Thursday, December 27, 2012

Layin' Down the Blues reviewed by Mark Thompson

Layin' Down the Blues
Pett Crow
11 tracks/45:58

Being the opening act for a major blues festival can be a nerve-racking experience. The task becomes even more daunting when the other acts on the bill include Paul Thorn, Curtis Salgado, Royal Southern Brotherhood, Ana Popovic and Delbert McClinton. But Pett Crow took the stage and won over a sizable portion of the audience at this year's Sarasota Blues Fest.

One other thing – lead singer and guitarist Wes Crow is a high school freshman. His sister, Julia, is an eighth-grader who han-dles the bass, keyboards and washboard. Drummer Brandon Pettiford is in seventh grade. He also contributes on backing vocals and bass. The band was selected to play this year's festival after a representative saw them perform in the Youth Showcase that was part of the 2012 Inter-national Blues Challenge sponsored by the Blues Foundation in Memphis.

Their debut recording shows that the band has tapped into the roots of blues music. The title cut opens the disc with a fat-bottom Mississippi hill country-styled stomp with Wes Crow barking out the lyrics and adding some seasoning with his harmonica. The song is one of six originals from the band. “Ain't Lovin' on Me Anymore” provides ample proof that the band can handle a slow blues shuffle.

Another highlight is is the downcast “You're Not Around” that gives Wes a chance to stretch out on guitar while convincingly singing about the travails of love that he probably has yet to experience. Julia supplies the walking bass line on “None to Soon” as her brother once again sings with insight beyond his years about women and cheap wine with Pettiford urging on. “Buskin' on Beale Street” pays tribute to the band's experiences in Memphis.

Their covers are a mixed bag. The straight-forward rendition of the Otis Rush classic, “All Your Love” gets a jolt from Pettiford's aggressive stick work. “Help the Poor” is a showcase for Wes as his anguished cries are underscored by his wistful guitar phrases. The trio displays their versatility on “How Long Blues”, switching to an acoustic format with Julia on washboard and Wes blowing more harp. The acoustic format continues on the instrumental “Locomotion”, giving Wes a chance to demonstrate his skills on slide guitar. Their version of “What'd I Say” misses the mark due to Julia's rudimentary keyboard playing.

At the Sarasota Blues fest, Pett Crow showed that they continue to develop and mature. They handled their set like seasoned pros and added new layers of flavor to the material on this release. It will be interesting to see how far they can take their career if they decide to stick with it. If our Blues in the Schools programs ever produce musicians of their caliber, all of hours and funds Crossroads has invested in the programs will have been well worth it. Check them out and give them some support if you like what hear. And be looking for their upcoming new release, which will mark their continued growth as a legitimate blues band.

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

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