Popa Chubby – The Catfish
Popa Chubby Productions 54221
12 songs – 57 minutes
No one in the blues community is enigmatic as Popa Chubby. Despite his heavily tattooed appearance and sometimes in-your-face personality, like the music he plays, he’s a true dichotomy: intelligently switching between hard-edged blues-rock to jazz and sweet, gutbucket blues, as The Catfish, the 18th release in his 25-year catalog, clearly shows.
There’s no argument about his punk pedigree, having spent his youth in denizens like CBGB in New York. But beneath the weathered surface, he’s a larger-than-life, thinking, caring man with a great appreciation for his fans. “This recording is for you,” he states in the liner notes of this one. “You inspire me every day. You make me want to play better, write better, sing better.”
A fearless entertainer, Chubby – born Ted Horowitz – is a powerful vocalist and guitar player who’s able to switch from the most tender of blues ballads to the most blistering rock riffs without a moment’s notice, as The Catfish demonstrates once again. A collection of 10 originals and two covers, Popa contributes most of the instrumentation here, playing guitar and providing percussion on all tracks, drums and bass on six tunes and keyboards on another
He backed here by Dave Keyes on keyboards throughout with additional rhythm from Dave Moore and Rich Monica (drums) and Matt Lapham (bass). Chubby’s daughter, Tipitina Horowitz, provides trumpet accents for two cuts.
The rock-tinged blues “Going Downtown See My Old Gal Sue” opens the set with Chubby flying across the Stratocaster with burning single-note runs atop a funky backbeat, displaying the six-string mastery fans have come to love. “Good Thing,” a funk with guitar breaks, a jazzy piano solo and plenty of sexual innuendo follows before a new arrangement of “Bye Bye Love,” a tune written by Felice and Bodleaux Bryant and a hit for both Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers.
“Cry Till It’s A Dull Ache,” a straight-ahead blues-rocker about enduring five years of agony after a lady said goodbye, precedes “Wes Is More,” a seven-minute tribute to guitarist Wes Montgomery. It’s a sweet sonic break from what’s come before and puts Chubby’s jazz chops on display with stop-time breaks and swinging riffs from Keyes on the keys.
Popa channels Lemmy Kilmister for the rocker “Motorhead Saved My Life” before the tempo slows for “Blues For Charlie,” a burning instrumental, before picking up steam for “Dirty Diesel,” an uptempo number about a woman who’s out-of-control but still looking good. A military drumbeat and Tipitina’s horn introduce “Slow Down Sugar,” a reggae-flavored rap that urges the subject to make the morning last.
“Put A Grown Man To Shame” comes across with a Memphis feel before the cover tune, “The Catfish,” hints of the Delta as it draws parallels between the river bottom dweller and Chubby himself, knowing he’s fat, elusive and always the boss. A country blues cover of Robert Johnson’s “C’mon In My Kitchen” brings the CD to a close.
Available through most major retailers and dedicated to the memory of Timber Dawg Horowitz, a pooch Chubby lost after five short years, The Catfish presents Popa at his best. If your ears are open to influences beyond the old blues one-four-five, you’ll love this one.