CD: 10 Songs, 54:29 Minutes
Styles: Traditional Electric Blues Covers
Who says summer is the only time to enjoy a blues festival featuring an all-star lineup? According to the promotional info sheet of Pennsylvania’s Soul Shakers, “On February 26, 2016, blues lovers of the Greater Scranton, PA area converged at the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple to shake off the Winter Blues for an evening of live performances by some of the best blues performers in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The fundraiser for the Scranton Cultural Center was christened the Soul Shakers Winter Blues Guitarmageddon. With hundreds in attendance, the Soul Shakers Rhythm Section (Sharon O’Connell, Bill Coleman and Eric Brody) provided the musical backdrop for an all-star roster of some of the best blues guitar acts in Northeast PA, including Phyllis Hopkins, Bob McCartney, Doug Hubert and his seven-year-old son, guitar prodigy Eamonn Hubert, Clarence Spady, and Teddy Young for their exceptional performances.” Peter Florance, Bob O’Connell and Jon Ventre also stars in this grand gathering.
Overall, Guitarmageddon delivers what its title promises. Phyllis Hopkins does an especially keen job on the second number. One will find plenty of smoking electric shredder here, but absolutely no original songs. Why? Yours truly has a theory and its corollary: 1) As mentioned earlier, this concert was a fundraiser. Therefore, 2) the Soul Shakers were required to play to the crowd. Crowds at blues shows always crave songs they know, such as B.B. King’s “Five Long Years,” “Before You Accuse Me,” and Taylor and McDaniel’s “I’m a Woman.” As a whole, the Soul Shakers exude mid-key positive energy: enough to get people’s toes tapping, but not enough to make them start dancing in the aisles. Two highlights are tracks three and four, on which Doug Hubert and young Eamonn Hubert display their prowess. “He’s only been playing two years,” the father says of his son. “I shudder to think where he’s going to be in two more!” Perhaps in a place where the student surpasses his teacher?
The following cover evokes the most emotion in the middle of this rocking blues festival:
Track 05: “Love in Vain” – Robert Johnson may have been famous for selling his soul to the Devil, but this rueful ballad of his depicts a different hell: “Baby, don’t get on that train, on that train. Please don’t make me cry.” Clarence Spady’s vocals might remind one of Rod Stewart’s in “Maggie May,” and his guitar work? Absolutely superb. Not only does he know how to play dozens of notes in lightning-speed succession, but to give each one the right amount of volume and emphasis. “Love in Vain” is worth pushing the REPEAT 1 button on one’s next playlist.
Blues cover compilations are like milk in some people’s refrigerators, and beer in others’ – staple foods, always welcome and rarely allowed to become stale. Guitarmageddon may not break any new musical ground, but once listeners hear everyone’s chopper sing, who’ll care? All of its all-stars put their best foot forward, even if they’re only seven years old!