14 tracks; 54 minutes
Shari Kane and Dave Steele were both touring musicians when they met and married in 1991. Sharing a love of acoustic blues they often played at home for their own amusement while continuing to perform in various bands. For their 20th anniversary they recorded an album for their own pleasure and issued it to a good reception. They now perform as a duo and this CD is the follow-up. It is just the two of them: both play acoustic guitar and sing, Dave taking the lead on most songs; Shari also plays some slide and Dave mandolin. Dave contributed two originals to the dozen varied covers from such classic blues masters as the Johnsons, Robert, Lonnie and Tommy; the Reverend Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt get two songs each.
With so many great blues masters it is perhaps surprising that the opening song is Chuck Berry’s “Thirteen Question Method” but Dave sings the song about teenage seduction techniques well with Shari on slide. From the first notes the sound is crystal clear and you can hear every note played perfectly so although the album was recorded at home these two know what they are doing. An early highlight is the gentle interpretation of “My Creole Belle”, a Mississippi John Hurt song which is not frequently covered. More often heard is “Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor” and this is another quite relaxed version with Dave’s world-weary voice fitting the song beautifully, especially when he sings “don’t you let my good girl catch you here”; you can imagine Dave casting a glance across at Shari as he sings this one! The two sing in harmony on Blind Blake’s “Early Morning Blues”, a song that dates all the way back to 1926, and combine it seamlessly with Ton van Bergeyk’s much more recent “Ton Of Blues”, a pairing that works very well.
They repeat the trick on “Milwaukee Blues” which is paired with “Beaumont Rag”, both tunes from the North Carolina Ramblers back in the 20’s, and Dock Boggs’ “Country Blues”, of similar vintage, provides a great opportunity for Dave to pick up his mandolin to good effect. The Mississippi Sheiks’ “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” is, of course, often covered and the moody slide that opens this version returns the song to its origins, Dave singing the familiar lyrics well. Lonnie Johnson and Eddie Lang are the source for the instrumental “Guitar Blues” which has some excellent acoustic work from both Dave and Shari. The album closes with the two Rev Gary Davis tunes wrapped round a RJ classic: first we get an uptempo reading of “If I Had My Way (Samson And Delilah)”, followed by “They’re Red Hot” with mandolin and a duo vocal, closing with the overtly gospel “I Will Do My Last Singing In This Land” which makes a good contrast with “Red Hot”!
Dave’s two originals fit in well with the repertoire on display here. “If I Don’t Jump” has references to St Peter and St Paul and seems to be talking about taking the plunge – into faith or relationships. There is plenty of good acoustic work here from both players on a lively number that even manages to rhyme ‘jump’ with Donald Trump! “The Last Day Of Summer” is a mournful blues about the death of a relative, good harmony vocals on the “Hallelujah” chorus and more mandolin from Dave.
If acoustic blues is your interest there is a lot to enjoy here on a simple but beautifully recorded disc.