PFOB Music/Plantation #1
13 tracks/50:28 running time
As stated in the Max Hightower composed tune “Train Smoke,” band leader Mac Arnold indeed goes back like train smoke. James Brown was the piano man in his first band. Mac Arnold was also the bass player in the 1966 lineup of the Muddy Waters band that included Luther Johnson, Sammy Lawhorn and Muddy on guitars, Francis Clay on drums and Otis Spann on piano. After moving on from Muddy Waters (with a standing invitation to come back anytime), Mac’s next band, the Soul Invaders, backed B.B. King, Jr. Wells, Tyrone Davis and many others. When Mac moved to Los Angeles in the early ’70s, he joined the house band at Don Cornelius’s Soul Train television show. He moved back to his native South Carolina in the ’80s. After a period of relative musical inactivity, Arnold returned to the fore in 2005 with Plate Full O’ Blues. Give It Away is their 5th album to date.
Mac and the guys are serving up a Blues Plate Special here. The band’s other members are Austin Brashier on guitar and vocals, Max Hightower on harmonica, keyboard, bass and vocals. Scotty Hawkins helps out on drums. He is not listed as a band member in the liner notes.
Give It Away grows on you. On the fourth listen, for this reviewer, the fluid aspects of the production suddenly gelled and the recording went from just good to superlative. This album gives you many different auditory looks, but musically and thematically the gist seems to be country Blues. Even track 2,”Don’t Burn My Cornbread,” with it’s laid back reggae backbeat and motif, conjures up images of perhaps lounging in the hammock on the porch as those aromas coming out of the kitchen entice you to admonish your sweet cook to cook it right. The guitars most assuredly swing gently throughout.
Mac Arnold’s husky vocal on track 3, “Uncle DeWitts Cafe,” is also a storytelling treat. Arnold’s phrasing will turn your head around. Listen as he elongates his Uncle’s name into three syllables. The story line is a joyful romp into Mac’s past. He ain’t gonna tell it all just yet. The liner note states there are more juke joint stories to come.
Max Hightower handles the vocals on tracks 4 and 10, “Damned If I Do,” and “Relationship Man,” respectively. Hightower’s tenor inflections and phrasing suggest the late Stevie Ray Vaughn. Hightower’s harmonica work is consistently on point.
The guitar work of Austin Brashier is economic and tasteful. The fact that all the members of Plate Full O’ Blues sing capable lead, write individually and collectively for the band, enhances their creative worth. Brashier wrote tracks 5 and 13. Tracks 4,5,7,8 and 9 are written by Max Hightower. Bandleader Mac Arnold wrote tracks 1,2, and 3. The 4 page cd insert explains fully the creative interplay between the members for each song. A valuable addition to the package.
If you’re ever in Greenville, South Carolina, check out Dr. Mac Arnold’s Blues Restaurant. The Dr. title was bestowed upon him by USC Columbia for an Honorary Doctorate Degree in music. He’s also an organic farmer. If you can’t make it to Greenville, grab this CD for your collection.
EDITOR”A NOTE – As the title of the album states Mac and the band are literally “Givin It Away”. The album is a free one for Mac’s fans. You can download you copy (for free) at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/macarnold3