Red’s Blues – Broke Down in the Fast Lane | Album Review

Red’s Blues – Broke Down in the Fast Lane

Sherry & Ray Music/BMI

CD: 11 Songs, 38 Minutes

Styles: “Traditional Contemporary” Electric Blues Rock

At the end of summer, what’s more apropos than a CD featuring travel songs? Broke Down in the Fast Lane, the latest album from Red’s Blues, is perfect for a long weekend or short drive. It features ten original tracks and one cover, “Howlin’ Winds” by Joe Turner. The rest constitute a catchy collection of tunes about, and fit for, the open road. The band’s high standard of musicianship is clearly evident. They’ve added renowned guest stars such as Johnny Burgin, Rick Estrin, and Kid Andersen along for the ride. On vocals, they’re more than passable, mid-octane in terms of mood and tempo. The fuel for inspiration on this album, however, is its lyrical content. Several of the numbers are autobiographical. For example, the title track is a true tale of breaking down on an LA freeway in a rainstorm, and “Jackknifed,” co-authored with fellow road warrior Mark Hummel, is an ode to their Golden State/Lone Star Blues Revue adventures.

Leading members Beth and RW Grigsby are no strangers to touring and performing. Beth, thanks to her older brother, grew up listening to Huddie Ledbetter, Muddy Waters and Mississippi John Hurt records and as a kid, learned from and sang at home with her Mom: “Summertime,” “God Bless the Child,” and “St. Louis Blues.”  Across the street in her hometown of south Santa Barbara though, the shy seven-year old was bold enough to perch on the neighbor’s porch and listen to a Cuban salsa band rehearse, and from that learned to love the rhythms, the bass, and percussion in particular. She and RW met through the local Santa Barbara blues scene years later in 1977, and have lived in his home state of Georgia and then Texas before heading back to sunny Sacramento, California in 2006.

Performing along with Beth and RW (vocals and harmonies) are Doug Crumpacker on guitars, vocals and harmonica and Tim Wilbur on drums, percussion, and vocals. Special guests include Johnny Burgin on guitar, John Cocuzzi on piano, Rick Estrin on harmonica, Sid Morris on piano and organ, Kyle Rowland on guitar and harmonica, Kid Andersen on Wurlitzer electric piano and harmony vocals, and Grub Mitchell on piano and harmony vocals. Kid Andersen himself mixed and mastered this CD at Greaseland in San Jose, California.

Surefire highlights include “Road Scholar,” “Jackknifed,” “Sweet Karma,” and “A Word About Gossip.” A word about those last two: The former is what we’re all waiting for – to happen to someone else, that is. “Waiting for the rain to fall is like waiting for a lover to call. And we feel the world will never be the same, but don’t try to play that same old hustler’s game.” About this same subject, she says, “You act like a king in your make-believe land, burning all around you, but you don’t lend a hand. You brood and you’re bitter, petty, full of hate; your phony words a dollar short and a day too late.” Ouch. What could lead to such pronouncements? For one, if you engage in malicious gossip. The band channels the Everly Brothers while Kyle Rowland makes his harmonica howl with wounded pride.

Itching to hit the road before summer does? Put Broke Down in the Fast Lane on your playlist!

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