E Natchel Records
“As Advertised”…The title says it all. This is “Real Deal” blues from the first note to the last. A reviewer can get weary covering bands that purport to play the blues. Just because you stick a harmonica player in the band and make references to hard times, it doesn’t necessarily make it the blues. Tom Holland and his crew have obviously paid their dues and soaked up the dynamics of what makes the blues the blues. They create an authentic and original sound without mimicking. Familiar sounds and snippets of lyrics pop-up at times, but that is the nature of the blues. Being harmonica legend James Cotton’s choice for guitarist for some years now hasn’t hurt in steeping him in blues. Tom’s guitar styles draw from the well to create something fresh and new. Having a “bluesy” and warm-toned voice doesn’t hurt either. All of this over a tight rhythm section and a few assists from some top-of-the-line players. Strong original blues like what we have hear will keep the genre vibrant in the future.
Hey, what else would The Shuffle Kings start off with other than a easy-loping shuffle in “Waiting For The Other Shoe To Drop”. It’s easy to see that Tom’s voice is the right fit for the music these guys make. His regular and slide guitar skills liven things up here as well as over the entire CD. Big D lays down some heavy harmonica licks over Mike Scharf’s heavy bass line to compliment the greasy slide work on “Hurry Up & Wait”. Tales of returning to his sweetie after being out on the road are set against a breezy rhythm on “Easiest Thing I’ll Ever Do”. Tom’s guitar skills are given room to shine on the instrumental “Hey Pardner!”, along side tasty harp and a grooving rhythm section. Everything gels perfectly and sounds effortless.
Chicago stalwart John Primer contributes his masterful guitar playing to “More Things Change”, two masters doing what they do best. Marty Sammon makes his first of four appearances here, rounding out the sound. They both show up on the band’s theme song, “Shuffle King Boogie”. What a great show opener this one would make. Drummer Tino Cortes makes good use of his “crash cymbal” and is no slouch throughout the record. The band digs deep in the blues for the slow burner that is “Hardest Part Of Loving You”. Nice and bouncy drum rhythms move “Look Here Baby” along at an exuberant pace. The title track, another sprightly instrumental closes out the CD. Equal time is given for Big D to strut his stuff on harmonica.
WOW!…Ok let me finish this up so I can give this “puppy” another spin. This is the stuff that got me hooked on the blues way back when. Dang, these guys can play. Every note and beat just belongs perfectly where it is. The lyrics are basic, but heartfelt. If you are new to the blues or an old timer like me who is a sucker for this stuff, do yourself a favor and pick this one up.