CD: 13 Songs, 55:40 Minutes
Styles: Blues Covers, Harmonica Blues, Ensemble Blues, Horn Blues
True story: Yours truly is trying to write a novel. When I mentioned its premise to a friend, he said, “That’s not a new idea.” I wanted to blurt, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is to come up with a new one?!” Only now, several weeks later, has it hit me – the final insight on why so many bands primarily play covers. I have no idea how difficult it is to come up with original music, especially in a genre where fans prefer classics. The very first CD of Minnesota’s Paul Barry Blues Band, Talk is Cheap, contains six original songs out of thirteen: not quite half, and that’s a pity. Their other offerings include Magic Sam’s “That’s Why I’m Crying,” “Telephone Blues” by George Smith and Sam Ling, and “Big Walter’s Boogie” from Walter Horton.
When it comes to debut albums, of which this is one, my good friend also told me, “No one has the right to criticize or judge you, because this is your first [project]!” Maybe not, but readers do have the right to give their honest opinion. Ms. Wetnight’s has three parts. 1) Paul Barry is an absolute bear on harmonica. What he does best, he does with the caliber of the best in the field. 2) Vocally, he sings no notes, but no one will care once they hear the terrific instrumentation. 3) No wonder Barry’s excellent ensemble has shared the stage with far more well-known artists.
On his webpage, Paul reveals how he got started in this particular genre, and why he continues: “In the 1980’s and 1990’s, I played in two Twin Cities blues bands: Dave McRae and Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame member Bobby Johnson and The Crowns. [While] playing with these bands, I had the opportunity to open up and play with a lot of great blues musicians like: Willie Dixon, Jimmy Rogers, George ‘Harmonica’ Smith, William Clarke…Sunnyland Slim, and others.
“Another major influence on me was my friendship with Otis ‘Big Smokey’ Smothers [who composed two original numbers on Talk is Cheap]. I met Big Smokey in Chicago in 1978 and we developed a bond that lasted until his untimely death in 1993. I had the pleasure of backing up Big Smokey many times and was fortunate to record with him [on] his last known studio recording.” Paul Barry lists that Big Smokey Smothers album in his discography.
Paul Barry’s band consists of himself on harmonica and lead vocals; Lila Ammons on female vocals; Bill Black on bass; Jeremy Johnson on drums and guitar; Bruce McCabe on piano and organ; Max Ray on tenor sax; Phil Schmid on guitar; Victor Span on drums, and Tampa Spatz (who composed track nine, reviewed below) on piano.
Track 09: “J.J.’s Boogie” – The word “boogie,” like the word “shuffle,” can be applied to the music of several different instruments. There’s electric guitar boogie, piano boogie, harp boogie, acoustic boogie, even washboard boogie if it’s played at that tempo. As for “J.J.’s Boogie,” it’s a sly piano instrumental that might have been played at saloons in the nineteenth century – or even in the 1960’s, come to think of it. Dance until you drop, but don’t worry; this one’s meant to give you a spring in your step instead of a heart attack.
The Paul Barry Blues Band knows Talk is Cheap, but hot harmonica speaks louder than words!