13 songs – 51 minutes
A three-piece outfit like their name implies, The Lucky 3 Blues Band is a collection of longtime friends who’ve spent decades working in the Chicago music scene in one capacity or another.
Guitarist Jay O’Rourke is a former mastering engineer at Bruce Iglauer’s Alligator Records who’s worked with Warren Zevon and Ian Hunter as well as playing the six-string for The Insiders. Harp player Frank Raven cut his teeth sitting in with Buddy Guy and Lefty Dizz at the Checkerboard Lounge. He hosted the jam at Guy’s Legends for a couple of years in addition to fronting his own self-named bands as well as local favorites Slammin’ Watusis and The Blue Watusis. Vocalist and fellow songwriter Jim Desmond has worked his way through several musical styles, with his first love always being the blues.
Together, they are familiar faces on the North and West Side music scenes in the Windy City as they deliver straight-ahead Chicago blues, as evidenced in this well-conceived, self-produced CD. They’re assisted by background vocals from Preston Graves, Holly Wasnea, Anna Fermin, Marcus David, Max Good, Mark Panick, Teddy Thornhill, P.H. Stam, Grant Tye and Jimmi Hendrixson. Although evident in the mix, drums and percussion go uncredited.
True to their roots, a harmonica riff kicks off “Maxwell Street Blues,” a fond recollection of the open-air market on the near South Side, where you could purchase anything under the sun while listening to some of the best free music in the city. O’Rourke’s slide work is steady as Desmond’s smooth, but gravel-coated voice recalls going to Smoky Joe’s, a clothing store, where you could buy a sharkskin suit, some new boots and much, much more. The tune was recorded live in an alley. It’s the first of eight consecutive originals, with five covers finishing the set.
Vocals and harp play call-and-response throughout “Junkyard,” a complaint about living in a loop in which no one seems to succeed. Raven’s delivery is rock solid, but refreshingly sans the over-the-top flash demonstrated by so many reed benders today. The guitar carries the hook for “Boogaloo Test,” a funky reprise that insists if something’s good, it got to pass the test. “Too Much Funky Business” follows. It’s a blues rocker about an ex-beauty queen know-it-all with something to hide.
The mood slows down with the ballad “So Alone” before “Who’s Hoodooin’ Who?” a bit of funk with a New Orleans feel and plenty of magical imagery. An electric guitar line atop drum pattern kick off “Old Dog,” a statement that the singer’s a lone wolf out on the prowl with a new set of tricks. The imagery continues with “Midnight On The Highway” before the band concludes with a set of covers, all recorded live at guitarist Dave Specter’s SPACE nightclub in Evanston, Il. It includes Honeyboy Edwards’ “Wind Howlin’ Blues,” Johnny Kidd’s “Shakin All Over,” Junior Wells’ “Hoodoo Man Blues,” J.B. Hutto’s “Too Much Alcohol” and Ellis McDaniel’s “I’m A Man.”
If your tastes run to power blues trios, you like this one. It’s available through CDBaby. It doesn’t cut any new ground, but definitely delivers the goods.