A cover of Broonzy’s “Treat Everybody Right” provides some good advice before the original, “Tiny People,” revisits the sound of Santo & Johnny, Brooklyn-born brothers whose steel guitar instrumental, “Sleep Walk,” topped the charts in the late ‘50s. Copeland’s joined by Frank for Shannon Lyons’ “Soggy Bottom Breakdown” next. A new tune with a ’60s swamp-pop feel, it moves forward sensually before “Let’s Get Together Again” delivers a message of friendship atop a medium-slow dance groove.
The pleasant, true blues shuffle, “Good Friends,” moves the message forward before a take on Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah I Love Her So” and four more originals – the acoustic Piedmont styled “I’d Be Nothing,” “Lost Sheep Out in the Woods,” which has a ‘50s Chicago feel, and the funky “Just Another Foot in the Quicksand” and “Gotta Get Up” – bring the action to a close.
Available through most major retailers, One More Foot in the Quicksand will have you tapping your toes throughout, and Copeland’s a great picker. He would have been better served, however — and the album would have been much stronger with the omission of a few weaker tunes from its 72-minute run.