Roger C. Wade and Balta Bordoy – The Schoolhouse Sessions | Album Review

Roger C. Wade meets Balta Bordoy – The Schoolhouse Sessions

Steeplejack Music

CD: 13 Songs, 44:35 Minutes

Styles: Blues Covers, Ensemble Blues

In American culture, words such as “basic” and “simple” have often become derogatory. To call someone “basic,” for example, means that they only put forth the bare minimum to keep up with today’s fashion trends. We like to think that complexity is what we crave, but consider: Foreign blues artists often play purer, more authentic music because they go back to basics, not because they spurn them. Germany’s Roger C. Wade, Balta Bordoy and company are excellent examples. Their Schoolhouse Sessions serve as a primer for the genre, perfect for newcomers and veterans alike. On nine classic covers (“It Must Have Been the Devil,” “Little Baby,” “My Daily Wish,” et al.) and four original songs, they run through the blues alphabet from A to Z. Wade’s accent is noticeable, but his lyrics are credibly clear. His fellow performers bring Chuck Berry to mind in the very best way, making one remember or discover Chuck’s After-School Sessions.

British-born singer/harmonica player Roger C. Wade, also known as Little Roger, and his pianist wife Marion are based near Bonn, Germany. They have been playing 1950s-style Chicago blues and swinging R&B since the early ‘90s. In the first half of that decade, they founded Little Roger & the Houserockers, together with local blues guitarist T-Man Michalke. They have been playing together ever since and have recorded five Houserockers albums to date. This CD, however, is not one of them. It had been Roger’s longtime wish to set up a more-or-less unrehearsed, old-school recording session in a no-frills studio with good acoustics.

In 2017, while playing a small tour in Spain, Roger met Balta Bordoy, and that wish turned into a plan. Balta is a talented blues guitarist from Barcelona, who is strongly influenced by Jimmy Rogers and Robert Lockwood, Jr – the masters who basically “wrote the book” on how to back up a harmonica. To refine his skills, Bordoy has played with such harp greats as Keith Dunn and James Harman. Rounding out the band is drummer Drori Mondlak, an American-born stalwart of the Cologne jazz scene. Together, they make blues fans young again, for all are young at heart.

The following original tune is the best of the lot, showcasing the band’s compositional talent.

Track 12: “Pickin’ Chicken Boogie” – Balta Bordoy’s superb guitar skills are on full display during this instrumental, as are Marion Wade’s flying fingers on 88 keys. Not only is this ditty danceable, but one can “pick it apart” to find more and more musical meat underneath the swinging skin, concentrating on various instruments throughout several replays. Boogies such as this one are often underrated. They’re fun songs, but serious effort has been put into them.

Head on over to Roger C. Wade and Balta Bordoy’s Schoolhouse for melodic, retro Sessions!

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