Thursday, July 26, 2012

Make It Good reviewed by Mark Thompson

Make It Good
RJ Mischo
Delta Groove Music
13 tracks/44:28

Twenty years ago, critics were singing the praises of a recording by a tight ensemble out of Minneapolis, the RJ & Kid Morgan Blues Band. By that point in time, RJ Mischo had already been playing blues harmonica for fifteen years, getting schooled by George “Mojo” Buford and Lynwood Slim. With nine other releases under his belt, many for the fine German label Crosscut Records. Mischo still remained under the radar for many blues fans. But with the full weight of the Delta Groove label behind his latest project, this outstanding artist has a chance to make some noise.

And that's exactly what he does right from the start as he steamrolls his way through “Trouble Belt” with Nick Curran and and Johnny Moeller turning in impressive guitar work. Mischo is limited to a vigorous lead vocal but he lays down some robust harp work on the second cut, “Mr. Freeze”, one of six instrumentals on the disc. Whether he is whoppin' over a chugging train-like rhythm on “Papa's S.T. Special”or establishing his credentials as a master of the chromatic harp on the two part “Arumbula”, Mischo's creativity and formidable tone make his playing a joy to listen to. The latter tune is powered by Wes Starr's rolling drumbeat and Ronnie James Weber's deep bass line as Nick Connolly's deft organ swells nearly steal the show. “Elevator Juice” is a fast-paced romp with Connolly's pumpin' piano setting the stage as Mischo digs into the upper register on his harp while Curran takes over the drum kit.

Other highlights include  “Minnesota Woman”, with the familiar can't-wait-to-get-back-home theme done in the classic Chicago style complete with RJ's robust description of his special woman and an incendiary solo from Curran. “The Biscuit is Back” is a swinging tribute to the famous King Biscuit Blues fest while “Not Your Good Man” finds Mischo willing to be a back-door lover if that's only way his lover will see him. Jeremy Johnson's grungy guitar ignites the sweltering version of “Make It Good” and on “Up To the Brim”, he overdubs his contributions on guitar, bass drum and high hat while Mischo blows long mournful tones with his usual flair.

This is one of those harder-to-find, dyed-in-the-wool blues recordings done by a veteran roster of musicians who treat the music and its traditions with the respect it deserves. And RJ Mischo is out front, leading the way with a vibrant collection of tunes, lively vocals and  his exuberant harp work. With a push from Delta Groove, Mischo should hopefully receive the level of attention that a recording of this quality deserves. This one comes highly recommended!

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