Popa Chubby and The Beast Band – Live at G. Bluey’s Juke Joint NYC
19 tracks – 135 minutes
Ted “Popa Chubby” Horowitz (aka: Don Chubblione, The Capo of Love per his liner notes) has been in the New York forefront for over 35 years. He got his start in the 90’s as the house band for the New York City club Manny’s Car Wash and served as the host for their jam sessions. He released his first album, Gas Money, in 1994 and now with this release has well over two dozen albums to his credit. His music style is hard hitting blues rock. His release notes describe his music as “The Stooges meets Buddy Guy, Motorhead meets Muddy Waters and Jimi Hendrix meets Robert Johnson.”
In his early days watching bands in New York, he saw the theatrical antics of The Ramones, The Cramps, and The Sex Pistols and saw their popularity rise with the sense of danger they represented. However, his musical foundation was the blues, and his connections were Hendrix, Cream, and Led Zeppelin. He recognized that blues could be dangerous also citing that “Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters were dangerous men. They’d cut you or shoot you if they thought it was necessary, and Little Walter packed a gun and wouldn’t hesitate to use it. That danger is part of the blues and I keep it alive in my music.”
This album was recorded totally live on October 24 and 25, 2022 with no edits or re-takes. However, the site G. Bluey’s, is not a real club, but rather is part of a vast three floor sound studio where he records all of his albums with soundman Glen Forrest. It was recorded in front of 25 invited guests for each night. Popa, of course, provides all guitar and lead vocals, backing vocals are performed by all of The Beast Band members – Michael Merrit, who played in Billy Gibbons solo band, on bass; Mike Dimeo, formerly with Johnny Winters, on keyboards; and Stefano Giudici on drums.
The album is a sort of greatest hits, but in expanded versions in many cases, with a mixture of his originals, a few covers that have previously occurred on other albums from Popa, and a few new covers. The album opens with an almost seven-minute version of Neil Young’s “Motorcycle Mama”, which is the first single from the album. His guitar blasts out with the first note and his powerful voice drives the song along. His popular song “Another Ten Years Gone” looks back to his early life and experiencing the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Willie Dixon. He reassures that “the blues keeps moving on”. Popa’s version of “Hey Joe” has long been a feature of his performances and has been on his earlier albums.
“Dirty Lie” first appeared on his 2002 album The Good, The Bad and The Chubby and is followed by “69 Dollars” from 2013’s Universal Breakdown Blues, which kicks in a little jazz. The instrumental “Godfather Theme” starts with the announcement that Luca Brazzi sleeps with the fishes. “Dirty Diesel” from 2016’s The Catfish feature’s Mike’s B3. “Grown Man Crying Blues” from 2007’s Deliveries after Dark is stretched out to an almost 14- minute song, which gives time for some fiery guitar solos intermixed with some excellent organ solo work from Mike. He closes out the first disk with his version of “Over the Rainbow”, an instrumental cover that has become a staple of his live performances and certainly a showstopper in the vein of Hendrix playing the “Star-Spangled Banner”.
Disk two opens with “It’s A Mighty Hard Road”, the title track of his 2022 album. “I Don’t Want Nobody”, another song from his 2013 album comes out rocking and never lets up. “I Can’t See the Light of Day” also from his 2002 album slows things down and allows Michael’s bass to get an opportunity to shine. He explains at the start of the song that is one of the songs that gets little recognition on the radio that he thinks should get play. “Embee’s Song” from 2021’s Tinfoil Hat” is a soft ballad dedicated to his life partner, Mary Beth Stolz.
“Steel Horse Serenade” from 2010’s The Fight Is On is a mid-tempo song that starts to build up steam again. This leads into a ten- and half-minute version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. Tom Wait’s “Heart Attack and Vine” is given more power than Wait’s own performance of the song. “Sweat” is a Popa original relating a tale of sex and murder, a sort of rap with a jazzy bass and keys run. “Nobody Wants You When You’re Down and Out” was written by Jimmy Cox and originally performed by Bobby Womack. The album finishes with “Sympathy for the Devil/ Chubby’s Story”, a combination of a cover of the Rolling Stone’s song that folds into Chubby’s own story given as a spoken rap interlude with a tip of the hat to The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed.
Popa Chubby is certainly one of the top performers in the blues rock arena and deserves a higher recognition than he receives. His songs are always well written both from an instrumental and lyrical perspective and his vocals are powerful and appealing. He tours heavily in Europe where he says there is still a greater appreciation for his style of music than currently exists in the US. I can readily encourage you to give the album a listen if you like the blues rock idiom.