Shake Your Boogie
Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys
Rick (aka The Reverend) Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys may be a regional act out of Milwaukee but they sound as big and solid as anyone else out there on the blues scene. The blistering guitar work, poignant sax and harp, and gritty vocals make these guys one of my favorites to go see when they come to town.
A few years ago when I’d heard Rick Raven had traded in his harp player for a sax player I wondered how it would sound. Between Madison Slim and Benny Rickun as his harp players, the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys sound was a perfect accompaniment to Raven’s solid guitar and vocals. Those concerns dissipated the first time I heard him live with Big Al Groth on sax. For those of you who may not have heard them live together, the first track on this CD will dispel any concerns. “Looking for Love” is burning hot and Groth’s sax work fans the flames oh-so nicely. Rick wrote the song and it is a nice original cut. Groth appears on most of the CD (nine tracks); the songs where Al is not featured on sax feature Madison Slim on harp. Slim’s harp work is exceptional and he provides gritty vocals on those four tracks, too. “She’s Murder”, “Like Wolf”, “Mail Box Blues” and “Shake Your Boogie” are superb covers with the Rev beating out some great blues as Slim wails on harp and vocals.
Track two was penned by another local favorite, the very talented Gerry Hundt. “Stomping and Shouting” feature Raven’s brand of nasal-bluesy, down home vocals and stinging guitar; Groth’s sax solo is really hot about half way through and then Raven takes over the lead on guitar and is equally hot. His solo closes the song and by the end I felt like I needed a bottle of water to cool off. Probably the best track here, but it’s hard to compare because the new and covered stuff is great, too. Hundt also wrote “Walking to Chicago”, a grooving tune that Rick and Al blast away on. Raven’s “You Didn’t Even Say Goodbye” swings and jives with Raven and Groth playing back and forth and together tightly.
This is an excellent CD that both new and old fans will appreciate. We get to hear a few older tracks with Madison Slim and a lot of newer ones with the Big Al Groth; both of these guys are superb in support of the Rev. And one cannot leave out the current or older back line guys. PT Pederson and Bobby Lee Sellers Jr are great on bass and drums, and Sellers sings exceptionally well on a couple of cuts where he is featured. The songs with Slim feature Andre Maritato and Spencer Panosh on bass and drums and also Mickey Larson on keys. Danny Moore provided keyboard support on four of the newer tracks. All in all, this is one heck of a rocking blues CD. Highly recommended!
Reviewed by Steve Jones