Knowledge You Can't Get in College
My first exposure to R.J. Mischo came back in 1997 when I purchased a copy of Ready to Go, a recording featuring Mischo and the Teddy Morgan Blues Band with singer Percy Strother. It was a killer disc that still sounds great whenever I pull it out for another listen.
His latest release finds R.J. continuing to deliver his high quality brand of blues. And his taste in guitar players is still as good as ever, with Chris “Kid” Andersen and Rusty Zinn helping out in fine fashion. The rest of the band includes Sid Morris on keyboards, Kedar Roy on bass and June Core sharing the drum chair with Hans Boss. The setlist includes nine original tunes from Mischo and a handful of deep blues from the likes of Roosevelt Sykes, Big Lucky Carter and the legendary New Orleans guitarist, Snooks Eagllin.
Mischo is a talented songwriter with a knack for turning descriptive phrases like “I got a $2 shine on a 50 cent soul”, taken from the opening cut “Two Hours From Tulsa”. Mischo recounts the rigors of life on the road as he hurries to get back home, while taking time to demonstrate his skillful use of the chromatic harp. “Too Cool For School” is a jumpin' instrumental with R.J. trying to blow the reed out of his harmonica and Andersen burning up his fretboard. The title cut is highlight, featuring more of Mischo's expert wordplay over a slinky rhythm as the leader tries to school a woman who has been to a fancy college – but Mischo warns her that she has never been to school.
Zinn makes his first appearance on “Ain't Nothin' New”, dominating the track with his clean tone and taut licks. The band sets up a rollicking rhythm on a cover of “Ruthie Lee”, with Morris doing a fine interpretation of the Sykes piano style.”Teacher's Pet” is another instrumental with Mischo and Zinn taking a more subdued approach while still impressing with their instrumental prowess. Mischo's expressive vocal on “Big Plans” is another highlight and he belts out a warning on “Don't Look Twice” regarding the consequences for any man brave enough to check out his woman. Mischo struggles to overcome financial disparity as he competes with a “Rich Cat” for a woman's affections. Zinn tries to win her over with one of his dazzling guitar solos. The liner notes warn that“Down to the Bottom” has a vinyl LP simulation and cautions listeners that there isn't anything wrong with their stereo system. The cut does more finely wrought harp playing from Mischo.
This disc is one of the best recordings in R.J. Mischo's career. There is never a dull moment, thanks to the leader's strength as a composer and the combined musical talents of the outstanding band Mischo has backing him, not to mention his fine singing and harp blowing. Don't be afraid to spend your hard-earned entertainment dollars on this disc and let R.J. Take you to school !!!
Reviewed by Mark Thompson