Peter Struijk – Straight Blues | Album Review

peterstruijkcdPeter Struijk – Straight Blues

Blueshine Records BSR-12

12 songs – 38 minutes

Dutch singer-songwriter Peter Struijk spans the globe to enroll top-notch talent for this straightforward album of acoustic blues with an old-time feel. He enlisted the aid of Chicago diva Liz Mandeville and guitarist Rockin’ Johnny Burgin as well as musicians from his homeland to bring the project to fruition.

A native of Gouda, Netherlands, who grew up in The Hague, Struijk has worked extensively in the U.S., behind the Windy City’s Tail Dragger, with whom he recorded his first solo effort, Human Ways, joined by a quintet of Dutch blues superstars, including Dihl Bennick, Robbert Fossen, Hammie van Hall, Little Boogie Boy and Peter van Zon.

Since launching his own label, Blueshine Records, in 2010, he’s produced a strong catalog of home-grown talent. He and Fossen joined forces as a duo to win the Dutch Blues Challenge in 2012 and expanded into a four-piece band for the release of the album “Clubbing” a year later. In 2013 and 2014, Struijk also was a nominee as best blues guitarist in Holland.

Struijk is currently involved in a new project with vocalist Yoni Blue, but took time out to record this collection of three originals and nine covers, backed by guitarist/vocalist Riverside Jr., harmonica players van Zon and Robin van Roon and sax player Nicko Christiansen. Mandeville and Burgin make guest appearances together on one tone, and he contributes to another. Straight Blues is a laid-back production that would have pleased listeners in the ‘30s or ‘40s if Struijk had used a time machine and recorded it on acetate instead of using modern recording techniques.

Available through all of the major online retailers, the disc kicks off with a version of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Shining Moon” with van Roon providing sole accompaniment to Struijk’s powerful baritone voice and crisp, clean and classical fingerpicking and slide stylings. A comfortable rethink of Elmore James’ “Fine Little Mama” follows with Christiansen providing baritone sax assistance and a mid-song solo.

Rockin’ Johnny trades guitar licks and provides vocals for a version of John Lee Hooker’s “Big Legs Tight Skirt” before “Don’t Be So Mean,” the first original of the set. Struijk sings that he doesn’t want a fight, but advises the woman to stay out of his sight as van Roon provides another traditional harmonica fill. Furry Lewis’ “Going To Brownsville” follows before Riverside Jr. assumes singing duties for one of his own tunes, “Good Friend Feeling Bad.” It’s a stripped-bare, slow-paced lament that oozes with emotion as it describes someone revealing his feelings as he plays a bottleneck guitar.

The trip continues with a cover of Robert Johnson’s familiar “Ramblin’ On My Mind” before “Had The Blues Today,” an original that features von Zon on harp. It’s a love song in which the singer recalls feeling down after seeing his lady crying. Despite the message, his unaccompanied guitar riffs are sweet and upbeat.

The mood brightens even more as Mandeville takes to the mike to deliver one of her own tunes, “Bump In The Love,” with Rockin’ Johnny providing second guitar. A pair of old warhorses – a stirring instrumental version of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was The Night” and tender take on St. Louis Jimmy Oden’s “Goin’ Down Slow” – bookend the original “Lowdown Woman” to conclude the set.

Straight Blues is as comfortable as an old pair of shoes. Try ‘em on today. I’m sure they’ll fit!

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