Lil’ A And The Allnighters – Hip Ya
Straight Up Blues – 2019
10 tracks; 47 minutes
Alex ‘Lil’ A’ Woodson is based in Southern California and this disc is his first national release, an earlier disc being more of a demo recording made for the purpose of getting gigs. Recorded in just two days, the ten cuts represent an array of harmonica influences on Alex’s playing and include two originals. Alex handles lead vocals and harp and is well supported by Johnny Minguez on drums and Brion Munsey on bass; guitarists Billy Bates, Geoff Gurrola and Mark Amparan share the six string work, sometimes singly, often in pairs.
Alex’s style on harp is full-out attack, well demonstrated on the opening original instrumental ‘”Poppin’ Corn” on which producer Kenny Huff plays the bass, the cool West Coast style guitar making a nice contrast with the harp work. The title track “Hip Ya” is also Alex’s and it’s a strong cut with a pounding shuffle, great guitar work in West Coast style and good lyrics about warning a girl about how her guy is cheating on her. Darrell Nulisch’s “Love And War” goes back to his early album Business As Usual and Alex gives it a rumba rhythm with just Geoff on guitar for this one. Alex then covers tunes by some of his major harp influences: Alex’s vocals on Junior Wells’ “Country Girl” are good and the tune bounces along with Bill and Geoff dueling well on guitar while on Little Walter’s “Too Late Brother” the rhythm section pushes things along well. Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips” is a song that is frequently covered but, to be fair, Alex and the band do a great job on it, generating a fair amount of excitement over the four minutes. William Clarke appears to be a particular influence as there are two of his tunes here: “Chromatic Jump” provides a second instrumental vehicle for Alex’s heavily amplified, slightly distorted sound while an extended take on “Must Be Jelly” closes the album. Alex plays it as a slow blues but places a high energy middle section into the tune which is great in itself but is an oddity, sounding as if we have left the main tune behind completely, before we return to the slow blues style!
The other two tracks depart a little from the ‘giants of the harmonica’ theme and bring more of an Rn’B feel to the album as guitarist Mark Amparan plays some great stuff. The two songs in question are Betty Everett’s 1958 single “Ain’t Gonna Cry No More” and Earl King’s “Those Lonely, Lonely Nights”, perhaps best known from Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson’s version: both are very well played but are perhaps less suited to Alex’s voice.
Already an established part of the SoCal blues scene this CD will enable people in other parts of the US to hear what Lil’ A And The Allnighters have to offer.