The Duo-Sonics are led by two veteran musicians based in Oklahoma, guitarist Bobby Parker and David Berntson on harmonica. Both men have more than thirty-five years of experience in addition to being very active in presenting blues in area schools. Berntson’s efforts were recognized in 2006 when the Blues Foundation named him the recipient of a Keeping The Blues Alive Award for Education.
Their latest release, nominated for a 2015 Blues Blast award for Acoustic Blues Album, is a delightful mix of refashioned covers and several intriguing original songs. Their unconventional opener is a brief, lightly swinging Parker instrumental, “The Purple Cat,” with a hint of the tango featuring “Ice Pick Walt” Gibson on upright bass and Damon Daniels on percussion. A cover of “Early In The Morning” sports a rolling beat from Robbie Armstrong behind Berntson’s understated vocal. The temperatures rise on the Berry-esque rocker, “She’s Good To Me,” with both leaders delivering well-played solos on their respective instruments.
Parker gets to stretch out on another original instrumental entitled “Side Pocket”. Berntson uses his Hohner chromatic harp to add flavoring while Casey Van Beck on bass anchors the rhythm. Al Jolson’s “Back In Your Own Backyard” is just the duo with Parker riffing with gusto behind Berntson’s mellow vocal. He switches to a resonator guitar on “She Keeps Me Laughing,” adding a convincing lead vocal. With Parker playing a tough, hypnotic guitar line and Berntson blowing some full-bodied harp tones, “Love Me One More Once” never strays from the tight groove.
Another strong duo performance occurs on Little Walter’s “Can’t Hold Out Much Longer”. Berntson’s harp creates an appropriately forlorn backdrop for Parker’s subdued vocal. The guitarist also demonstrates his deep understanding of the Delta guitar style. “I’m Walkin’” is taken at a carefree pace with the focus on the vocal harmonizing by the co-leaders. Berntson’s original, “Clothes Make The Man,” provides him with extended blowing time, and he makes every second count.
They pay homage to Jimmy Reed on “The Sun Is Shining,” the rhythm section providing the lazy shuffle pattern while Berntson pulls high, reedy notes out of his harp. To close out the program, they return to the duo format for an intimate rendition of Jimmy Roger’s “Money, Marbles, and Chalk”. They hold your interest for six minutes, Parker’s guitar echoing his gripping vocal while Berntson underscores Parker’s efforts with several well-placed bursts of amplified harp.
Parker and Berntson definitely know their stuff. Using a relaxed, thoughtful approach mixed with a variety of styles, their release is a welcome relief from the avalanche of product filled with screaming vocals and instruments. If you favor good, old-fashion music-making, this one will bring you plenty of enjoyment.
- Reviewed by Mark Thompson